Director’s Narrative

The election took place on the second day of our arrival and the streets were alive with political banners and pro-Chávez supporters, or Chávistas whose slogan was Diez Millones de Votos . Their goal was to secure ten million favorable votes. All over the city, red-shirted Chávez supporters flashed ten fingers to show their support.

In the day of the election, lines started to form by 3:00 a.m. in front of each barrio’s polling station with people who wanted to vote before they went to work. By noon, the line would wind all the way up that hill as far as we could see; probably a mile long. When we raised the question of transparency and accountability, we were shown the Venezuelan system. The voters would first register at a table, then go inside the polling booth where a touch-screen, direct-response electronic (DRE) voting machine was installed. The computers were protected by cardboard walls to guarantee privacy. After they voted, paper ballots were generated, inspected by the voters, and then deposited into a ballot box for possible recount. The voters would check-out by making a thumb print in ink in a book. This process was monitored by many international observers.

In the barrios, the voting process itself was a revolution. Previous to Chávez, the barrio inhabitants had the right to vote but there were often “technical difficulties.” During the U.S.-dominated regimes which preceded Chávez, in order to vote you needed an ID card, which is still required. But before Chávez came to power, in order to get the ID card, you were required to have a permanent address, but the majority of barrio addresses were not recognized as permanent. Therefore, the barrio dwellers were prevented from voting. By legitimizing the barrios, Chávez gave these people a voice for the first time and won their fervent support.