JayDee says: The big day draws ever closer, though you would never know it walking around Caracas.
Sure, there are rallies and marches every day. Posters denouncing the devil and begging you to take off that red shirt hang from every lamp post. Well groomed talking heads lecture the viewers of Globovision on Caudillismo, while social workers in the Misiones warn that they will defend the revolution against the forces of the Empire by any means necessary.
But these atmospherics are so ingrained here, you tune them out.
Granted, in an environment like this, you can never rule out some sort of shocking surprise that truly mobilizes the populace, putting the scent of instability in the air.
But right now, with just 10 days to go, life goes on in Caracas much as it has all year. For a country with a reputation as a political "hot spot", the capital is, shockingly, a pretty boring place these days.
This point was driven home to me a few days back during a lunch time stroll through Sambil with a visiting colleague. Walking passed the LG Electronics store, we were compelled to stop in for a chat with the General Manager.
He showed us his most expensive T.V., a $2000, 48-inch plasma flat screen, and told us that he had sold over a pile of them this year. Over 100 had shipped in the month of July alone.
His most expensive refrigerator, a $5000 model with a built in T.V., has also enjoyed brisk sales. All in all, he boasted, his store was pulling in $50,000-$60,000/month this fiscal year.
My friend asked what he thought might be the political orientation of those who can afford such expensive goods. Were any supporters of the government?
"Of course," he answered with a grin, "they are the ones who pay in cash!"
Revolution is most definitely not in the air these days.
For all of the Hugo's rhetoric of "21st century socialism", Venezuela has become the 2nd largest market for plasma screen TV's in Latin America, trailing only Brazil.
I cannot and will not deny that this is a historic moment for Venezuela. After this election, we will learn some very important lessons about Chavez. Is he going to push this country over the edge, go authoritarian, and turn Venezuela into a dictatorship like the ones he spent all summer visiting?
And we will learn much about the opposition. Ironically, it's only after the election that we will know if Rosales is for real. Will he hold the opposition together? Will he stay in the ring and fight Chavez every step of the way in an organized and disciplined fashion, or will the opposition fall back on simplistic beliefs and strategies that left them without a single representative in the A.N.
The country will change after December 3rd, but it won't change on December 3rd. Because, right now, the economy is awash in cash, stores in Sambil are pulling in record profits, and Chavez's creeping authoritarianism has yet to really impact the lives of your average, politically apathetic citizen.