Luis G. Jalandoni
Member, National Executive Committee
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
It was a distinct honor and privilege to be an International Observer to the historic Constituent Assembly Election in Venezuela on July 30, 2017.
My companion, Mr. Asterio Palimas and I were welcomed in Caracas by Ms. Katiuska Rodriguez, Director General of the Secretariat of Sub-Minister Felix Placensia of the Foreign Ministry for Asia, Middle East and Oceania.
On July 29, 2017 in the morning, Ms Katiuska Rodriguez and her assistant, Ms. Nelly Mogollon, accompanied us to the final day of the 10-day Book Fair. Numerous booths contained many books on different aspects of the cultural and educational life, providing a wide variety of Venezuelan and other authors. The atmosphere at the book fair was relaxing and very surprising for us, because the Venzuelans were very relaxed, with children playing. This was a far cry from the tense atmosphere created by Western media. Katiuska introduced us to her former boss, the former Minister of Culture and Education, who looked so relaxed and unassuming.
The night before the day of the Election for the Constituent Assembly, a Foreign Ministry official told us we, the International Observers, would be divided into three groups. I was assigned to Group 2 which was scheduled to leave at 7:00 a.m. Asterio Palima was assigned to Group 3 which would leave at 9:30 a.m.
Our group went to a big electoral center, where President Maduro had voted at 6:00 a.m. that morning, followed by Cilia Flores, a prominent candidate and spouse of President Maduro.
I recalled that the day before Presidenet Maduro announced that the government under beloved Comandante and President Hugo Chavez and the Maduro administration had built 1.7 million homes for the poor. I sent this to friends in the Philippines, saying this is a tremendous achievement which would be deeply appreciated by millions of urban poor who have to struggle to acquire decent homes. President Maduro announced that they would aim to build a total of 3 million homes!
The first center our group visited has about 4,500 registered voters. The officers of the Consejo Nacional Electoral welcomed us and explained and demonstrated in detail how the process of voting is taking place. It was very impressive. The staff of five in the center allowed us to see every step in the process of voting, from the card of registration and the signature, to the actual secret voting, the folding of the vote and dropping it into the box, then again using the registration card and the thumbmark.
The process was very convincing. It showed the guarantee of the integrity of the electoral process.
After the voting procedure was shown, we were allowed to mix with the voters. Many of them asked us for our impressions regarding the electoral process.
Just across this first center was another center with about 2,500 voters. A long line could be seen, voters who stood and waited and moved slowly towards the voting center. We went to the entrance and had a good dialogue with the voters and some media people. The voters were very appreciative of the words of solidarity from the International Observers from different countries and regions. I gave a short solidarity message in Spanish which was enthusiastically received. I ended with: Viva Chavez! Viva Maduro! Viva el pueblo heroico Venezolano!
The next voting center we went to was the very famous Centro Enero 23. This is where Comandante Hugo Chavez had based himself, where he was deeply loved by the people. His tomb is just 400 meters away. Again the staff showed the details of the voting process. After that, they asked the International Observers for our impressions. The voters, clearly from masses of poor working Venezuelans, enthusiastically responded to the messages of solidarity. I said that in the Philippines, the Filipino people also struggle against U.S. imperialism and local puppets for genuine independence, sovereignty and nataional and social liberation. They offered us delicious coffee and many asked to have photos with them.
The third center we went to, in the afternoon of July 30, was a huge cultural complex, a Stadion. Many voting centers were put up by a well-trained staff of the CNE. The CNE lead official explained to us that they had to work overtime to set up the numerous voting centers so that the voters in areas dominated by the reactionaries who were prevented by the reactionaries could vote there.
They said that the reactionaries in the four towns in the East of Caracas were violently acting against those in favor of President Maduro. These reactionaries were setting up blockades in a few blocks in East of Caracas and making use of violent attacks which were used by the Western media to portray violent outbursts. These gave a very wrong impression to the world, claiming that President Maduro was rejected by the Venezuelan people. This false portrayal of the Venezuelan situation was used by U.S. President Trump to condemn President Maduro and those who followed him and Comandante Chavez.
It was deeply inspiring experience to see the militant determination of the Venezuelan people to exercise their right to vote and make democracy a concrete reality. I said to the voters we met and to the officers of the CNE and the Foreign Ministry that this commitment of the Venezuelan people and their fight for democracy and peace should be shared with peoples in other countries. Massive participation took place. By July 31 in the morning, 8,089,320 had already voted. That is more than 41 % of the registered voters. The Constitutional requirement of at least 25 % was surpassed!
On our last day in Venezuela, on July 31, 2017, we were brought to the Heart Center for Children in Caracas. What a great experience again to meet the expert staff of doctors and other trained personnel providing efficient service to sick children and their families, ALL for FREE! And the parents of the children can stay also for free in apartments near the hospital. We had a good sharing with the directress and her staff. I said that in the Philippines, when we tell people about this hospital, they would say: WOW! Is this true? The vast majority of the Philippine population are sorely lacking of good medical care. There are dedicated health workers in the Philippines but the government does not provide such facilities and free medical care as in the Heart Center for Children in Caracas!
We left with warm goodbyes to the Heart Center staff. They gave us beautiful caps with the Center’s logo, a bleeding heart!
Nelly Mogollon accompanied us to the airport in the afternoon of July 31. She brought us to the VIP room, where Asterio and I raised our arms in salute, with the huge paintings of Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez behind us.
What an inspiring experience we had in Venezuela, as honored International Observers to the historic Constituent Assembly of July 30!
Viva Chavez! Viva Maduro! Viva el pueblo heroico Venezolano! #