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Reporters on the Job

November 28, 2007



Middle-Schoolers in the Streets: To report today's story about university students protesting Sunday's referendum on changes to the Venezuelan Constitution (see story), staff writer Sara Miller Llana attended marches and spoke with students. One day, she was waiting for a colleague who was about an hour late. And Sara could see why.

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"He had no idea why traffic was so bad but I did," she says. "Right in front of me, a group of middle school students (and it looked like high-schoolers) had blocked one of the main roads in one of the more upscale neighborhoods of Caracas. Dressed in their school uniforms they seemed young and so little to be out protesting. But they were undeterred by the adults who were screaming at them and honking at them to get out of the road."

She saw the kids approach the rickety old city buses and spray paint 'NO' all over them – a reference to voting against the constitutional referendum. "In that atmosphere, which is so charged, they really could have been injured, particularly when vandalizing city buses," says Sara.

A year ago, she was in Venezuela covering the presidential election. Everyone assumed then that Hugo Chávez would win. But this time the atmosphere is much different. "I've seen a lot of tension in Caracas. I was talking to some pro-Chávez supporters wearing red "Sí" shirts, and some woman walked past and cursed them. I really hope things stay calm this Sunday but this feels far more important than last year's vote – to both sides," says Sara.

– David Clark Scott

World editor

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