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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.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

<Marc> We went out to visit several polling places this morning (El Calverio,
Carapita, and Colinas de Vista Alegre). The second place was a poor
neighborhood with a high degree of Chavez support. We then went to a
wealthy neighborhood where the anti-Chavez sentiments run strong. The
contrast drives home the class nature of divides here. Everything seems to
be going ok, tho the voting is going very slowly and the turnout rate is
high which is creating long lines. Now we are back in the hotel watching
reports on TV. The anti-Chavez opposition had initially said that it would
report their results on the referendum, but apparently they have wisely
backed off on that. Such statements would only heighten tensions,
undermine the process, and potentially lead to violence.

We were woken up at 1 am last night with firecrackers, gunshots, and
shouts. From 1 am to 5 am, both sides were out on the streets parading
around (even tho there is a prohibition on political campaigns). But so
far there haven't been violent conflicts, and we hope it stays that
way. The commitment to the civic responsibilities and the political
process is rather impressive, and is marked contrast to elections in the U.S.

</Marc> <!--2:37 PM-->

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