Going for a walk in Cochabamba last night, a few hours after the polls had closed, I came past Plaza de las Banderas where a small group of supporters of the NO campaign, the campaign against granting President Evo Morales of Bolivia the possibility to run for another term, had gathered. They were only a handful and didn’t look too happy. All day there had been reports and indications of electoral fraud. The optimism of the campaign had evaporated. Everyone knew all along that the result would be close, but now the tension was enormous.
I was hungry and kept walking down Avenida Ballivian until I found a chicken restaurant. They had the news on TV and just as I entered, the first prediction was shown: The NO campaign would win by 51%. The eyes of the patrons were glued to the TV, but showed no joy. Either these were mainly SI supporters, or they couldn’t believe it yet.
But for me, this was enough to skip dinner and race back to Plaza de las Banderas. Slowly, more and more people with NO-flags and with red T-shirts arrived, although it was still a small crowd.
The passing cars began to honk in support, their drivers raising their fists through the windows. And then, it was like everyone who hat voted NO had heard the good news and was rushing to the square in the north of Cochabamba. The roads which had been pleasantly empty all day (motorized traffic is banned on election days in Bolivia) filled with motorbikes, cars and trucks from one minute to the next, with red flags waving and music blasting from everywhere. It was like a second carnival.
The small group had swollen into a jubilant crowd, and I found myself in the midst of it.