One goes to Caracas and picks up so many stories, that when you return you don’t know where to start. But I thought I would lead up with the story of the students in front of the United Nations office in Caracas. In some sense it encompasses a number of stories of what is going on in Caracas in the protest movement an its relationship with the Maduro Government.
Essentially, a bunch of students (or not) have set up camp in front of the United Nations office which is in Avenida Francisco de Miranda in Los Palos Grandes. I may not like the #SOSVenezuela hashtag, but, as you can see in the picture above, they have focused on what the hell is the UN doing, or not, in Venezuela. But their reality, their plan is a bit more complicated than that.
The first day, the students set up maybe a couple of rows of tents. But, as you can see in the picture above, taken by a buddy from the building in front (Thanks MD!), by now they are up to four rows and growing.
It is very colorful as the picture below shows, but this is more than just a spur of the moment plan. I talked to the students last week, and their plan is much more complex than just sitting there.
When you first talk to them,there are a number of surprises. First, they are not all from Caracas. Second, they are not middle class. Finally, they are not all students, as many of them are part of radical, left wing groups 8yes!, real left wing not imitation Chavistas!) which oppose the Government. So, for fools that claim that these protests are somehow motivated by the US, driven my middle class students, please come down and talk to them. You will be surprised, really surprised.
The second interesting aspect, is that the UN is just a way of focusing on something. They know that the UN will do not much more than make a statement or two. But they also know, that where they are, they should be safe, they are close to Altamira where they can go protest every night and in a location where the protests can grow, as they have grown in the last week.
But more importantly, they think that Maduro is playing a game of patience. They believe Maduro wants the students to get tired, wear out the opposition with repression and nightly fights, which, much like in 2002 in Plaza Altamira, will lead to the students or the opposition getting tired and giving up.
But they have no plans of giving up.
Their plan is to grow the camp, as long as it is livable. To make their presence a nuisance, but one that gets the approval of the neighbors. But it has to be livable and sustainable. They have received donations, they have a couple of Porta Toilets, they cook for everyone, they organize protests. But more importantly, they rotate. The tents may have someone’s name on it, or State, but the truth is that they alternate. Each person has someone to occupy their place. The idea is to outlast the Government, to out-tire the National Guard or the Bolivarian Police. After all, nobody can say they are violent (even if they go help in Altamira) but if the Government were to decide to move them out, repress them, it would be the Government that would look bad.
For them, the UN territory, IS their territory for the time being.
And just to make a point, they have set up a sort of “museum” of the weapons of repression. The left overs from the National Guard attacks. This shows who is the violent one. Maduro asks for dialogue, but responds with violence and repression. While the students are just sitting there.
The students are more than just anti-Government. They are doing this, because the revolution has simply blocked their progress. They see most students finish their studies and either stay unemployed, start a business for which their studies are useless or simply, leave the country. Emigrate. And they think the revolution is to blame for this. Many of them come form poor families, but somehow they managed to get into the regional universities. And what they see is that their future is blocked by a Government that wants to dominate everything, including their families. So, they don’t want to put up with it. Better protest like this looking for change than waiting for a degree that will do nothing for their future.
And it is fun too. They organize activities, talk to friend meet friends. Hell, if you have nothing to do, why not go visit them? You will be around people your age, talking about like, the future and why they are doing it. I did that and it was lots of fun. Imagine being their age!
And they have activities all of the time. Last weekend they had a vigil with candles.It was away to feel together, to have people join them. And who could not be moved by their sacrifice? After all, they are out there most of the time. Fighting in their own way for what they believe in.
Note added in the morning the next day: Last night the students were attacked. I have heard different versions, the correct one seems to be they were attacked by someone in a truck an dnot by the National Guard with tear gas.
I am not sure if this was in response to that, or the students had planned to expand anyway. In fact, they seem to suggest they were going to expand when I talked to them Saturday. Maybe the idea is to peacefully challenge the Government right in front the UN’s nose. Stay tuned..
The camp this morning as it expanded to the street: