Caracas, Venezuela -- This capital city awoke at 3 am at the "toque de diana" or reveille, exhorting all Venezuelans to get out to vote. In between the highly amplified sound of horns played by jubilant citizens, hundreds of loud firecrackers ensured that no one could miss this crucial moment in Venezuelan history. Saturday night was peaceful by all accounts, leading many here to wonder what election day would bring.
There are suggestions that Manuel Rosales (the opposition candidate and governor of the oil-rich state of Zulia) will go back to Zulia and declare it an independent state. Meanwhile, there are increased reports of Marines and US Navy activity in the island-nations of Curazao and Trinidad & Tobago, where the US has military bases. There is a remote possibility that if the Venezulan
army was called in to Zulia to secure the oil fields and facilities, the US military could become involved.
Another possible outcome is that Colombian paramilitary forces -- of which there are more than 5,000 in Venezuela already, according to intelligence estimates -- could be the main source of destabilization by instigating violence in Caracas. There are large numbers of Colombian refugees in Caracas, so the ultra right wing paramilitaries would easily blend into the population. Chavez discussed these possibilities on national television during his last interview before the elections.
Many barrios here are preparing for serious levels of violence and are organizing within the neighborhoods to protect community radio stations, water treatment plants, and other key installations throughout Caracas. I am not able to assess at this moment what is the likelihood that we'll see the level of violence they believe will occur, but these folks lived through the April 11,
2002 coup, which left several dead and hundreds injured. There was however, a document that was eventually posted on the internet written by the New York City-based New Cuban Coalition instructing opposition sympathizers on how to organize and respond to a violent overthrow of the government or even an "auto-coup" -- a coup led by Chavistas to create an excuse to attack or at least discredit the opposition. The document goes back and forth between telling people to be safe, stay at home and let the professionals "handle it" to how to isolate and neutralize Chavistas to how to effectively shoot to kill.
Ultimately, most analysts agree that there will be at least small pockets of violence throughout Caracas and elsewhere in the country.
More updates to follow this afternoon.
For further analysis on the situation on the ground visit www.venezuelanalysis.com