The skies have opened, torrential rain is flowing into Caracas and flooding the streets of the Venezuelan capital, but the air is still warm. Seven immense avenues through the centre of town are completely full, as are every local neighbourhood I have visited today, every plaza, every Metro station, and even the roofs are occupied. Today, just three days before Venezuelans are due to go to the polls for the Presidential elections, millions descended on the city from every possible direction for the final mobilisation of the Carabobo campaign for Hugo Chavez’ re-election.
It is difficult to know how to describe the scenes I have witnessed today, because it bears no similarity to previous experiences. From the moment I went outside at 10am, I knew that the words ‘march’ or ‘demonstration’ would not be accurate. ‘Celebration’ would also not suffice, although it could go some way to convey the atmosphere. But already, by that time, before we had even reached the Metro station at the end of the street, we could see not one march towards the centre of town, but many marches. The was in the plaza next to Parque Carabobo. In local areas across the city, many thousands more were assembling.
Only minutes after the pouring rain had commenced, Chavez came out to address the crowd. He didn’t stand under the shelter covering the stage, but instead walked straight outside, the crowd joining in chorus as he started with a song again. His shirt was promptly drenched, but spirits were high in Caracas. Chavez spoke about five hundred years of struggle, a theme that has been shared by Morales and Correa in Bolivia and Ecuador amongst others. He re-iterated that Venezuela today is a free country. He asked who was the candidate of the Yankees, neo-liberalism, and imperialism, and each time the crowd responded with ‘Majunche!’ Today’s mobilisation put the opposition’s efforts firmly into context. Capriles did manage to fill one central avenue in Caracas, but today there were no less than seven without an inch un-occupied. Chavez recognised the achievements of the last fourteen years – the country is now has the least inequality in the Americas, and school-children recieve free laptops that are made in Venezuela – but also promised more for the next six years of government. ‘Not a single family will be without a dignified home!’
A Latin America that is rising, be that through governments that demand the removal of foreign military bases from their soil and empower poor people, is a potent threat to imperialism. But today, in the streets of Caracas, we saw an even greater threat; the real threat to the dominance of Empire. That is, the populations of millions who are uniting and awakening their consciousness’. People in Venezuela are aware of their power today, and they are willing to exercise it for the causes of peace, progress, justice and equality. That is why the avalanche, the human river that flowed through Caracas today is so important; to prove to the opposition who threaten to cry ‘electoral fraud’, and their backers in the United States who have interfered in the region for so long, this election does not belong to them. For a person who grew up in London, it is difficult to understand what real democracy, a democracy in which every voice is heard, would look like. But today, perhaps we caught a glimpse.
The people of Caracas are showing that progress, through unity and determination, is possible. It is up to us to decide how long it will take for other parts of the world to catch up.