The day after the ANC

Food lines, barricades and empty bellies: the day after the Constituent vote might as well have been any other day in our embattled city.

The day after any election in Venezuela is always slow. It seems like there’s an unspoken understanding that, come Monday morning, it’s ok to take your time. Yesterday was no exception.

Hours after Tibisay’s announcement of “results,” Caracas was calm. Early morning rush hour traffic was almost nonexistent, and there were fewer camioneticas than usual. In the Eastern part of the city, the few drivers circulating tried their best to dodge barricades of debris and trash, now half of their original size: the remaining signs of a Sunday full of violent repression.

After days of conflict, some businesses decided to start the week with their doors open, while many others remained closed. “The market is open, you know that never stops,” a man selling chucherías said to me.

I voted because the President promised that he was going to freeze the prices. He should have done that three years ago.

Although the number that Lucena reported at midnight outraged some people, for others, the situation was more of the same. Outside a supermarket in La California, the line to buy Harina Pan took up the whole block.

“I did vote for the constituyente,” a 52 year-old woman told me as she closely guarded her bags with two packs of Harina Pan. “I voted because the President promised that he was going to freeze prices. He should have done that three years ago. We’re pasando trabajo, but this is not the first time, I lived through the Caracazo. This is part of the economic war. Since I can remember, the United States has wanted our oil,” she said.

Another lady right next to her said that she also voted on Sunday: she’s hoping that the Constituent Assembly can fix Venezuela’s problems. However, she believes that the shortage of food is due to the “evil plans” of the private companies, in their quest to seize power in Venezuela.

What are they going to do? Take away my CLAP box? They can have it.

They’d been waiting for four or five hours in a queue to get into the supermarket, after not being able to find products on offer the night before. Still, they had hope that their vote on Sunday would help to solve the issues they face.

“In the end, we’re the ones that get out every day and look for food while chavismo and the opposition fight,” one of the two ladies said. Both of them were nurses.

An older woman explained to me right outside the supermarket that they didn’t have any Harina PAN left. She and another lady lined up next to her assured me that they also voted on Sunday, as a way to thank the government for all the “help” they’ve received.

“There’s a place in Plaza Venezuela where you can go with your doctor’s prescription and they give you what you need,” the old lady told me after I asked her about medicine shortages.

“The government has built a lots of housing, and we received the CLAPs groceries and the Madres del Barrio card,” she continued. The younger woman next to her believed that they would have to “wait and see” how their votes “would help” solve their everyday problems.

Sitting on a street bench close to the market, a 27 year-old mother said that a packet of Harina Pan costs Bs. 840, but if I wanted it, she could sell it to me for 12.000 Bs. “Well, I’ll leave it at Bs.10.000 Bs,” she said after giving it a few minutes’ thought. She is not shy to admit that she didn’t vote: “No, porque no, I didn’t vote. I have never voted.”

She heard about the threats that people in her barrio received: “What are they going to do? Take away my CLAP box? They can have it. The box arrives once a month, my kids don’t eat with that. Yes it helps, but it’s not a solution. I’m the one that goes out every day to get food for my kids.”

By this time it was almost 5:00 pm, the time that the opposition had announced a demonstration to pay tribute to those who died in protests the day before, in Parque Cristal. The Resistencia was already closing down the streets in Chacao, setting up wires to block roads, while cars tried to make U turns to avoid the new barricades. Hours after the election, nothing has changed in Chacao.

At 5:30 pm turnout in Parque Cristal was sparse.

“There are more people coming. We can’t stop, we can’t,” an old woman wearing a flag as a cape said. “We can’t stop because of the Constituent, we all know that is a lie. We have to keep fighting on the streets, for all the young people who have died. They are fighting with an empty stomach,” she said.

Protesters at Parque Cristal huddled and commented on the day’s news, as one lady shouted: “The United States just canceled Maduro’s visa!” As soon as she finished the phrase, all the other ladies around started clapping and cheering.

We can’t stop because of the Constituent, we all know that is a lie. We have to keep fighting on the streets.

The National Assembly diputados present gave speeches without a sound system or megaphones, but everyone stayed put. “Calle sin retorno!”, they all shouted in unison. “Let’s go to Miraflores!” a deep voice screamed.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders promised to keep protesting, as Freddy Guevara, leader of Voluntad Popular and first vice president of the National Assembly, called for a march to Parliament on the day that the Constituent Assembly convenes.

Something tells me there will still be food lines on that day as well.