It was a long and very tiring day, as I joined the march in favor of voting NO on Sunday’s Constitutional Reform referendum, which took place in Avenida Bolivar, Chavez’ favorite place to hold rallies, but which has been curiously banned for the opposition for exactly five years. This time around, the pressure from the student movement was too much for the Government, and as the students began calling to go to the Presidential Palace, the authorities yielded Avenida Bolivar to today’s rally.
There were five separate marches from various places in Caracas and attendance was simply massive. Above left you can see one of the five marches and the people were simply overflowing roads, parks and pathways in a massive rally which Chavez will have to try to match tomorrow, when he will hold his own rally at exactly the same place. As I went along I sent pictures via my cell phone to Daniel, allowing real time blogging of the day’s events, as Daniel accompanied my pictures with those taken from a webcam from which one could see Avenida Bolivar filling up. Above right, one of the many pictures that I have received showing an overview from a special vantage point from the front, showing how packed the place was. I will post more pictures here, comments will appear in a little while.
The students have made a clear difference in these rallies, they attended massively and easily made up over half of those in attendance, maintaining a level of cheerfulness and energy that made a huge difference in the atmosphere of the rally. For once, people stayed to listened to the speakers, mostly students who were cheered, but including some politicians which were booed. The students spoke well and more importantly sent a message of conciliation to the pro-Chavez forces. As expected, the Government’s TV station did not cover the rally, except for showing some images which were clearly taped when the rally was not in full force showing scant attendance at the NO rally. Somewhat comically, the Government’s main TV station showed four of five buses reportedly used by the students to bus people in, which turned out to be buses provided by the organizers of tonights’ rock concert by Venezuelan group Soda Stereo, since the place where it is being held has limited parking.
It was a strong close to a campaign that seems to have taken a turn that has surprised many, including me as the vote looks close and the outcome is now totally dependent on the level of abstention. But there is quite a bit of enthusiasm at this time to go and vote and today’s turn out proves it. Tomorrow we shall be able to compare the level of enthusiasm as Chavismo uses all of the Government’s resources, including buses to try to upstage the NO rally. Images will tell us if they succeeded.