Another intense and somewhat incoherent day of protests, threats and accusations in Venezuela

May 29, 2007

It was in some sense a fairly incoherent day. Incoherent not because the messages, such as the Government’s were incoherent, but because one was able to see only glimpses of the events of the day. Remarkably, there were more protests than yesterday, as demonstrations were reported in some 100 different municipalities across the country, making the charge by the Government that only opposition municipalities allowed demonstrations simply laughable.

Students woke up early and gathered once again in Plaza Brion in Chacao to meet, before proceeding to Las Mercedes to the OAS Headquarters to hand over a letter to that organization. The students were quite resilient as the rain did not drive them away and they stuck to their guns even beyond that, as they continued to block the streets late tonight in certain areas. In fact, I had to come home tonight by a very roundabout way, as street after street around 7 PM was blocked by either demonstrators or the police. Essentially, a three-mile drive became an eleven-mile ride as I looked for an easy way home. And it was easy as traffic was simply non-existent as people went home early, the Caracas subway was shutdown and bus drivers took home their most important property: their vehicles.

There were many rumors today, some as yet unconfirmed such as the possible deaths of some students. Despite the Government’s accusations that the demonstrations were being run by political parties, the absence of their symbols, the change in venues and the massive arrests (over 100) of underage kids indicated otherwise.

Meanwhile the Government continued its offensive attempting to construct a careful image of the demonstrations being a destabilization attempt by the oligarchic opposition. But I guess this time they did not talk to each other. The Vice President of the National Assembly blamed the CIA, even mentioning the overthrow of Patrice Lumumba; the President said ot was the opposition, the National Assembly said it was an international conspiracy or the 80’s demonstrators of Bandera Roja. While all of this was going on, the students continued demonstrating paying little attention to the news.

Chavez, who had not been on TV since last week, showed up today and once again reenacted and enhanced the glory of the “coup” of 2002, introducing new elements that made the whole thing seem something out of RCTV’s comedy program Radio Rochela, more than a serious statesman. He told the story of how the police on April 11th. 2002 had rifles and attacked, while the “poor kids” on Puente El LLaguno (all above 40!) had to defend themselves with small weapons. He then said that he would lead himself, like on April 13th. 2002 (??) any movement to start a destabilization plan. But his zenith came when he suggested that Globovision was inciting violence by showing the demonstrations and said he would shut the TV station down if it continued.

Remarkably, there were little news from other sources. Many websites were down, either because they had too much traffic or were being attacked, while the other TV stations, Government or private, paid little attention to what was happening in the streets. But Globovision did and it included coverage of a pro-Chávez demonstration which was so ‘spontaneous” that most people had red t-shirts on with the printed logo of the new Government TV station that is replacing RCTV. Even more cynical, while anti-Government protestors were being gassed for blocking streets, metropolitan police led and protected the pro-Chávez march in downtown Caracas which had no permit, showing once again the double standard being used by the Government. By the end of the day, rumors were strong that Globovision would be shut down for three days as a way of “cooling” the streets. I really hope they do it so that, the beginning of the Chavez Dictatorship can be ratified and made official.

Perhaps one of the most significant moments of the days went largely unnoticed. As Deputy after Deputy called the demonstrations destabilizing and the like, the Secretary General of pro-Chávez party Podemos Ismael Garcia rose to speak. However, the leader of the only pro-Chavez party that has refused to join Chavez’ new and “unique” party, did not join his peers. Instead he asked why it is that half the population of Venezuela no longer matters, why their voice is repressed and not taken into account, why they are always disqualified politically, despite the fact that they represent half the inhabitants of the country. While some praised Garcia, the cynics said his sudden about face suggested something was about to happen and Garcia was once again conveniently jumping sides.

Reportedly the students will continue tomorrow. Some student unions at various universities will hold meetings tomorrow to poll the students as to the course of future actions. While many University Presidents continued to say that their institutions were running normally, nothing could be further from the truth as demonstrations, lack of transportations and fear, have brought most of the large institutions of higher education to a standstill.

The Government meanwhile continues to instill fear in people. Today the demonstrations permeated down to high schools in at least three or four cities. Meanwhile the one-day street leaders turned into comfortable oligarchs in the National Assembly, called for the Government to end the demonstrations and strife, suggesting that it is their former comrades of extreme left wing party Bandera Roja who are leading the protests, much like the used to do in the eighties. I guess they know what those demonstrators led to, except that this time they happen to be in the receiving end of things. How times change!

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