Voting in Catia

Rebecca Hanson

The voting centers I visited in Los Magallanes de Catia were calm and peaceful all day, despite the fact that one center opened almost an hour and a half late due to tardy witnesses at the voting tables. Lines at all of the centers I went to were extremely long. Indeed, one of my neighbors, after checking out a number of centers on his motorcycle, personally estimated that the voter abstention rate this year would fall between 10 or 20% (as a comparison almost 75% of eligible voters turned out in the 2006 presidential elections).

The tranquil lines that I observed all morning and afternoon stood in stark contrast to the Cacerolazo that took place last night on the streets surrounding my house, where Capriles voters took to banging on pots and pans for a few hours in support of their candidate. Chávez supporters responded with yells of “El Majunche” (the Chavista name for Capriles; majunche refers to something of very poor quality or an undesirable person) and by blasting music from the Chávez campaign CD sold in the street. The late night Cacerolazo and 3 a.m. sounding of the toque de Diana (a recorded version of the military trumpet call used by Chávez supporters to awaken voters) resulted in a short and sweet 2 hour nap for me last night before voting kicked off.

I head rumors of a few MUD volunteers being kicked out of a center for guiding elderly voters to vote for Capriles. There were also complaints that some votes were coming out as null if voters did not use enough force when selecting their candidate of choice in the voting machine. While there were a number of Chávez posters hanging on houses around the voting center I spent the most time at, I did not see anyone clearly identified with either party.

Streets all around my neighborhood were lively, especially in comparison to a normal Sunday. Impromptu vendors erected arepa and empanada stands outside of their homes to feed those waiting in line; coffee and ice cream vendors moved quickly between voting centers; and forward thinking Catians who had bought alcohol before the liquor ban took effect on Friday stood on random corners drinking beer and watching the activity. Perhaps the most eventful part of the day was running from panaderia to panaderia looking for ice (not an easy task when licorerias are closed) for a neighbor and her daughters who, deciding to take advantage of the long lines, sold Nestea until early afternoon to make a few extra bolívares.