Venezuelan students blame one another for violence (updated II)
A day after a violence burst at Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) on 7 November 2007, it is still unclear who started clashes. Videos and photos show both opposition and pro government students wore masks and engaged in violent acts.
During the morning of Thursday 8th November, an unauthorized march by the opposition students from UCV to the Attorney General office had to be called off as pro Government groups and police forces had cordoned UCV. A later statement justified the cancellation on the grounds of public order though. Then, various small groups of opposition students staged protests in their universities in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Caracas (Metropolitana, Santa Maria, Simon Bolivar and Opus Dei Monteavila). As some citizens demanded the free flow of traffic, national guards and police used tear gas to disperse their manifestations.
Fearing an escalation of the conflict, UCV University authorities and various students’ organizations condemned the violence. They claimed the government promoted violence to justify its future invasion of campuses; but it was only during the government of Christian Democrat President Rafael Caldera (1969-1974) that the Venezuelan government invaded and closed UCV. On the other hand, the government accused the opposition students of promoting violence and intolerance towards its fellow students who support constitutional reform. This was backed up by the fact that old time politicians were seen in the opposition demonstration; these included representatives of leftist Bandera Roja and right wing Primero Justicia and Nuevo Tiempo. Furthermore, on 8 November 2007, two pro government students were almost burned to death with petrol by opposition members in Anaco, Anzoategui state. In addition, private media that reject the proposed constitutional reform muted news on the death of a Zulia student few days ago and during clashes among opposition students.
National Assembly representative linked the violence on Wedenesday to the same pattern used to overthrow the government in 2002. Its current chairwoman, Mrs Cilia Flores, stated opposition parties were eagerly looking for a dead student to justify an escalation of violence.
International reactions to events in Caracas were mixed. While the US government expressed the violence was horrendous, other regional Presidents like Nicaragua’s Ortega and Bolivian Morales expressed their solidarity with the Venezuelan government and its proposed constitutional reform. Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro, accused the US government for its involvement in the violence used by opposition students.
In the afternoon, normality slowly returned to UCV; classes proceeded with normality and current baseball game season took place at night. Early news suggesting President Hugo Chavez had cancelled his trip to Chile due to the student’s protests was later corrected. Chavez appeared at the Presidential palace to inform on the outcome of a negotiations round with Colombian FARC and expressed his intention to attend the XVII Ibero-American Summit in Santiago this week.
PS: On Friday November 9, 2007, several University Deans met with government officials to revise the violent events on Wednesday. Opposition TV Network Globovision, reported that they all agreed it was wise to remain on the peaceful path and not on the violent one. Attorney General Isaías Rodriguez warned on the need to analyse fact impartially. He then invited witnesses to submit their account of events and videos as an official investigation is currently taking place. He added that some perpetrators were not students. University Deans agreed it was paramount to guarantee the right to protest but without affecting the free transit of citizens. Speaking on behalf of private university, the Dean of Universidad Metropolitana Jose Ignacio Moreno Leon commited themself to control violent acts within their campuses. Surprisingly, Moreno Leon also recognised that police and national guards have prudently taken preventive actions during recent student protests.
During his intervention at the current Ibero-American Summit in Chile, President Chavez deemed the violent student protest as fascist actions. He then explained the US administration, private media and CNN have backed them. Affected students from UCV are calling for a peaceful march soon.
Sources: Globovision, El Universal, Unionradio, RNV, ABN, Telesur, El Mundo, BBC Mundo, PR Inside, ANTV<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Related story: Chavez attends XVII Ibero-American Summit (Updated) Unassertive student’s demonstrations ended up in violence (restored), May 30, 2007: Guarimba children, Mayor Henrique Capriles will face trial over siege of Cuban Embassy in Caracas