CARACAS – With its success assured in the wealthier parts of Caracas where Chavismo never stood a chance, the opposition referendum on the Constituent Assembly promoted by President Nicolas Maduro will depend on the response of the poorer districts that admired Hugo Chavez as the hero of the Bolivarian Revolution.
The parishes of Antimano and El Junquito on the poorer west side of Caracas are the sites of some of these shantytowns, whose flimsy though colorful dwellings extend up the slopes and over the mountains between the capital and the Caribbean.
“This is the toughest parish, the jewel in the crown. Whoever wins this area wins Venezuela,” said opposition lawmaker Jesus Abreu of the Voluntad Popular party, elected to the National Assembly to represent the district that until recently included some of the “reddest” Chavista districts in the capital.
Together with anti-Chavista leaders of other parties, Abreu is caught up in organizing a referendum for this Sunday that aims to stop the constituent process launched by Maduro, and has no doubt that this district that once adored Hugo Chavez has turned its back on the successor Maduro.
His certainty is based on his own victory in the legislative elections of 2015, the last time they were held in Venezuela, when Abreu and another opposition leader, Marialbert Barrios, knocked out of the legislature two heavyweights of Chavismo.
The less depressed parts of El Junquito stopped being Chavista some time ago, said opposition activist Javier Torres.
“Where the poorer neighborhoods are concentrated, people are still afraid they’ll lose their food baskets at regulated prices and will also lose their jobs as public servants,” he said about the poorest areas most dependent on the government.
“But we have to put aside our fears because what we’re about to get from these people is a communist dictatorship in Venezuela, and that will be really rough,” Torres said about the government’s plans to “strengthen the revolution,” which is what the government seems to have in mind for the Constituent Assembly that will be elected next July 30.
The greatest concern of people organizing the opposition referendum this Sunday is the possible intervention of the so-called “collectives,” civilian groups that are often armed and claim to defend the Chavista revolution, and who assaulted the National Assembly, which has an opposition majority, and attacked anti-government demonstrations in recent weeks.
But Domingo Perez, veteran leader of the Copei opposition party, believes that people are so tired of the shortages, the inflation and the deterioration of public services that the result will be seen in Sunday’s referendum.