“I’m 53, and this was my second time voting” says Rosa, aware that the PSUV has some access to the election data. “The first time was for the Constituent (Assembly). The consejo comunal around here said that if you didn’t vote, you wouldn’t get your CLAP bag.”

“It’s better to be safe,” she sighs.

The PSUV ran for the 2017’s regional elections as an apparent sitting duck, but keeping the cards close to its chest, it awaited with hands deep inside people’s fears and stomachs.

The puntos rojos was its first tool. Located close to voting centers, they were quite effective for the red machinery, giving a way to keep track of how many people voted through the day.

“I stayed home and around four I got a text asking me to go vote,” Rosa’s son (he refused to give his name for this piece) tells me. “I didn’t. I’m not supporting those thieves.”

In the middle-class zones of Miranda, though, there were no puntos rojos. For Eugenio Martínez, expert in Venezuela’s electoral system, the puntos rojos are an effective method to keep an eye on everyone who receives “help” from the government. If the consejo comunal finds out you didn’t vote, the threat is to take your CLAP away not an irrelevant or small thing for people with no other way to have access to those products.

The opposition says it’s secret, but chavistas suggest they know. It’s a risk; I work in the public sector and there’s no way I’ll put my work at risk right now.

For Carlos, a 37 year old resident of Miranda state, there’s serious doubt on the secrecy of the vote. “The opposition says it’s secret, but chavistas suggest they know. It’s a risk; I work in the public sector and there’s no way I’ll put my work at risk right now. If it’s hard to live with my salary, imagine without it. I rather abstain.”

And just consider the strategic location of voting centers. If there’s a single opposition vote in a center close to a Misión Vivienda complex, there might be a “traitor” in the neighborhood. It puts the entire community at “risk” and if we can think about it, you bet the reds can too.

But fear in a questionable system isn’t the only thing chavismo exploits: with the “assisted vote,” a PSUV member will “help you out,” making sure your option is their candidate.  According to Red de Observación Electoral, there were violations in the assisted vote process for 16% of all voting centers.

These irregularities are hard to prove, which seems to have been the plan all along; coupled with the opposition abstention and the faults in its strategy, the road is rockier than ever for the MUD to succeed in its alleged goal, months away from electing mayors and even the president.

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