Photo: AFP retrieved

To guarantee his hold on power, Nicolás Maduro handed CLAP boxes over to public servants. He sold food combos in Bicentenario supermarkets and tires and supplies to transportation workers, he promised bonuses and gave his biggest smiles. It backfired anyway. With hyperinflation, a serious economic recession, public services collapsed, lots of corruption, oil production plummeting and broken public services, political bribes can hardly work.

The presidente obrero couldn’t inspire the masses. The May 20 results are a clear evidence of this. He didn’t surpass the eight million votes he allegedly got in the National Constituent Assembly election in July 30, 2017, and it’s obvious why.

No Free Meals

For these elections, as in previous ones, the hardest task fell on grassroots and community leaders. Their order was to move at least ten voters each, but with no money to incentivize, people didn’t show up. The infamous “hungry and unemployed, with Maduro I stand” is a bitter mockery now.

“There’s no cash, no food, not transport. That’s why people stayed home, not even the bonuses promised are enough. I hid away from coordinators. I only went out so they could scan my carnet de la patria at the red station, but that was that. Even my son wants to leave the country.”

There’s no cash, no food, not transport. That’s why people stayed home, not even the bonuses promised are enough.

That’s what an UBCh member of El Valle told me. This parish used to be a stronghold of the chavista revolution, but now, communal council and UBCh members also complain about the crisis, food shortages and transport. They’re fleeing the crisis, going to Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

“(My coordinators) are going to check with us to see why people didn’t vote massively” the UBCh member says, wishing to remain anonymous.

The chavista “hard vote” isn’t so hard anymore.

Under Pressure

It’s well known that the government party has offered even what they don’t have to mobilize supporters. They’ve always used cars, buses, jeeps, motorcycles, constant phone calls, text messages, threatening voice notes on WhatsApp, intimidation about CLAP and medicine handovers, and now, pressure is through the carnet de la patria.

Over 16,000,000 Venezuelans are registered in this system, that the government calls “social protection.” Weeks before the election, in low-income areas, the government apparatus updated the census, asking for family charges and whether they were part of any social program, in case someone was missing their carnet de la patria.

In Antímano, another so-called revolutionary parish, the people in charge of CLAP were tasked to bring in voters, whether chavistas or just citizens who live in the area into the social control network to have guaranteed access to food.

Grassroots were asked to bring not ten, but 30 people to voting stations, and they didn’t.

Calls were made in the afternoon to start the “get out to vote” operation. Grassroots were asked to bring not ten, but 30 people to voting stations, and they didn’t. They didn’t care about the threats made back when the ANC was elected, when they were told food boxes would be taken away and there would be no more housing unit handovers.

Jeeps and motorcycles were also absent on Sunday. The usual deployment failed and the government was left confused and shocked. They didn’t even bring buses like they did for the campaign’s closing event.

“The whole issue with resources opened a rift”  says Carlos Julio Rojas, leader of the Defense Front of Northern Caracas. “There was no mobilization for food, there wasn’t even money for colectivos. They weren’t patrolling voting stations, not even in slums. I think chavistas no longer have the people they claimed to have, now folks protest more for public services and that’s something the government doesn’t know how to solve.”

A Ticking Clock

Chavismo gave fish away and didn’t teach people how to fish.

For last year’s elections, the apparatus still worked in low-income areas because there was still money to ensure support. That’s no longer true.

The chavista machine showed visible signs of strain last May 20. Having no resources means no logistical capacity and, although they won’t say it, perhaps the thing that bothers the government the most is that people in slums aren’t taking it anymore.

Chavismo gave fish away and didn’t teach people how to fish. It’s up to the opposition now to create a consensus and channel dissatisfaction that even so-called chavistas are now demonstrating.

When Maduro won back in 2013, he got 7.5 million votes. This time he got 6.1 million. Looks like the Revolution had people to spare… as long as money came in.

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