March 8, 2004

Letter to a pro-Chavez signature collection witness

From today's TalCual Digital. (Do subscribe!) This is a "Por la Libre" column, an essay by a reader rather than a regular columnist. Translated by me.

Dear Ernesto,

I am writing you, Ernesto Ivanovich, as you were one of the pro-government witnesses during the official "itinerant" canvassing of signatures that we carried out in Los Chaguaramos (in Caracas), because writing to (the head of the national electoral council) Francisco Carrasquero or (its member) Jorge Rodriguez is a waste of time. They have shown too much loathing for Venezuelans; too much genuflection to the supreme chief (Hugo Chavez), which is something that puts them below the dignity of the undersigned. I am writing you, Ernesto Ivanovich, because during those four days when we covered so much of Los Chaguaramos together on foot, you gave every sign of being a fair person, blessed with common sense and respect to all who wanted to sign.

I am sure, Ernesto, that while Carrasquero announced to the country that 876,017 signatures had to be "repaired" because they were under suspicion of being fake, your soul must have been struck with the figure of Mr. Koschevnikov who, though confined to a walker and his house due to a stroke, signed and, despite his severe difficulties with language, had the courtesy of offering you a glass of orange juice in the intimacy of his kitchen.

You'll remember also Mrs. Mujica, over 90 years old, who waited for us with three pairs of eyeglasses on the table in case they went missing and each and every national ID card (cédula) that she has owned during her long life just to leave no doubt of her identity. And Mrs. Romana, 97, whose cédula number you dictated to me to speed up the progress of the work at hand. Or Mrs. Morales who, due to alzheimer's, did not sign but stamped her thumbprint twice and bid you goodbye from her apartment with a hug and a cat-call about your nice eyes.

These people, Ernesto, Venezuelans like you, are being treated like criminals by a government, which minute by minute exposes more aggressively its dictatorial fang.

I have no other comfort, no other way of processing this, other than to write you because I know that among the people who follow Chavez there are many like you, Ernesto Ivanovich, who can still see the measure of humanity, in whom I still want to trust, and who will raise their voices to stop this country from getting swallowed up by blood.


Nelly Arenas