Venezuela's recall petition: Paid not to play!
By THE DAILY JOURNAL INVESTIGATIVE NEWS TEAM
Caracas (22-23 November) - In a country where at least 20 percent of the population
is unemployed and even those who have a job are struggling with the reduced
buying power of a bolivar that has devalued to a third of what it was a year-and-a-half
ago, the government of Hugo Chávez Frías has a new jobs program,
one that involves paving people for their signatures in the recall referendum,
showing up for marches and for not signing the petition seeking to put an end
to Chavez's rule.
The Daily Journal investigative news team uncovered government job sites springing
up in many of the poorer sections of Caracas offering jobs. Long lines of people
have been turning up and applying as the word of mouth about the sites spreads.
Candidates fill out an application asking what they would like to earn and what,
they would like to do. They are then called back and offered 'jobs" - of
not signing the petition calling for a referendum on Hugo Chávez and
paid cold, hard cash for the promise.
Searching through the want ads of Ultimas Noticias, we came across an advertisement
on November 10, calling for "Urgent help wanted. 100 young people, either
sex, to attend clients in stores, supervise and provide information, Immediate
Many of the help wanted ads that have been appearing use similar language and
some even have the same phone numbers. When you call the number, asking what
is required to apply you are told to go to Parque Cerntral and fill out an application.
When arriving at Parque Central, you are directed toward a basement where there
are tables and lots of people filling out applications.
When I went in, 1 was surprised at how crowded the room was. "Is everybody
here applying for this job?" I asked the attendant who handed me my application.
'Yes. And everybody is going lo get to work- in this company," came the
answer with a knowing smile.
I began filling out the application form, which looked like a sheet from the
census. In addition to the standard, name, cédula, address and telephone
number, it asked: "Do you live in an apartment, house or rancho? How many
people live in your house? How many brothers and sisters live in your house?
How many rooms does your house have? How many televisions and refrigerators
are in your house? Have you worked in public or private companies?" The
application bore the MINFRA logo and seal at the bottom.
MINFRA is the Ministry of Infrastructure, headed by Diosdado Cabello, who has
been with Chávez since they both participated in the 1992 coup attempt.
One of Chávez' most trusted lieutenants, Cabello has also served as vice
president, chief of staff, and head of the telecommunications regulatory agency,
Conatel, which raided Globovisión last month, seizing equipment.
My application was numbered in the 1500s, giving some indication as to how many
people have been applying - and receiving these jobs. 'We will call you,"
they promised me, after I turned in my completed application. Nine days later,
on Wednesday, November l9th, 1 got my call short1y after 10:00 a.m, saying that
they would like to see me, that my application number was 1532 and that 1 should
go and have an interview at, 4.15 p.m. at Parque Central, Edificio Caroata,
When I arrived in the lobby of Caroata Tower at Parque Central, I was asked
for my application number. The guards verified it and then escorted me up to
the l8th floor, a place with long halls that was crowded with lots of people.
I was told to take a number. When my number was called, I went to an office,
where a nicely dressed, executive lady told me "You have been selected
for the job. The only requirement is that you cannot sign the Reafirmazo on
At this point, I diplomatically assured my executive recruiter that I do not
approve of this. "Oh no my signature is very valuable," I told her.
My executive recruiter got very serious and said, "Oh, no, no, no, this
is not a game. You cannot sign on November 28. You wrote here you want Bs. 200,000.
It is okay, we will give you in advance, the 200,000. The money is here with
us. But you cannot sign the recall referendum."
"I am not here for political reasons," I say. "I am here because
I came to apply for a job. Bs. 200,000 is not going to buy me a house."
At this point my recruiter is getting somewhat distressed. She calls a "Deputy
Congressman Tascón, we are having a little problem here because this
young man does not want lo sign the contract and put his fingerprint on it says
Congressman Luis Tascón, a leading member of Chávez' Fifth Republic
Movement, is well-known in the barrios because he has a Web site that publishes
all the names and cédulas of the people that signed the first Firmazo.
lt is obviously an attempt at intimidation. However, the gentleman, that she
was addressing was NOT that Luis Tascón.
My stem "Congressman Tascón" wrinkles his face and squints
his eyes: "Look, this is not a game. We know exactly where you live and
we know exactly your phone number. This conversation cannot be taken out of
this room, This cannot be mentioned to anybody." Escorting me out, he says
"We just want to get that marico (faggot) Peña and that marico (faggot)
I see lots of people are taking the money and agreeing not to sign. While there,
I saw receipts for people paid as little as Bs. 80,000. But I overheard another
conversation. Another woman there, obviously equally distressed with this behavior,
says "I can't believe you people do this. Paying us to do such a thing.
How can you do such a low thing? To pay people, to buy people."
Meanwhile, Rogelio Salazar, a MAS director in Bolívar state alleged that
in a number of villages, Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) officials had handed
out hard cash and bags of food to citizens that signed in favor of the government's
push to revoke that states opposition legislator, Nelson Rampersad. Salazar
said the government had distributed Bs. 16,000 per person for signing a petition,
and that National Guard (GN) trucks had transported and distributed bags of
food to those that signed.
Next week, apparently, you can go to Parque Central, Edificio San Martín,
Nivel Oficina Uno, Office 129 and 120, and get such a job too.
But the Chávez supporters' plans don't end with trying to buy people's
non-signatures. Apparently, they intend lo pay people to attend a march during
the Chávez petition period, in hopes of dissuading or making it difficult
for the opposition to get to the signature places. In El Silencio, diagonal
to Bolívar Avenue, across from the Hotel Conde, you can find José
Venod, in the office of Inmobiliaria y Raíces or by telephone at 861-6461.
On Friday, 21 November, he informed one member of our investigative team that
"We are going to pay you Bs. 30,000 per person to attend a march on November
28. This includes the food, drinks, beer, shirts and hats. We are also renting
some vans on the night of the 27th to take groups of people out of Caracas and
then bring them back in big buses the next day."
The idea is to apparently look like there is huge support, for President Chávez
from around the country.
The Daily Journal Investigative News Team will be bringing News scoops whether
from within the government or the opposition, in the future. Our sole commitment
is to fair, unbiased journalism that reports the truth.
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