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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.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

<Marc> While the rest of the world has gone on under the assumption that Chavez
won the referendum fairly, and even the Bush White House has seem to have
come to terms with this reality, the conservative elite opposition in
Caracas categorically refuses to recognize the results. Their attitude is
"if we lost, there must have been fraud" because no one in Venezuela would
wait in line 10 hours to vote in favor of Chavez. They have called on
Carter to "open his mouth" and denounce the results as fraudulent, and are
calling for a full manual recount of the vote. The CNE has agreed to an
audit of the count, but two things are already completely clear: a recount
would only verify the validity of the results, and the opposition will not
accept the results of the recount. The only thing they are willing to
accept is victory for themselves and the removal of Chavez from
office. This is their concept of democracy.

Part of the reason why a Chavez victory appears so improbable to them is
that people voted in this election who have never voted before. Voter
participation was at an unprecedented level, which is part of what caused
long lines at the polls. The new voters are primarily from poor
neighborhoods where there is die-hard Chavez support. The opposition based
its projections of a Chavez defeat on polling in wealthy neighborhood that
up until five years ago defined the political landscape of the
country. They have not adjusted their model to a new reality of a
mobilized and empowered lower class, which led to some inaccurate polls
depicting a Chavez defeat.

Meanwhile, celebrations on the streets of Caracas continued through Monday
nite, with people converging at Miraflores and caravans of cars and trucks
loaded with people waving "NO" flags and honking their horns. The
sustained energy reflects how important of a victory this was for the
Venezuelan people.

</Marc> <!--6:09 PM-->

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