I’ve been meaning to write about the Venezuelan elections for a while, but I never truly found the incentive to do so until I ended conversing with a group of students with close ties to Venezuela on the eve of the elections. Although most of them do not live there anymore, they spent significant time growing up in the country and hold strong ties to it. As we spoke of tomorrow’s democratic ultimatum, their eyes filled up with hope.
“Capriles has a chance to win. Sunday will be a historic day” they claimed. It is extremely hard for me to believe their words and share their optimism.
True democracy has turned into a luxury in the Chavez regime. And as a person hailing from Mexico, as someone who took their first baby steps along with those of democracy in her country, , I’ve learned to understand the confounding and paradoxical nature of elections in Latin America. Today, I see Venezuela as farther away than ever from fair and free elections. It may be because I am aware of the endless corruption undertaken in voting institutions. It may be because I’ve been told about the many pre-recruited votes on behalf of the Chavez government or because I am afraid that even if Chavez loses this election he might not give up power.
However, my friends are far from stupid. They know their country and its weak democratic institutions. They know how big Chavez’s populist rhetoric impacts their people. After all, many of them have been the direct victims of the current presidential regime. They understand better than I do, and I will ever do, that their optimism is part of a huge leap of faith.
The youth of Venezuela and their hope of seeing change in power in their country adds value to Capriles’ struggle. Many of them, far away from the country and on the eve of midterms in some of the most prestigious universities, have flown back just to exert their voting right. They have made room in their hectic students schedules to extend their visits to take part in many of the pre-election rallies and chant along with millions of other students the phrase “socialism, patria, te moriste” (socialism, nation, you died) out in the streets knowing it is not the safest thing to do. After the 2002 coup, chaos reigned in the streets and millions of innocent civilians were victims of violence. Public political participation in this country requires a lot of courage.
When I ask them why they feel the necessity to engage in day long travels to check a Capriles’s name in a ballot that might not even be counted, they claim that if they do not do it, no one will. After all, most of Venezuelan’s intellectuals and elites have left the country and their votes are very significant in this election.
Chavez has tried to impede their struggle. Aware that many of Venezuelans who fled the country went to Miami, he closed down the Miami embassy to impede their vote. In response, the youth has collaborated to organize voting brigades in the consulates of nearby states and are planning to function as supervisors in both national and international voting centers. After many of the Venezuelan airlines started cancelling their flights to Caracas, those with the economic resources to charter flights have arranged for hundreds of fellow Venezuelans abroad to take them. And all along this process, the youth has optimistically engaged in endless public demonstrations in support, they have collaborated to help these initiatives run more smoothly, and most importantly they have remained with the idea that Sunday might become a historic date.
Whether Chavez ends up holding on to power again, or gives up his leadership, the millions of young Venezuelans that took the streets last week at the close of Capriles’ campaign have realized that their country is not willing to put up with a flawed democracy any longer. They are the children of Venezuela’s recent history of demise. They are also the children of a changing world that has learned to listen a new emerging revolutionary attitude from the youth, who are well equipped with technology. If Chavez wins this time, the opposition movement against him is stronger than ever and the young generations will make sure to shape the Venezuelan future in a better direction. I sympathize with my friends’ hope and idealism, and if history does not happen tomorrow, it will occur in the democratic political future of Venezuela that is to come.