The calm before the?

Today is the day before the referendum. Not only is campaigning formally closed, but there is also a law in effect, quite common in Latin America, that no alcohol is to be sold or consumed until well after the referendum. And with good reason, given that both the NO and the SI forces want their followers to be up by 3am and voting by 6am.

The Opposition Plan

One can put together the comments of the various opposition figures {please see the previous entry on the Mendoza press conference} and get a picture of what the opposition plan is. Short of some kind of violent provocation {and there have been warnings of that as well} to try to discredit the whole electoral process, the opposition has signalled repeatedly that it plans to announce the results at 2pm. Then, when the real results are announced after the polls close at 6pm, the opposition will say {assuming that the opposition loses the referendum, which it will if there is not fraud} that its results disagree with the official results and argue that a fraud has occurred. At that point things will depend on the integrity of the Carter Center and the OAS {gulp}. That is not strictly true. There are all kinds of observers here, more media than ever before, so things will depend on the ability of everyone with integrity to get the truth out past all of those who are going to lie about the result. My own suspicion, based on the highly unscientific methods of watching the SI rallies and talking to random people, is that the result will be closer than the NO forces might like, but quite decisive.

If the SI forces claims are then discredited, as they should be, they and the US will just keep the “fraud” card in their hand, waiting for the correlation of forces to change. Then, at some point down the road, if Chavez loses a substantial chunk of support, or the army, or the oil company, they will bring out the claim that the referendum was “fraudulent” when they try to bring him down. This is the way the same kinds of forces used the Haitian elections of 2000 in legitimating the coup that happened there this year. For now, though, it is hard to think of what else they will be able to do.

As for the role the 2pm announcement of the results by the opposition might play, it is again hard to know. It could create some disorder and confusion, but it seems that everyone has been trying to prepare the electorate for it at any rate. This morning in a press conference, the President of the state television channel 8, Vladimir Villegas, had it right. He said “The opposition is announcing that they are going to announce the results tomorrow at 2pm. The polls open at 6am and close at 6pm. How are they going to know the results four hours before the polls close. If they are going to announce it at 2pm, I would invite them to announce the results now! They are not going to know anything then that they do not know now!” And it is that absurd. (For more detail on the opposition plan and strategy, see the piece by Jonah Gindin today on ZNet and venezuelanalysis.com)

Control Rooms

In spite of the absence of campaignings, today is a day of frantic activity. I realize I promised that I would do interviews. And I have met a lot of interesting people with a lot of interest to say. Every single one of them has one response when I ask them for an interview. “Of course! Call me just as soon as the referendum is over!” Fair enough. Indeed, even if the opposition plans some bad business, it is as likely to come immediately after the referendum as it is to come before.

But people are better prepared this time around. If anti imperialists were kicking themselves for not doing more to stop the coup in 2002 (we were) they are trying to learn from their mistakes. I know of at least two alternative media “control rooms” that are being set up. One is by the intrepid NarcoNews team (check them out at narconews.com and the narcosphere blog) and another is organized by aporrea.org. What they have here is a lot like some of the best indymedia centres I have seen at the big anti globalization demonstrations and meetings. Indymedia from many countries are here, rebelion.org, aporrea.org, antiescualidos.com, lots of alternative radio folks from all over Latin America and Europe. They have set up computers, techies, phones, food… people are even staying here. Of course there are all the sensible security precautions… they say they have been hacked already, more than once. The idea of both control rooms is to create a real newsroom where people can complement each others work, where people can check and cross check information (this one has four televisions, each tuned to a different news channel) and complement each others efforts.) If things do get ugly, we have learned from (at least some) of our mistakes and can (hopefully) do better than last time.

The most likely scenario for tomorrow is also the best case scenario. A clean, uneventful day of voting, resulting in a sound victory for the NO forces, and a big party to follow. That is what I would like to be reporting tomorrow. Stay tuned, regardless.

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