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This is a Blog of my trip to Venezuela with the Venezuela Information Office from August 13-18, 2004, as an official observer for the referendum on the Hugo Chavez government.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

<Marc> I arrived in Caracas yesterday afternoon. Driving in from the airport we passed
seas of banners hanging from utility pools with competing "NO" (against
recalling Chavez) and "SI" (for the recall) banners.

This morning we went to the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) which is in charge
of overseeing the referendum. There is a lot of vote education going on, and
the vote will be done on electronic voting machines. Campaigns were to stop on
Thursday, so for the most part little is happening right now (at least in
public--the CNE and the presidential palace is working overtime to get
everything ready). We passed a person on the street selling both SI and NO
flags. Nothing like capitalism, I suppose, to take advantage of such an event.

This afternoon we met with Orlando Chirino, the national coordinator of the
labor union Union Nacional de Trabajadores de Venezuela (UNETE). The better
known CTV is staunchly anti-Chavista, but this union is campaigning for Chavez.
Chirino noted that the "CTV has lost its class character and is working in the
service of imperialism" (it receives funding from the AFL-CIO and NED in its
campaigns against Chavez). Chirino defended the importance of political
independence of labor unions, as well as the international character of the
working class struggle. Labor representative from Brazil, Mexico, the United
States, and elsewhere who are also here for the referendum joined us in the

Tomorrow is the vote on the referendum to recall Chavez. We will see what

</Marc> <!--5:27 PM-->

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