“Si no salimos hoy, se acaba la Unidad”

Such were the chants on the last big march we had back in what feels like last year. Close to a million people, all chanting to go straight to Miraflores. What’s happened since?

Well, for starters, the opposition decided to sit down at the negotiation table against what they had said all year. Then they proceeded to agree to completely unacceptable terms. As Quico puts it, MUD betrayed its supporters.

In the face of all this, people have been looking towards a different form of leadership. Already, in key moments of our past, someone outside of politics has stepped up to the plate and taken a key role -for better or for worse. Be it the oft-remembered Generación del ’28, FEDECAMARAS and the CTV back in 2002, or the Movimiento Estudiantil of 2007, the Venezuelan people are always eager for an incumbent leader. Just ask the Intergaláctico.

Now as I said, the Student Movement won’t come back overnight. But there’s more than that. Even as I read the brilliant comments to that article, I realized just how far off we are from what we need to be as an alternative to political leadership.

On a side note, and before I jump into the meat of it, let me point something out. I do not support MUD’s sitting down to the dialogue on the current terms and I strongly oppose the alleged results they published. I have, however, been instructed by people more experienced and informed by myself -whose privacy of course needs to be protected- to keep faith and patience, and I’ve even been told “we’re better and stronger than ever”. I won’t comment on that, I’ll just focus on us students.

First, let’s state the premise that there has never been a fully organized, credible Nonviolent Resistance Movement to oppose Chavismo.

First, let’s state the premise that there has never been a fully organized, credible Nonviolent Resistance Movement to oppose Chavismo. If there had, there would be long-term, well-planned, effectively communicated agendas including more than street protests stemming from a cohesive political leadership. MUD has never been an NVR movement, it’s an electoral platform forced to play medium-term politics. And the Movimiento Estudiantil, while it has approached some NVR tactics, is less a concrete movement and more an unlikely coalition of many different people, some with big egos and little patience, with no long-term planning whatsoever. This isn’t criticism, it’s a statement of fact. And while we’re at it, students shouldn’t really be expected to be a concise operative political unit. We’re students. But all of this makes it very difficult to plan a true NVR movement which, as we’ve said before, can’t be improvised.

If you look at Srdja Popovich’s statements (one of the guys who toppled Milosevic), and Gene Sharp’s theories (the leading academic expert on NVR), I’d say you’d be forced to conclude that the closest thing we’ve had to an NVR movement are sporadics like the golden age of VotoJoven and, honestly, things like El Chigüire Bipolar.

But back to us students, the unlikeliest of Venezuelan political Messiahs. There are a couple of things that are seriously preventing us from achieving the heights of that 2007 glory.

For one thing, whatever the official data says, university enrollment has taken a hit. Historically, the big universities to march have been the public giants UCV and USB, the private powerhouse UCAB, and the smaller, younger UNIMET. USM, UCSAR, UMA and other smaller universities have also played their part. From 2007 until now, there’s been a very particular type of enrollment dip, precisely the type that hurts political leadership the most.

Let’s take the Maslowian perspective. In order to be a student leader, you need to be a student. You also need to be able to afford your university (if it’s private), or generally afford your life (whether you go to a public uni or not). You also need to be able to invest your time in student politics. And let’s add the factor that you should be an ambitious, proactive individual.

And I’m sorry to state what I think is an extremely unfair fact, but it’s a fact nonetheless. The vast majority of great student leaders, specially those who’ve gone on to take public offices in which we take great pride, have been privileged in one way or another

Now where have a huge number of educated, economically well-off, time-flexible, ambitious young Venezuelans been going lately? That’s right. And I’m sorry to state what I think is an extremely unfair fact, but it’s a fact nonetheless. The vast majority of great student leaders, specially those who’ve gone on to take public offices in which we take great pride, have been privileged in one way or another. They’re usually the ones that get a chance. Venezuela doesn’t leave much of an option.

And while we’re taking a stroll down Maslow lane, people don’t have the chance to go march as much anymore. University students are forced to both study and work, most have inhuman public transport schedules, need to negotiate their classes with food-hunting and colas, and are genuinely scared for their safety.

