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Sunday, February 13, 2011

A visit to Hugo Chavez's hometown

 Today I visited Sabaneta, Venezuela, the hometown of President Hugo Chavez. My driver and I were followed most of the time by a man in a white pickup truck, monitoring where we went and who we talked to. My intention was to speak with locals who support the president in his own homeland. Mostly, I was met by opponents; they are always easier to find and to get to speak. Some were taking video of the man following us; they had their camera confiscated and the last I saw of them they were standing in the door of the police station on the plaza.

  One man, however, did speak to me about his support for Chavez and why, despite its problems, he is still behind the Bolivarian Revolution of Hugo Chavez, now 12 years running. He's the man on the left. His friend is an opponent of the regime and the secretary general of the Copei party in Sabaneta. This is a highly unusual scene in Venezuela: political opponents remaining friends. Most Chavistas and anti-Chavistas appear to be embittered enemies, attempting to destroy one another. They could take a lesson from these two gentlemen.

  The political situation in Barinas is unique. The governor of Barinas is a brother of Chavez. The mayor of Sabaneta also is a brother of the president.

When we returned to Barinas I checked out of my hotel and into another one. Several hours later the desk receptionist phoned my room to tell me someone in a white pickup had come asking if I was registered there. They said I wasn't. I'm not sure why they wanted to help me. Later, someone on a motorcycle came to ask again. It's the first time I've been followed or monitored since the Garcia Meza dictatorship in Bolivia. I'm unsure what they seek to do or what their goal might be. I'll be leaving Barinas tomorrow for Merida.

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