After having a gun in her face and months of marching in
protests, Carla Pukie knows the importance of voting.
“We never left home without a hanky soaked in vinegar for the
tear gas,” Carla’s mother, Silvia Pukie said.
The Pukie family sat comfortably in their new Fort Collins
apartment, thousands of miles away from their home in Venezuela,
which is now in political and economic shambles. The Pukies had
left to vacation in Florida, but decided not to return to
“When it was time to go back, there was no work. The gas
stations were empty and the stores were depleted,” said Andres
Pukie, Carla’s father.
Since Hugo Ch�vez became president of Venezuela in 1998,
the country’s economic situation has collapsed.
Andres said the economy has been set back three years and
according to Reed Lindsay, author of Venezuela faces new turmoil,
unemployment is currently at 18.4 percent.
Even though they were afraid, the Pukie family decided they must
take action along with millions of others who were opposed to
Ch�vez’s abuse of power.
“You’re so mad you forget you’re afraid,” said 58-year-old
Silvia, about her first march against Ch�vez. “I thought ‘at
my age, what am I doing out here?'”
Carla also took action. When thousands of oil workers went on a
two-month general strike from December 2002 to January 2003, Carla
“They were risking a great deal by going on strike and I knew I
had to be there to support them,” Carla said.
Silvia watched on television from her home in Caracas as the
protest Carla was at was ambushed.
“They used an extreme amount of tear gas,” Andres said.
The tear gas was launched into the air, which is illegal under
United Nations International Law.
“Everyone was running and they were shooting pellets at people,”
The national guard blocked the protestors escape routes. Carla
tried to run across a bridge, but was stopped at gunpoint.
“I held my flag up in one hand and my vinegar handkerchief up in
the other and I screamed, ‘Peace, peace! I want peace!’ and
something must have clicked in his head, because they signaled and
let me through,” she said.
Although the Pukies reside in Fort Collins for the time being,
they stay active in the movement to remove Ch�vez from
They read papers from Venezuela and network with other
Venezuelans in Colorado and the rest of the United States. On
Monday nights, the Catholics gather.
“We get together to pray and march together,” Silvia said.
Under the Venezuelan constitution, Ch�vez can be removed
from office by a new election if after the halfway point of his
term, Aug. 19 of this year, 20 percent more signatures than votes
he was elected by are gathered. The signatures must then be
approved by a committee chosen by the supreme court. The supreme
court has chosen five people to sit on this committee: two
Ch�vez supporters, two that are anti-Ch�vez and a
fifth individual, Fransico Carrasquero.
Last Friday the court ruled that the 2.8 millions signatures
gathered were invalid, because they were collected prior to Aug.
19, the halfway point of the term.
“So we’ll collect them again,” Silvia said.
Venezuela’s hope now lies in the hands of Carrasquero.
“People hope he is ethical,” Silvia said.
Noel Lane, a Coloradoan who has participated and closely
followed Venezuelan politics for over seven years, recently had
dinner with Carrasquero.
“He leans left, but will be honest. I believe there is a good
chance the signatures will be collected and I believe approved,”
Lane said. “The question is, ‘what are the requirements?’
Ch�vez supporters are trying to make absurd criteria
legitimate to invalidate signatures.”
The fact that there has been little violence can be attributed
to the Venezuelan’s attitude.
Lane said, “There has been little violence because of the
people’s commitment to freedom and peace.”
Once the situation is settled, the Pukies plan to return to
“That is the plan. We would like to go home,” Silvia said.
Andres said perhaps some good will come from the current
“Venezuelans were very apathetic about voting. They have learned
now it has a very strong meaning to stand up for your rights,”
Andres said. “Now everyone wants to vote.”