The talk around town was that a lot of centers in middle-class areas all around the country had been switched to intimidating shantytowns. The dirty trick would put MUD under pressure to provide security, transportation, information… Mission impossible, or almost.
So Gabriel and I decided to head out and check it all out. We decided we hit three opposition stronghold voting centers. We found three strongly contrasting realities…
Last week, word on the street was that the voting center at the Universidad Metropolitana (known as La Metro to its students) had been moved to a barrio. “Like way up there,” my friend told me, “maybe you need to take a jeep to get to the new place.”
I was all set to jump on a mototaxi and go barrio adentro, but as I got there I saw everything was normal: “I already voted, it’s super fast”, a lady around 40 years old told me as she put her expensive sunglasses on.
“I thought I was going to another center but I came with some friends to see what was happening and there was no change here,” she said.
“We were ready to go to another place. My wife and I came to ask where to vote, but luckily everything is normal,” Jesús Ferreira, a 55 years old, told me.
“In my building’s Whatsapp group they were saying we were going to vote in the same place but I wasn’t sure. I’ve heard so many things that I didn’t know what to expect. But everything was super fast, at least at my table,” Manuela, a 47 years old lady told me.
So it’s business as usual at La Metro. “They (the Government) is trying to confuse everyone,” Manuela mused out loud.
“Come to Santa Paula, the opposition has some camioneticas for the voters”, another friend told me.
The situation here is peculiar. There have always been two voting centers here, one right across the street front of the other. Today, the larger one was closed “for security reasons.” Bizarrely the smaller one, which was literally a stone’s throw away, was operating normally. No “security problems” there.
“A lot of people are really lost, it’s been hard work. You have this big center (Colegio Jesús María Alfaro Zamora) and all the people there have been changed to some small voting centers, one is even inside like a private house. It’s crazy,” Héctor Martínez, 62 years old, explained to me.
He was one of the volunteers trying to help voters. In fact, most of them had been moved to one center just four blocks down the road. No security problems there either, it seems.
“It’s crazy, the Government is doing this to confuse people and you also have some people who are slow on the pick-up, you know? They don’t understand all the changes,” he said.
“I can’t find myself on the lists, I’m not on the lists,” one fifty-something fit lady in gym clothes interrupted.
“You were probably changed to San Luis,” Héctor said. “I already searched my name on that list and I’m not there either,” she said.
Another guy tried to help: “Let me check your ID at the website, maybe you’re going to vote in another San Luis, in Chuao”.
“No chama, así no se puede. I’m not going to vote in Chuao, that’s crazy. I’m going home,” she said. Suddenly a young lady runs to us: “I found you! You vote here!,” she screams, suddenly a sigh of relieve in our little circle.
“See, so much confusion and I’m kind of worried because there aren’t so many people, I help here in every election but it’s pretty calm today. Let’s hope that the voters have gone straight to the new center,” Héctor says.
On the corner, three minibuses were waiting to take the voters to the “new centers”: “We have four routes, from the ‘natural centers’ to the ‘new centers’, every ten minutes or less a bus takes off, takes the voters and later the brings them back. The idea is to help the voters to go to the new centers, especially older people,” a lady who’s part of the team of the councilor of El Cafetal, Armando Machado, explained.
In fact, the bulk of people had been sent to vote just a few blocks away from the “original”. “The one that is farthest from here is around a 15 minute walk from this place,” Héctor told me, but for the abuelitos it’s not an easy task. He thought the camioneticas were a great idea. According to Machado’s team, the drivers are part of the route of the area and this Sunday are volunteers, they even arrange two shifts.
“I am 86 years old and I have voted here my whole life. They’re trying to suppress the vote, to get people to stay home instead of voting. Let’s have some patience. It’s ok, what else can we do?”, Gladys told me as she was waiting inside the bus to go to the Centro Infantil América.
Finally, Gabriel and I hit the Universidad Nueva Esparta, the biggest voting center in El Hatillo. Word had gotten around that all the voters had been switched to a small school in the Barrio La Unión, part of the sprawling Petare mega-shantytown.
“No chamita, todo rápido,” Gladys Pereira, 72 years old, said to me. Her friend, María Antonia, 48, agrees: “The logistics are excellent, the order inside… Great.”
“I thought that we were going to vote in La Unión, but last night a friend told me that everything was normal”, María said. “They can’t change this center, it’s a pilot center’”, another guy said to us.
“They are trying to create chaos. Why? You know why! You know better than us, you know why and you are thinking what we are thinking”, Glady said and laughed.
“In the end, they can’t change anything, there is one table that at this time, almost 10 a.m., hasn’t opened, but people are waiting here, they don’t care how long it takes. It’s what we need to do”.