Yesterday, in the National Assembly and in front of continental and world leaders, Nicolas Maduro Moros was officially sworn in as the President of Venezuela. The centre of Caracas was filled with supporters, yet again; how many times have I said that now? It feels as if I have lost count since arriving here exactly seven months ago. You cannot describe these as marches, because there is barely space to move. Demonstrations of solidarity, of love, and now, of defiance in the face of attack.
Maduro’s swearing-in also marked the anniversary of Venezuela independence. During his acceptance speech, he referred to the people of the country as “an army of liberators”, and says that the United States’ recognition of his electoral victory, which has still not been announced, “does not interest him”.
The banging of pots begins at 8pm every night here. The cacerolazos, called for by Henrique Capriles after he refused to accept his narrow defeat in the Presidential elections. On Thursday evening we took a walk through the La Candelaria neighbourhood, where I first lived upon arrival in the city. Here, the noise is almost deafening. Occasionally, you catch a glimpse of someone leaning out of an apartment window in one of the high-storey buildings, but mostly the people behind the sounds remain out of sight. Nevertheless, the stunning nature of the result is something that is impossible to ignore.
“The worst thing is,” Norma, a government-supporter responsible for organising people in her local area tells me, “there were Chavistas who went out to vote for Capriles. We were missing his character… we were lacking our maximum leader. There is no-one who can replace him.”
“The opposition want to commit a coup d’etat, there is no doubt about it,” Norma continues, “they are deliberately deceiving their own followers by demanding something they know will not happen and would not make a difference to the result. Eight people have been killed already, so why have the police not put those responsible in prison?”
At the Friday demonstration, I find long queues lining up in Plaza Bolivar to sign a petition calling for Henrique Capriles to face the law. José Rivero, standing nearby, is keen to explain to me:
“Capriles made the call, and he is responsible for the deaths that have happened. He has to be held to account. The opposition think we can return to some kind of monarchy, but the people here are strugglers, we are fighters. The importance of today is to show that, to show that we are a sovereign, independent and free nation. When Maduro said that, from the Tuesday coming, we will have ‘governments of the streets’, it says that sovereignty lies with the people.”
Maduro is speaking in a defiant tone. But there is an underlying tension that remains. “How can they have lost over half a million votes in a few months?” says Jamal. “It really makes me sad, there are people that had no homes before, nowhere to live, and now they have homes, but are fighting each other, brother against brother! How can you forget so quickly and go out to vote for Capriles?”
There are problems that have been exasperated by dramatic events; two Presidential election campaigns, regional elections across the country and, of course, the passing away of Hugo Chavez have left financial speculation increasing, and food prices rising.
“But how would Capriles resolve these problems?” asks Jamal. “He won’t. The truth about the opposition is that they do not care about anyone when they’re trying to get into power. This is a country where the last two Presidents have been poor people. Hugo Chavez was selling sweets in the streets for his grandmother… they called him the arañero. Nicolas Maduro was a bus driver! I have a daughter in this country, and it makes me believe that she could be President one day. Not because she was born with a golden spoon in her mouth, but even with a wooden spoon.”
“It’s like the American dream,” Jamal laughs, “but it’s different.”