Initial comments on Ven elections fron Green Left correspondants

[This has come through from the GLW Caracas bureau -- Jim McIlroy & Coral Wynter]

Here are some rough notes for an early report on the Ven elections. This is being typed on the free internet computer available for media at the CNE Media Centre, at about 9pm our time Sun D3. Please note there is some material avail on the VA site on the the election day process, which is useful and could be incorporated. >>

Our experience is based on that of the AVSN Brigade. We divided into four groups of about 7-8 each (some people have become official observers, but we don`t have any report from them at this stage).

My group went to Barrio Enero 23, where we observed a number of election booths. We were warmly welcomed as overseas observers by the people around, who gave the 10-finger Chavez salute (10 million votes!) The highlight was when we saw Chavez arrive to vote at a Barrio Enero 23 polling booth, in a bright red Volkswagen beetle! He received a huge cheer and chants, and was surrounded by supporters. He gave a brief media conference to the press, and assured
people that the election process in Venezuela was completely open, transparent and democratic. One of the Chavez` election slogans in the closing stages of the campaign was, Por Amor (For Love), and the close bond between the Venezuelan president and his people was obvious at this event, as well as
everywhere we have seen him during the past weeks.

Other groups were hosted by the Commando Miranda team at the suburb of Catia, and Guaicapuro, as well as by the Frente de Francisco Miranda. All groups had an excellent day, and commented on the peaceful and calm atmosphere everywhere, as well as the warmth of the people at the low-income suburbs that we visited -- who welcomed all international observers and media, and were proud of their democratic process. We were also able to enter a number of the polling booths and observe and film the process, which is the most advanced and transparent computerised electoral process in the world (compares very favorably with the shonky systems operating in the US, for example). All votes have a paper slip created at the end, which voters can check for accuracy.
Queues for voting started very early in many areas, from 3am, and long queues gathered by early morning. Some delays were experienced in opening the booths, and the queues continued throughout the day in some places. However, the actual voting process was quite quick, and all the queues had disappeared by late afternoon and most polling booths in Caracas closed by 6pm.

The atmosphere in the early evening has been a big celebration already, with fireworks and loud music in the city streets, and a large crowd already gathering
near Miraflores Palace.
More later,
Jim (and Coral).


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