Carlos Ignacio Hernández (Venezuela, LPCUWC 08-10)
The morning of the 23rd of November there was a rare calm in the roads and neighborhoods of Venezuela. Non-stop rain had flooded the streets of the capital, and there were high expectations for what was to come. With all the rush, euphoria and noise of the speeches and events that filled the atmosphere since the campaigns started in March, the quietness somehow felt out of place.
Never ending lines surrounded the voting centers across the country. There were more than a dozen non-governmental organizations serving as international observers and the highest participation rate for regional elections in the country was registered. Venezuelan people were ready to make a decision and early in the morning they were already at the polls.
The process, monitored by the Organization of American States, had strong media coverage. Despite a win for President Hugo Chávez’s allies in the country’s regional elections, opposition parties made significant gains. In contrast with what happened four years ago when these parties decided to withdraw the majority of their candidates because of ‘unfair election conditions’, the Venezuelan political map is no longer painted red.
With more than 95 per cent of the votes counted by Monday morning, pro-Chavez candidates held on to seventeen states while opposition candidates won five states, including the two most populous – Miranda and Zulia. The opposition now holds the metropolitan area of Caracas, along with three of the most industrialized states that contribute to more than 70 per cent of Venezuela’s GDP and are home to 45 percent of the total population.
After a decade in office, the President still enjoys solid popularity across the country, but last December’s defeat of his attempt to reform the Constitution showed his vulnerability and energized the opposition. People have also undertaken protests regarding unchecked corruption, rising crime, deterioration of public services and double-digit inflation after the currency change that took place at the beginning of the year.
The opposition is gaining momentum, and as some of the newly elected leaders stated, they are willing to cooperate and work along with governmental institutions in order to address people’s concerns. Democracy is taking place and Venezuelans are making their voices heard – which clearly sets up the base for change in the nation of eternal spring, where the wind has started to blow in another direction.