Which leads me to my next point. Going to the streets isn’t the same as it was in 2007. Ballenas, tear gas, maybe a pellet every now and then, that was child’s play. People died in 2014. People have died this year too. And now, it seems as though every single student leader is in permanent SEBIN watch. Add that to an incoherent leadership in the political parties, and you get a huge old case of learned helplessness.

Ok, so this is getting depressing. Let’s bring it back to life.

As I see it, we have two options. First, we can just sit, wait, and watch as MUD plays its political game. Maybe it work, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, it’s outside our control.

The second option is to try and build the long-term plans and movements we’ve been missing this whole time. I know that’s what Samuel Díaz (UNIMET), Santiago Acosta and Andrea Guedez (UCAB) ultimately want to do. But it’s complicated. It takes time. It means being able to respectfully disagree with MUD, and to do our own types of activities. It means thinking in timeframes beyond 2016, 2017, or 2021. It means setting specific goals and doing everything possible to achieve them. And it also means understanding that marches are neither the best nor the most effective form of NVR. Again, think Srdja Popovich and Gene Sharp.

But this particular message is nothing more than a call to action for a Student Movement that understands long terms and graduality, and that -most importantly- Nonviolent Movements aren’t really about eliminating a disease, but about creating health

This is not a post about MUD. This isn’t even about whether or not we’ll get rid of the government in 2016 or 2017. I think that’s a major milestone that needs to be achieved by MUD, the Student Movement, and Civil Society in general, and this very year. But this particular message is nothing more than a call to action for a Student Movement that understands long terms and graduality, and that -most importantly- Nonviolent Movements aren’t really about eliminating a disease, but about creating health.

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Carlos is a Law and Liberal Arts student at Universidad Metropolitana, and a teacher of Philosophy, Entrepreneurship, and Public Speaking at Instituto Cumbres de Caracas. MetroMUNer (@MetroMUN) and VOXista (@voxistas). But really, he's just an overcompensating, failed singer-songwriter.

11 COMMENTS

  1. We have no options, we have to get rid of the MUD and we have to do it very carefully because right now they are as dangerous as the government. Since we lost our last chance to do something this year and we have been betrayed, we have to think on the long term; there is no inmediate counterattack. But there is no way to begin any movement if UNT, AD and PJ call the shots. Sadly, they are still too powerful and they are working with the PSUV, so any actions right now would be suicidal. My point is, they are our new enemies, they are not a part of the solution but of the problem. This is the first step, to understand who the real enemy is. So no, this is no time to go to Miraflores, both the MUD and PSUV would slaughter us. First we have to find the way to take the traitors down, expose them for what they really are, cut their influence, create a revolution in their own ranks, so they lose control of their own parties. We can’ t exist without political parties, but those parties have to be purged of the Borges, the Capriles, the Allups, etcetera. We have to prepare to beat the MUD when the times comes. We also have to undermine their control of the digital media. They are doing everything to prevent us from forming a NVM. I actually get sick when I read their propaganda. We have to cut their finances. Any money that comes from venezuelans abroad should be for us, for our movement, not for the MUD. I am sure Capriles, Ramos and Borges have very dirty secrets. We have to find them and we have to expose them, maybe with some help by outside parties. I am sure some oppo leaders deserve to be sanctioned by the US as much as Cabello. We have to press and lobby for that. If you want to build a NVM you have to understand that you have to cut your ties completely with the MUD. You can’ t work for them. At this point, all is very simple. If you want a better country, you can no longer stand by the MUD.

  2. What you say: “I have, however, been instructed by people more experienced and informed by myself -whose privacy of course needs to be protected- to keep faith and patience, and I’ve even been told “we’re better and stronger than ever” is dangerous. Don’t you ever let yourself be “instructed to be patient by someone who is more experienced”, unless is your father or your trusted mentor, and, even then, you should always keep in mind that age does not mean he is necessarily right. Asking for patience in this case is highly suspicious.

  3. Sorry about the repost from DD but does this (specifically #4) mean that we are going to be subject to thought police from now on… 1984 style? Our opinions cannot be transmitted (or retransmitted) through social media?

    En el texto, introducido por la Procuraduría General de la República se solicitó al TSJ lo siguiente.

