More revolution: Venezuela loyalists on march after vote
10 December 2015, Nirapad News: The election was three days ago, but near the crisp white facade of Venezuela’s presidential palace hundreds of noisy voters are still in campaign mode.
“Struggle! Battle! Victory, my friends!” yells a man with a loudspeaker.
The crowd cheer at the name of their late socialist hero Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro.
Maduro lost a battle in Sunday’s legislative election, but for these loyalists Chavez’s “revolution” is not over. It just needs tweaking.
The center-right opposition was celebrating winning control of the legislature from Maduro for the first time in 16 years of “Chavism.”
With the country wondering how the power struggle between Maduro and the opposition will now play out, the first small signs of resistance were emerging meanwhile from the loyal Chavistas.
The gathering near the Miraflores palace was a “people’s assembly” of Chavist loyalist groups, the first sign of Maduro’s popular support base mobilizing after the vote.
Elsewhere in Caracas on Wednesday, Maduro loyalists burst into a press conference by two Chavist ex-ministers critical of the president, yelling “Traitors!”
“We are in a revolutionary emergency and it is our fault what happened” in the election, said one of the ex-ministers, Hector Navarro.
Shortly afterwards, the angry demonstrators forced to him flee and seek protection from the police.
– Bracing for opposition ‘revenge’ –
The incident was an outward sign of tensions in the Chavist camp.
“The disturbances will start in January, when the new assembly takes over,” said one supporter, Marco Terugi, 31.
“That’s going to be the opposition’s chance for revenge. For me, Maduro is the best. What I don’t know is whether all the Chavists share that view.”
Sunday’s election result was seen as a punishment vote for Maduro’s economic management.
A plunge in the price of the oil on which the government relies has stricken the country’s economy, causing shortages of basic foods and goods.
Even faithful devotees of Chavez complain of having to queue for hours to buy cooking oil and diapers.
Maduro blames the crisis on an “economic war” waged against Venezuela by capitalist forces.
Supporters at Wednesday’s “popular assembly” agreed he was the only one to fix things.
“The president must do something to improve the situation in the country,” said Yarelis Hernandez, a 38-year-old school teacher, told AFP.
“He has to make the changes, without the help of the opposition,” she said, holding one corner of a big Venezuelan flag on the sidelines of the rally.
“I’m not interested in them getting involved. I trust in the revolution.”
– Revolution, not change –
In the 23 de Enero district, a hillside slum in the west of Caracas where Chavez is buried in a military barracks, an unusual mood reigns.
Traditionally a bastion of “Chavism,” the district fell to the opposition in Sunday’s vote.
Many voters were fed up of their economic hardship. But many miss Chavez more. Jenifer Esparragosa has been standing in line for groceries for four hours.
She says she felt as sad this week as the day Chavez died in 2013.
“The people are taking stock and will not allow the revolution to be lost just like that,” she said.
Back at the people’s assembly, speakers take turns with the megaphone before the crowd marches up to the gates of the Miraflores palace.
Maduro himself comes out to greet them, speaking with a microphone from inside the door of a truck as dusk falls.
He has admitted defeat for his side in the election. But he vows the answer to the country’s woes was “more revolution.”
“I will give my life for the people and the Bolivarian revolution,” the black-mustached president bellows.
A handwritten sign bobs over the heads of the crowd, striped with
Venezuela’s national colors: red, yellow and blue.
“The homeland is not negotiable. It is not for sale,” it reads.
“It is not changing.”