More Venezuelan Numbers
On August 20th, the Venezulan opposition organized a demonstration march in support for a mid-term recall referendum on President Hugo Chávez. My post of August 22nd collected the rally size estimates from various sources. That demonstration took place in the middle of the week, and the largely anti-Chávez employers gave time off for their employers to participate in the demonstration.
On Saturday, August 25th, there was a pro-Chávez rally on a day when people don't have to work. Here is the report from Associated Press (by Stephen Ixer):
President Hugo Chávez celebrated the midpoint of his six-year term Saturday by telling hundreds of thousands of supporters he would not bow to efforts to oust him through the ballot box.
As many as 500,000 supporters gathered on a downtown avenue, according to Caracas fire officials, to hear Chavez and to rebuff an opposition push for a referendum on Chavez's rule. Organizers claimed as many as 3 million people were present.
And from Reuters (by Patrick Markey):
More than 100,000 supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez jammed a central Caracas avenue on Saturday in a show of strength to challenge a referendum campaign to oust the leftist leader.
And from BBC News:
Tens of thousands of supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have marched in the capital Caracas to celebrate the half-way point of his term in office.
And from Associated Press (Alexandra Olson):
Tens of thousands of President Hugo Chavez's supporters marched through the capital on Saturday to help the leftist leader counter a renewed opposition push for a referendum on ousting him.
Blowing whistles and chanting "Oh, no! Chavez won't go!" government backers marched from two points in eastern and southern Caracas toward a downtown avenue, where Venezuelan leader was slated to address the crowd.
Hundreds on roaring motorcycles led the masses of "Chavistas," as the president's backers are known, while Venezuelan folk music blared from loudspeakers mounted on trucks. One banner read: "Chavez until 2021."
Many came from other parts of the country to join the marches, which were called to show Chavez's foes that he still commands support among the nation's poor majority.
From Aporrea.org, here are some photos. The banner in the first photo is an obvious dig on the numbers reported for the opposition rally ("The opposition knows how to read and write, but not to count!"). The banners in the other three photos deal with the Cuban doctors in the barrios, the literacy campaign and the coverage by the opposition media.
Reading these conflicting reports, I am clueless as to how many people were out there, either on Wednesday or Saturday. I do consider the reported count as an indicator of political sympathy. I have compiled the topline numbers:
Wednesday's Opposition March:
- Organizers claimed 1,000,000
- Fire officials estimated 300,000
- Associated Press (Alexandra Olson) reported 'hundreds of thousand'
Saturday's Chavista March:
- Organizers claimed 3,000,000
- Fire officials estimated 500,000
- Associated Press (Alexandra Olson) reported 'tens of thousands'
We report, you decide ...
Postscript: As for the local media coverage, no numbers were bandied about for either Wednesday or Saturday. Conspiracy theorists would argue that this is perfectly consistent --- they avoided reporting the opposition numbers that were too low for them on Wednesdsay and the Chavista numbers that were too high for them on Saturday. You can weave your own theory ...
But this is not about winning a numbers game. The facts are: on both Wednesday and Saturday, there were large numbers of people out there, showing that this is a deeply polarized country. A recall referendum will take probably take place soon. Regardless of the outcome of that vote, a national reconciliation will have to take place because this class warfare cannot be allowed to continue.