    1.- Evitar que la Asamblea Nacional reincida en actuaciones como la impugnada, así como en otras actuaciones con apariencia de actos con efectos jurídicos dirigidos a obtener por la vía de los hechos el control de los Poderes Públicos o la imposición de conductas con fines particulares de miembros de la Directiva y demás diputados de dicho órgano legislativo nacional, afectos a la situación de confrontación con todos los Poderes Públicos.

    2. Evitar que voceros de la Asamblea Nacional y otros actores o voceros políticos, emitan opiniones y convoquen a actividades que pretendan atentar contra la paz de la República, generar violencia y pérdidas humanas y materiales para la Nación. Entre ellas, movilizaciones hacia zonas declaradas de seguridad conforme a la Ley, y en las cuales funcionan los Poderes Públicos.

    3. Evitar que voceros de la Asamblea Nacional y otros actores o voceros políticos, convoquen a movilizaciones o actos de masas dirigidos a realizar llamados al desconocimiento o agresión de los Poderes Públicos o sus actuaciones.

    4. Prohibir a los medios de comunicación social la retransmisión o transmisión en diferido de las informaciones relacionadas con los hechos contemplados en los puntos anteriores.

    5. Ordenar al Ejecutivo Nacional tomar las previsiones necesarias para el resguardo de la integridad física de los ciudadanos que laboran en las distintas oficinas del sector público a cuyas sedes recurrentemente incitan a movilizarse voceros políticos, así como de las instalaciones y bienes que se encuentran en dichas sedes.”

    • En otras palabras: “Ser otra cosa diferente a chavista es ILEGAL.”

      O bien podría ser: “Sólo los chavistas tienen derecho a EXISTIR.”

  4. El tribunal supremo , ese conclave de Mujiquitas endiosados , al atender a esta peticion estaria irrogandose la facultad de abolir el ejercicio efectivo de todos los derechos politicos que la constitucion consagra en beneficio de los ciudadanos y del poder legislativo ……., con lo que claramente se estaria desligitimando y exponiendo a su propia abolicion por un acto masivo de desconocimiento y repudio publico …!! Esta sola decision deberia ser objeto de un estudio por juristas nacionales e internacionales de mayor reputacion para determinar su licitud y constitucionalidad bajo los parametros mas reconocidos del derecho publico y las conclusiones sometidas a la OEA y otras instancias internacionales como prueba contundente del caracter despotico del regimen que ahora nos rige…..!!

  5. O….K…. so that is a yes? If they pass this law, which we all know they will….we are officially punishable for complaining about how FUCKED we are? Or just that the social media has to censor it out otherwise they are punishable? Whatever, I can’t leave so I’m just going to stand my ground. I’d rather go out on my feet. I’m pretty feisty and I think I could help our cause if someone could maybe just point me in the right direction please?

  6. As expressed, the students alone probably can’t get the job done without the support of Oppo political parties, which are seated discussing convivencia verbiage helping the Regime, as the PN/TSJ tighten the Venezuelan Police State noose around their necks….

  7. Seeing the idealistic kids pointing above only brings one thought to mind–cannon fodder, while their more grown-up politically-savvy representatives munch croissants with the very abominable R. Chadderton, decrying any form of outward/violent political protest….

  8. I think the 2007 student leaders did the nation a huge disservice by not properly training their immediate successors.
    The 2016 movement shouldn’t need to re-learn this and start from scratch. Successful leaders should have assured that the lessons remained behind, within the institution.

    • Maybe they did, but its part of the learning process. Also, i for one think that its better late than never. Its our job to remind the student leaders that a “generación de relevo” is the best way to cement their legacy.

      And given the current “desesperanza” in our society, one could argue that its definitely their time to shine.

  9. Also my first instinct/thought about the author regarding the his comment about being told by someone more experienced (obvious admiration and respect) told him to be patient and have faith. Hmmm. At this point in the game (of life) and especially here in Venezuela, that strange and wonderous place where nothing is as it seems. I don’t trust very many people…family. Very close family and a couple of VERY long time friends. Nobody knows how rocky is the soil of a man’s heart. All my bells and alarms are going off right now about what is happening around us. This is spiraling out of control. We all know in our hearts what needs to be done. Anyone who tells you otherwise must me treated with extreme caution. Confia en su inteligencia divina.

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