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Venezuela: 2 million people signed the opposition program

By Daniel Duquenal

Sunday August 1 - Or why does Chavez hates Sumate so much... Today the Coordinadora Democratica, the opposition umbrella organization, set up a street event. The objective was:

1-for folks to check out whether they were registered to vote adequately (apparently a few have indeed been "changed" to different states, including a candidate for mayor in Tachira!!!!)

2-to subscribe, if one wanted to, to the electoral offering of the opposition for after August 15 if Chavez leaves office. This includes a few interesting proposals, such as a candidate elected by primaries and who will not run for reelection in 2006, thus setting the conditions for a transition government strictly oriented into putting some order into the chaos that Chavez has brought down to us.

The event was rather successful in Caracas and the main cities. In Yaracuy, where polls are at 60% or more in favor of the opposition and perhaps 70% for the governor, apparently the motivation was not too strong to do a big event out of the day. Still, a few centers did open and many went to sign up their commitment to the program. When I went at 10:30 AM to my own center, there were no lines but there was always someone signing. That is, the trickle was continuous and already about 100 had subscribed! I did drive around and went to Cocorote, a village that has become a "suburbia" of San Felipe.

A small friendly affair, in the middle of the street. Just a block away chavismo was having its own event: they got the right to use voting machines to show people how to vote!!!!!! Yet, when I went by nobody was trying the machines. Only a few people drinking beer were hanging out and I decided not to ask for a picture. I mean, with the obvious tension from the two centers a block away and my SI! sticker on my shirt, provocations were unnecessary. However, in Caracas there were some screaming confrontations that fortunately ended up wthout anyone getting hurt.

Again, the Coordinadora Democratica and Sumate showed their organizational might by pulling in a few days an event capable to attract 2 million folks. Sumate has become the secret weapon, so to speak, of the Coordinadora, to the point of Chavez uttering in one of his shows that perhaps chavismo should do its own Sumate Bolivariano. Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.

But of course this has come at a heavy cost for Sumate who for a miserly 53,000 dollars given to them by the NED of the USA Congress has become one of the favorite targets of chavismo, just as this one is plundering the public treasury for its own benefit, a plundering where $53,000 might look like small change when the truth is finally uncovered. But chavismo has long left the realm of logic and fairness. That is why Sumate hits them in the plexus so hard. Sumate represents all what chavismo fails at: organization, efficiency, professionalism, accounting, integration, participation, democracy, pluralism, ability to work with all, among a few things.

I can imagine the rage of Chavez and his followers today. Even with 4 directors indicted and facing trials for treason to the fatherland, Sumate supplied several thousand centers in a few days with all the people and logistics for yet another succesful event indicating clearly that chavismo free spending campaign is not having the hoped for results. But it gets worse for chavismo: yesterday's editorial of the Washington Post in a rare occurence went out in the defense of Sumate making it a litmus test for democracy in Venezuela! I will allow myself to quote the last two paragraphs of this excellent editorial, and so much to the point.

Why would it be treasonous to accept U.S. funds in an effort to organize a fair election? Surely not because foreign aid is alien to Venezuela: The country's political parties have received it for decades, and Mr. Chavez's own political apparatus has been bolstered by thousands of Cubans dispatched by his principal ally, Fidel Castro. Sumate does not advocate Mr. Chavez's removal but only the resolution of the country's conflict by constitutional means.

But Mr. Chavez does not genuinely accept democracy or the rule of law. He delayed the referendum for a year through legal manipulation and political dirty tricks. Now he flirts with outright political repression in an attempt to determine its outcome. In that sense, Sumate and its leaders are the proverbial canary in the coal mine: If they are prosecuted or jailed, the world will know that Venezuela's referendum is tainted.

And this just a few days after the bipartisan leadership of the foreign comittee of the US House of representatives has come to the defense of Sumate, in another rather unusual step. I am not sure what is going on in the US campaign right now, but one thing seems certain, Kerry and Bush do agree on Venezuela. And all know that the Sumate trials are nothing more than a witch hunt.

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