Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fireworks at dawn

I awoke at 5:30 a.m. to massive fireworks exploding in front of el Avila. At first, I thought it was either gunshots or the birthday of a socialite who’d gotten too drunk to set them off at a reasonable hour. Then Giulio reassured me it was the government, encouraging citizens to get up and vote because today is the Big Day.

From a foreigner's point of view, it’s exciting to see a huge capital city rallied like that in a positive way, regardless of the political side of the impetus.

Early morning fireworks over Caracas.

I am, however, secretly relishing that my immigration status relieves me of the duty to stand in line for five hours to cast my vote.

All who vote here must stick their pinky finger in purple ink that doesn’t come off for several days (I don’t know how the beauty-obsessed women deal with it). The specially-engineered ink is a way of ensuring that people don’t vote twice with fake IDs, but I think it’s also a social symbol in a country where people have such extreme views about politics. I don’t know any Venezuelans who come out of an election day without that stamp of participation, and I wouldn't want to be subject to the ridicule a non-purple pinky would spark.

It’s not raining, those who live in the poorer cerros won’t have as much trouble descending from their steeply positioned homes to voting areas. It seems participation will be high in major cities.

The decision on whether or not the president, governors, and mayors are no longer subject to term limits should come back late tonight.

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