Getting our future back

I’ve never known anything else. None of us have. For my generation — now college age —there is no “before chavismo.”  They came into power when we were babies or toddlers. Our living memory stretches back all of two Presidents: Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.

The first time I stayed home alone was in 2002, when my parents went off to a rally in La Carlota. And the only memory I have of that moment is an RCTV broadcast of a woman being brutally beaten by National Guard soldiers. That was my first impression of the people who run the country. My first memory of what power is.

I think my generation has an appreciation of something that seems to elude our elders: doubling down on the same shitty strategy is not going to change the government.

We were born and raised in a Caracas saturated with bad news, violence and political instability. Our Presidents have always been a Chávez talking about his diarrhea or a Maduro talking about a peaceful —but armed— revolution. We grew up in a dystopian novel: Animal Farm, banana republic edition.

I think my generation has an appreciation of something that seems to elude our elders: doubling down on the same shitty strategy is not going to change the government. That’s been proven many times.

We all know the story: something triggers protests, people mobilize and the government starts to feel cornered. Then the FANB starts to dole out tear gas and we all get mad at FANB. The international community calls for some kind of concession (in 2014 and last year: dialogue, this year: regional elections) and the opposition caves. Protests are over and nothing is ever achieved.

The government has run this play book over and over again. It seems like we don’t learn the lesson.

Now, the Supreme Tribunal’s Ruling 156 —the one they pretended to reverse, but didn’t really — hands all the powers of the National Assembly to Nicolás Maduro (or, to his puppet TSJ, which amounts to the same thing).

Younger cops aren’t that far from us in age, older ones might have kids our age. We can connect with these people. That gives us legitimacy.

That political miscalculation (or an error de pasante) has triggered a momentum for the opposition and a visible fracture within chavismo. My generation can’t stay silent here: we have the most to lose.

Just the other day we were in the highway next to Plaza Venezuela, trying to raise hell.

The police came on fast and hard, making an early show of force before things could build up. But before the security forces could really do their thing, I overheard this tiny snipet of dialogue between a chama about my age and these two cops:

“Go ahead and follow your orders,” the girl said “but my fight is also for you.”

“I already told you,” the first cop replied “open the road now.”

“Either you open it,” the other cop pitched in, “or we will.”

“Our protest is for your family,” the girl said, refusing to give in. “Nobody is safe from the crisis and the crime wave.”

The first cop turned and walked away, and his partner’s tone changed.

Mi niña,” he said, now almost pleading, “please go. Los van a joder.” (They’re going to mess you up.)

The Student Movement has far more power over the political parties than they have over us. But we can only keep that credibility if we act independently from MUD.

I learned a lot from her about what we have to do, as students, to have a real impact. It’s about staying active and on the streets, yes, but it’s also about being irreverent, and never giving up on our role as the conscience of society. Younger cops aren’t that far from us in age, older ones might have kids our age. We can connect with these people. That gives us legitimacy. Some polls suggest the Movimiento Estudiantil — our student movement — is the most credible institution in the country. If we’re out there, people will join.

We have to deliver a message to the security services: cops, the National Guard, Army, all of them. It’s not about confrontation or antagonism, it’s about showing them we’re fighting for them. And for the constitution.

What our generation is been called to do is no small thing. We’re here to defend of the Republic. Little by little, if we stick it out — they will join us. The Fiscal General showed it’s no pipe dream.

The Student Movement has far more power over the political parties than they have over us. But we can only keep that credibility if we act independently from MUD. So, to prevent the “same shitty strategy,” we should elevate the political costs of any negotiation.

It’s not about confrontation or antagonism, it’s about showing them we’re fighting for them.

We have to take the abuelitas seriously. Out during protests, they keep telling us that they trust us, the Student Movement, and not the politicians. That doesn’t mean attacking MUD just for the sake of doing so: it means standing with them, but also calling them out when the politician’s personal interests conflict with the ones of the broader struggle.

Look at any protest and right at the front, where the real risks are taken, you’ll find students. It’s our fight, and it’s our message that can really get through to the Armed Forces and help bring about more and bigger fractures. Our generation gets it: the cops are not our enemies, they’re as much victims of this regime as we are. It’s up to us to mobilize civil society, nobody else will. Our future’s been stolen from us, and we’re determined to get it back.

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