Trent Hawkins is a leader of Resistance, an Australian socialist youth organisation, who participated in the December solidarity brigade to Venezuela organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network. Below is his account of the December 3 presidential election and its aftermath.
Today the Chavistas are having fiestas not rallies. In Catia, our brigade has been invited to a street party, which I'm sure will be huge. We went through there yesterday as part of our day as unofficial election observers. We stopped at a party at around 3pm. They were already celebrating Hugo Chavez's win. One person told us of how life has improved so much as a consequence of the revolution and Chavez's leadership. He said that for the first time he has some savings in his bank. He told us he cried when he saw Chavez announce he would be sending cheap oil to benefit poor people throughout the Americas. This was amazing given statements by Manuel Rosales, the right-wing opponent to Chavez, about the president sending the oil overseas so that no one could use it here. The sense of growing internationalism amongst the mass of Venezuelans is an indication of how far things have progressed.
Yesterday in pounding rain thousands gathered outside Miraflores, the presidential palace, to see Chavez give his victory speech. No-one cared about the rain. An extraordinary sense of love and solidarity existed amongst most of the crowd, although alcohol and the Miraflores courtyard reaching its capacity saw a few angry confrontations. A young woman gave me her hat and said that I will always be in her heart; another women was telling me how she loved her President. An elderly man protected us gringos in the crowd/moshpit and hugged us and thanked us.
Everyone is aware that this is an important step in Venezuela's history: Chavez was able to surpass the important figure of 60% of the vote; winning some 7 million votes. He won in every single state, including Rosales's home state of Zulia, and the opposition have not been able to find any evidence of election fraud. In fact, the only thing they did was send heaps of people into one election booth to demand entrance as public observers, and then complained about fraud when they weren't all let in! From here the possibility of actually building "socialism in the 21st century" can move from an idea to reality, with the first step reforming the constitution to make it more revolutionary. This could be an opportunity for them to tackle key issues relating to women and queer rights, which have suffered after decades of machismo.
As Chavez said last night, this wasn't a victory for him it was a victory for all oppressed: "Long live the pre-ordained popular victory. Long live the reign of socialism, the future of Venezuela … Another defeat for the North American empire. Another defeat for the devil. Down with imperialism."