Leaving the National Electoral Council’s building after the long election day was quite a revelation.
I had been incapable of defining my feelings that night, but maybe the word “confusion” is the most accurate.
Opposition politicians, prestigious pollsters and media leaders had assured that Henrique Capriles, the candidate challenging president Hugo Chavez in the presidential election, would have real chances to win for the first time in the 14 years that the socialist leader has ruled the South American country.
The overestimated positioning of the young governor, fueled by an exhausting race all around the country with long avenues full of supporters, created high expectations in the oppositionist’s minds and a close competition in the early hours of the voting day reaffirmed the collective perception.
But in the afternoon several exit polls started to show an unstoppable trend: Chavez approaching the victory with a wider and wider gap while oppositionists received dozens of calls from the political coalition MUD to convince people to run to the still open lines to vote for Capriles.
I received one of these calls while a was trying to stop all kinds of crazy rumours in the National Electoral Council´s headquarters. A desperate female voice asked me if I had voted already and then supplicated me to call my family members, friends and co workers to support Capriles before the closure of the voting tables. It looked bad and it certainly was.
“We are used to losing, but this defeat was particularly painful”, a friend told me days later. But that night, in the middle of the demanding electoral coverage and trying to pay attention to every detail about the numbers and the opinions, I filled my mind with all kind of constructive thoughts, instead of stopping to figure out what my feelings were.
The National Electoral Council´s president spoke and spoke early. At 10 o'clock of the night, two long lines of public relation soldiers escorted her, shiny and smiling, to the podium. Her speech did not take more than 15 minutes. Short and fierce. Eleven points of gap, two digits, an irreversible trend. Nothing else to say.
With a notebook in my hands, I was trying to read the numbers displayed on several boards installed in the huge press room, the same numbers that were drawing a almost completely red map, when a big group of journalists crouched to the ground. I did not understand what was happening at the beginning, so I just kept calm writing, but five bullets found in the carpet seconds after convinced me to change my mind and run as fast as possible behind a noisy crowd leaving the tent.
I had to wait more than an hour for our driver while sounds of bullets, machine guns, shouting, loud music and the Chavez’s voice talking in the distance flooded the atmosphere.
What we found afterward was simply amazing: hundreds of anarchic bikers roamed the downtown waving Chavez’s flags and all types of guns without restraint, while red-shirted women walked unworried carrying their little babies in strollers and soldiers of the armed forces looked perpplexed at the endogenous wild party.
Even at that hour, the traffic was impossible. Because of the chaos, at least two bikers had been wounded in the Bolivar Avenue in a dark downtown Caracas, so an almost insupportable noise of ambulance’s alarms did not allow to hear.
The cars could not move and people inside buildings hurried to close the windows, but the fear was a territory only reserved for oppositionists.
They own the streets, with their rules, thinking and behavior. They own the cities. Is there a country for others?