After three weeks of repression, fifteen dead, at least 60 reported tortured and more than eight hundred detained, including opposition leaders and reporters, the Venezuelan students have at least shown the world what little respect the Maduro administration has for the human and civil rights of the people. Venezuela has seen similar repression before during Chavismo’s rule, but never has it been compressed in such a short period of time. Or taped, photographed and videoed so extensively. By now, it is clear around the world, how prevalent repression, censorship and violence are under Chavismo. Maduro talks peace and repproachment with the opposition, the day after calling an opposition lady a prostitute and the day before the most repressive use of force in Caracas. Maduro decides to give two days of vacation ahead of the four-day Carnival break, in the hope or belief that by next Wednesday people may have forgotten what he has done.
How little people learn from history! In fact, Hugo Chávez believed the same thing in March 2002 when the Easter week vacation arrived. He thought the protests would subside and all the insults and repression of the previous days would be forgotten. He was gone four days after Easter Sunday, only to return due to the stupidity of those that did not follow Constitutionality after he resigned due to the deaths of April 11th. 2002.
The problem is that this victory by the students has by now become a paradox. Venezuela represents the paradox that in the twenty first Century, as those that were repressed in the twentieth century become Government, Human Rights and Democratic Rights have become less important around the world.
It is an amazing turn of events. I remember the era in which Virela and Pinochet were despicable figures who governed Argentina and Chile. It was beyond my comprehension how famous physicist Antonio Misetich, who had returned to live in Argentina to find his missing sister, could also be disappeared jut like that. Or how Juan Jose Giambiagi, a Nobel class scientist who later became my friend, would emigrate to Brazil and the Argentinian Government cheered. Venezuela was a recipient of the emigration of this era. We heard the stories, we could not believe that this was happening in what were once thriving democracies.
But today many of the same countries are run by those that were persecuted and their silence is deafening. Argentina ignores what is happening for ideological reasons, Colombia for commercial ones, Chile because it is in a transition, but I do not expect much from Bachelet. But the real surprise all these years has been how morally empty Brazil’s left is. You can not lead a region when you behave like that. It will come back to haunt them one day. They have also forgotten history. Sadly, they seem to think or feel that repression is a thing of the past in their respective countries. They think they have the institutions to withstand anything. Think again. Chile was the strongest democracy in Latin America in the sixties. Venezuela took its place. And we know how both turned out.
And that is what makes me pessimistic about the future. Not of Venezuela. Of the whole region. When you hear repeatedly that Maduro was elected (Was he?) from those that are leaders of their respective countries. When they so conveniently ignored that the audits promised to them never took place, you have to wonder what concept of democracy they have in their minds.
And while they are many decent people expressing their outrage at Maduro’s repression and discrimination of those that oppose him, it seems that they are few and far between. And few are powerful. The international media knows by now. Some countries like Panama have stood up on the right side of humanity. But unfortunately, Panama is one of the exceptions.
The rest simply prefer to ignore it.
And I do not expect anyone to come in and intervene in Venezuela, nor do I want them too. Cuba is here already, we should just kick them out.
But I do expect people who call themselves leaders to express their outrage at a Government brutally repressing its people, killing some of them, torturing kids for doing what is a Constitutional right under the Constitution proposed and approved by the party in power. And institutions like the OAS, who have decided not to say much, should also raise their voice. Not only against repression, but about the silencing of the media, the censorship of the Internet and the jailing of opposition figures. Otherwise, they will soon lose their right to even exist.
Because the other paradox is that as the students have continued their protests, the Government has become even more violent. Protests are not going to stop and the current handling of them will only increase their intensity. And the death toll will rise. It is the Government that has all of the tools to stop this, but so far, it has not budged an inch, pushing forward at every step.
And I think the students have won the international media war. And their battle will continue, but nobody knows where it will end.
With an economy in shambles, scarcity increasing and Maduro acting like their is no urgency to attend economic problems, the protests can only add participants.
And those that think that these are middle class protests should think again. It was San Cristobal that initiated the protests and in that city it is a proportion much larger than the middle class that is participating actively in the daily protests. An in Caracas, Caricuao, Petare and Catia have taken part, even if they have pressure not to do so. And I have been in Altamira and talked to the students, anyone that thinks they are just middle class, should visit with them.
My theory is that some in Government are undermining Maduro to have an excuse to replace him from within. But what do I know.
Much like 2002 or the Ukraine today, these protests have unforeseen consequences and ends, Some “tenientico” , for example, can get the wrong idea. Why not? If Chávez tried it, why can’t he?
That is not only part of the paradox, but is also part of Venezuela’s current tragedy.