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Salvaging the Recall Election in Venezuela, First Report

By Daniel Duquenal

Friday 28, May 2004 - The day started very rainy, from Caracas to Barquisimeto at least. San Felipe had downpours until 9 AM, thus I stayed home waiting for clearer weather to try go and catch the ambiance at the collection centers.

Today about 1 million Venezuelans will either confirm that they indeed signed to ask for a Recall Election (burying once and for all the tall tale of "Megafraud") or to claim that their name was unjustly used and withdraw it (most likely under government pressure if they are public employees or contractors for the administration). A very messy and tense atmosphere all in all.

My goal was to take a picture of at least one center and post it here. Unfortunately this time the process is completely controlled by the Electoral Board, CNE, and the Army, that is supposedly protecting it and ensuring order, is rather aggressive and I could not get close enough to take any significant picture. Since I need not fix my signature I could not even use that excuse to get inside (though I will go on Sunday to make sure that nobody went and removed my name, something that persistent rumors indicate is more than a mere possibility).

In the two centers that I tried to approach I could detect a short line of people waiting. Considering that it was raining and that it is a working day, the mere fact that about ten people were standing in line is rather significant. There is still Saturday and Sunday to get the 37 K people from Yaracuy to confirm their signature.

At this point it is difficult to be optimist or pessimist, considering that the rains have started again. But I suspect that the people's determination is strong. One evidence of this was for all to see on TV this morning. Rodriguez, the "real" CNE president had to come out on TV to announce that ID cards that still bear the name Republic of Venezuela were valid to repair. Indeed, in some centers some lackeys of Chavez were refusing to repair the signatures from people that did not have an ID stating Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela!!!!! Apparently as for the new 1999 constitution we have up to 5 years to change everything to the new name of the country. That delay expires in December 2004 (I did not know that by the way!). But it seems that some chavistas jumped the gun and used that argument to send people away! Evidently, if they were sure that the process would fail by itself they would not feel compelled to use such silly and unfair tactics. Or would they? The fact is that chavistas are scared enough of the true will of the people to resort to any possibel trick to shave a signature here and there.

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