By Carlos Garcia Rawlins
I was standing on a raised television platform less than ten meters from “El Candidato,” when the scaffolding collapsed. It was nighttime in Barquisimeto, and with great difficulty I saw him appear, navigating through the dark mass of supporters. He was riding atop a pickup truck, waving to the crowd on the way to the stage. I could barely see anything in the darkness as the lighting system seemed to fail completely.
Just as I was about to take a picture, one of our platform supports gave way and we were on the verge of toppling onto the dark mass of people. It could have been a tragedy. It was the second collapse of the day, after another platform meant to hold journalists had collapsed earlier. In hindsight it was a perfect metaphor for what would happen four days later, when Henrique Capriles, a.k.a. El Candidato, lost the election to Hugo Chavez by more than a million and a half votes.
But for him and his team, losing wasn’t an option.
The rallies always had the same script, like a movie looped around to repeat itself. There were a few changes in light or in landscape, depending on the regions where they were held. It was a frantic campaign in which the opposition candidate toured all 24 states, four times. The state he visited least was Delta Amacuro, but he still stopped there twice.
In the first phase Capriles toured more than 300 towns around the country, including door-to-door visits of many rural districts and remote houses. The challenge of covering in these conditions meant dealing with multitudes of supporters crowded into small places and narrow streets with poor lighting. I had to cover many kilometers on foot while trying not to lose the objective – that small spot among the masses that moved faster than the rest and in whose center was Capriles.
The second phase was one of massive closing rallies in the main cities, at a rate of two cities per day. It felt like I spent the days going up and down the stairways of the plane that chased after the Candidate’s plane. Up the stairs, down the stairs, arrive at the rally, climb into and out of the Candidate’s truck looking for a better angle and a different photo, climb onto the stage, cover the speech, edit, transmit under the elements praying to God for a good Internet connection. Then do it all over again in the next city on the other side of the country.