Giant "ROJA ROJITA"!!
This week has been pretty active in Venezuela, to say the least!! On the ground, things are heating up with the campaign for the referendum on the constitutional reform, which will take place on December 2, 2007. The pro-reform folks are the "SI" (YES) block and the anti-reform and opposition folks are "NO" this time around. On Sunday, we had a major march in favor of the reform. There were tens of thousands of pro-reform supporters in the streets of Caracas that marched 7 miles from Parque del Este to Avenida Bolivar to hear President Chavez speak. Most international media didn't report on that, but rather has spent its time reporting on the minor opposition student protests that continue to destabilize and provoke violence throughout the nation.
Today, Wednesday, November 7, there was an opposition student march to the Supreme Court in Caracas to symbolically hand over a document protesting the constitutional reform as unconstitutional to the members of Venezuela's highest court. The students marched relatively peacefully throughout the center of Caracas and a small commission of students entered the Supreme Court, were received by the judges and even had a chance to read a statement before the high court members that was broadcast live on national television. This event went without any violent incidents, unlike last week's opposition student march to the National Elections Council (CNE) that resulted in students trying to illegally chain themselves to the staircase inside the CNE headquarters. That incident did end in some violence and obvious reaction from state security forces, though no major injuries occurred.
After the march to the Supreme Court (TSJ), the oppositional students returned to the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and proceeded to kidnap a group of approximately 60 pro-reform and pro-Chavez students, including Libertad Velasco, one of the more well known leaders of the revolutionary student movement. Since public universities have autonomy over their security, state security forces were not able to enter immediately to resolve the situation and rescue the hostages. Private media, such as Globovision, reported that there was an "irregular situation" at the UCV, and later showed images of what they termed "pro-Chavez" supporters armed and firing at the oppositional students. What they did not tell their viewers was that those oppositional students had kidnapped a group of about 60 pro-Chavez students inside the Social Work school of the UCV and the "armed" individuals that entered the ground were members of Venezuela's Civil Protection unit, that entered the UCV after almost an hour had passed, to rescue the hostages. Images broadcast later on national television clearly show the hostages running out of the building on the UCV campus once rescued by the Civil Protection officers. Gunshots were fired up into the air to ward off the violent kidnappers, not to injure them in any way. Unfortunately, in the confrontations before the Civil Protection officers were able to enter the UCV grounds, 9 students were injured, one critically.
International media and wire services, such as Associated Press, published this photograph: and claimed that government forces are repressing students in Venezuela.
Take it from someone on the ground who is closely monitoring all events: The Venezuelan government is doing everything in its power to allow these students to freely enjoy their rights to protest without permitting them to destabilize the country, create chaos, and place in danger the lives of citizens. These types of protests that these students freely enjoy in Venezuela would NEVER, I repeat, NEVER be permitted in the United States. There is just no way the US Government or any city, state or county's police force would permit students to take the streets and public spaces almost daily, throwing molotov cocktails and bottles, as well as other debris, at the police, while damaging public property. In the US, thousands of them would be jailed and subjected to severe repression. Venezuela, on the other hand, is overly permissive with these protests and despite the ample freedom enjoyed by all sectors in this country, the international media distorts the scenario and attempts to paint a portrayal of the Venezuelan government as repressive. Repressive is the US government, permissive is the Venezuelan.
Stay alert to the media manipulation and the growing threat of a "colored revolution" (termed the "Marigold Revolution") in Venezuela (like Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia, etc).