Chavistas Flood Caracas as Venezuela’s Chávez Closes Campaign

By Steven Mather

After the very impressive turnout on Saturday by supporters of presidential election candidate Manuel Rosales, some supporters of Hugo Chávez were getting a little nervous. They need not have worried.

The now famous sea of red turned into an ocean on Sunday, as hundreds of thousands of Chavistas filled the streets and made their way towards Avenida Bolívar, the street where Chávez was to make his final pitch to voters.

Chávez supporters marched from various starting points around the city. Those who started at the barrios in the far east of the city had to march through Altamira, staunch Rosales territory, to get to their final destination. As they marched past Altamira Square, the shouting, chanting and singing and dancing increased in intensity as the locals looked on looking increasingly irritated.

“Ooh Aah Chávez no se va, Ooh Aah Chávez no se va, El no se va no se va El Comandante no se va,” (Chavez will not go, he Hill not go, the commander will not go) the Chavistas sang in unison.

When asked how it felt to be marching through Altamira, where most people can’t stand Chávez, 19 year old Pedro said that he loved it, “Chávez is going to win on December 3 and they know it. It makes me very happy to be able to demonstrate my support for the president in Altamira.”

Making its way towards Avenida Bolívar more and more people joined the march. Supporters were hanging out of apartment windows on the way and holding both hands up in the air and indicating with all their fingers and thumbs their desire for 10 million votes for Chávez, which is Chávez’s campaign slogan.

When the march arrived as far as Bellas Artes, which is still a block from Avenida Bolívar, which is one of the city’s main streets and the rallying point, pedestrian gridlock had frozen the multitude. Pushing and shoving made it difficult to stand still, but the carnival atmosphere eased the frustration of being trapped in one place.

As not everyone could fit on the main street, at strategic points around the center of Caracas large screens were erected so that everyone could hear the main man speak.

Supporters watched Chávez on the big screen, his booming voice, unusually, criticizing Rosales directly. “You little candidate of imperialism, we are going to crush you! You fell short of being a candidate,” said Chávez.

Rosa Gonzales was next at the rally with her three young children. Asked if she had heard much about the Rosales rally the day before, she said, “I don’t care about that rally. The truth is that you only have to look around you right now. Look at this. We are millions. 10 millions”, she said as she laughed. Each of her children wore, like her, a red t-shirt with 10 million votes written across the front and red caps with the same slogan scribbled on them.

Addressing the crowd, Chávez covered a wide range of subjects. He said he was going to dedicate his victory on December 3 to revolutionary Cuba. “This victory on December 3, we're going to dedicate it to the 50 years since the arrival of the revolutionary boat Granma led by Fidel Castro to the coast of Cuba. Fidel, applause from Venezuela. Long live Cuba! Long live revolutionary Cuba,” Chávez shouted to the cheering thousands in front of him.

He also made sure his supporters knew the real enemy of the Bolivarian Revolution was the “US empire and the devil” and while he said he was worried about US intervention in the electoral process he welcomed foreign observers generally who would “witness another great victory of the Bolivarian people.”

Intermittently, fireworks exploded high in the sky, which raised people’s spirits even further. The beer was flowing and people were getting more and more emotional as a result of the electric atmosphere. Chávez continued, making his prediction for the election on December 3.

“The red multitude is here in Caracas today, the red tide. Avenida Bolívar, you are too small for the red tide,” he shouted. “What is going to occur next Sunday, eight days from today, is written in the Bible, and I have been repeating it for the last few years. Everything that occurs under the sun has its time. And this is the time of the Bolivarian Revolution.”

“From now I speak to you, December 3, your destiny is already written, December 3, 2006 will remain in history painted red.”

Manuel Rosales must have been pleased with himself on Saturday, when he saw the size of the crowds that came to support his candidacy. Someone even said he looked a bit worried, as though he thought, shit, I might actually win here. If he was concerned he won’t be anymore.

One last spurt of fireworks signaled the end of Chávez’s speech and a mass of red confetti was released into the sea of red in front of him. That sea then parted and Chávez, on the back of a truck, made his way down the Avenida, waving, saluting and blowing kisses at the screaming crowds.
After Chávez left people slowly began to make their way home in the sure knowledge of where their X was going to be placed on December 3.