lunes, 26 de noviembre de 2007

Blog action day: My words about the Constitutional Reform

Several Venezuelan and foreigner bloggers agreed today on posting about the upcoming Constitutional Reform as one voice, with different shades, of course. Perhaps my post it's one of the latest, since I can't post at work so I had to wait to come back home at night, my apologies... Now I thought I had a million words to say about the reform; I even spend a few paragraphs on explaining just one article sometime ago. But today I would like to focus on a "non politically correct" issue about this reform.
A few days ago I went to my university - UCAB - to give a class. Before entering my classroom, I saw a lot of people painting their shapes with chalks in the floor as they were the shapes of death people and they were supossed to write inside their shapes things that could end for sure with the reform. None of them wrote anything particularly original: "freedom", "democracy", "property", "free thinking"... even "milk"! (well, the foreigners might be amused by this, but we are used to a very rough milk shortage these days). A friend asked me if she could make my shape in the floor; so I laid down partially worried by the marks the chalk could leave on my black outfit. Then I stood up, and wrote inside my shape "University Autonomy" and my friend sighted.. "Oh... you are right about that one"
The modification of the article 109 in regards to the University Autonomy establish that the vote inside the universities should be equal for professors, students and even workers at campus. That among other serious things. So when A student who works partial time, came to my office asking me about this issue in particular all I could answer was "The university is not democratic. It is based on merits, not on populism"- The guy looked at me as he was trying to assure that I actually said that, no one likes to hear that not all things are democratic.
Everybody wants to talk about democracy, everybody wants to talk about possibilities, and everyone wants to talk about easy things to get, without any effort but rather just for the fact of "being there" (being part of the country, of the university...). But this time, I feel forced to talk about the things that should not be said, instead of buying this "Disneyland" offer. I'm forced to talk about consequences, paths, and efforts. About why beyond the obvious, this blogger wont cheer that shopping mall.
Many seem to ignore that democracy does haves a dark side and it is the tyranny of the majority. A world where everybody rules must be certainly the same world where none of that collective we call "everybody" truly rules at all.
This reform will make the opinions of the students (and specially the first year ones, which are always the majority inside universities, at least here) more important than the opinion of the - obviously more experienced- professors. Therefore it will exclude the ones who really have conquer more knowledge by experience from the possibility of spreading that knowledge. The university will become a paradise for useful idiots who are going to be ready to create rules to eliminate the rough demands of the finals in order to preserve the "student interest"... No one would rule except the ones who makes enough votes to pursue this "interest" and by looking after that interest the university will stop being a university. I'm not saying the students don't know what's best for them, I'm saying that the majority are not usually passionate intellectuals looking for knowledge and more often than not, they come to the classrooms looking for something else.
Many people talk about the non-democratic issues concerning the reform. And they are many, like the fact the president will reach the possibility of be reelected indefinitely (like a monarch) and that he will accurate more power toward many institutions including the "Central Bank", my city, and so on. But I rarely see any arguments against those tiny issues that could be called as the "democratic part of the reform". But those are only dresses, made by taking the democracy principles to the last consequences until turning it into a vague populist promise that in the name of inclusion, would only bring backwardness to my dear country.
Therefore, I will vote against this reform next Sunday not just because the things I could lose, but also because the things I could earn without being able to handle with them (such as the possibility of making my vote in the university worth the same as my professors vote). I'm not voting "NO" because I could lose my properties (by the way, I don't have any properties...) but because I could have a lot of properties without even making the less effort to get them. I'm not voting "NO" because the president could make me less free, I'm voting "NO" because I didn't grow up as a spoiled chick and I'm not planning to start being one now.
I'm voting NO because I'm so f... stubborn that I want to be able to vote at 18 and not at 16 and I want to earn my money and pay for my home and not to get it as a present from Daddy Chavez. I'm so f... masochist that I'm voting NO because I truly think that my work can be done better if I have 8 hours a day for making it, instead of 6... I'm voting NO because the only gift I want is the possibility of learning and improving.
I'm voting NO because this reform might be too good; by promising a life so perfect, that I would lose the need of moving a finger for anything and I'm afraid to become some couch potato (besides, I have always disliked perfection). I'm voting NO because I don't want no one to give me a Disney Land, I'm voting NO to pursue my right to build it on my own.
It might be an odd argument against the reform, but those are my reasons, and this is my blog.

sábado, 24 de noviembre de 2007

“I hope so too” Part II: UCV (stories of the 7th and 9th of Nov)

After those short but heartbreaking conversations with the people who were at the UCAB riots, I called my best friend. We were planning to go to an “after Halloween” sort of party but I haven’t even thought about my outfit just yet. “Do you really feel like going to a party now?” – Part tired, part disappointed; he read my thoughts and said “No” right away. I still dressed up and he picked me up 30 minutes later but not for a party, but for going to a quiet place to have a drink and a long talk.
More sooner than later our conversation focused on the fears we have as we see this situation getting more violent and radical as the days pass by. We discussed a little bit about what happened at UCAB in the afternoon but we were even more worried about the events at UCV just a day before that sadly, made huge headlines across the globe. Shootings at the campus is always a good material for a headline after all.
And my friend is even more concerned after we met that same night, randomly, another friend who goes to UCV and who was cheering “the brave students that burned the Social Work building and finally gave a lesson to those people”. I understand his position, in part. UCV students are tired to go every morning to class and find their campus all messed up with Chavez supporters “works of revolutionary art” annoying from the halls and the walls.
The Social Work school in particular is traditionally a pro Chavez school – one of the few ones, if not the only at UCV- and you just never stop hearing about troubles related with the Social Work students despite if they are real or not.
Actually, a few months ago, I was at a demonstration when some tear gas were dropped and not exactly by the police (counting that only the police and the National Guard are allowed to own and use those instruments of repression, so no clue how random civilians get access to tear gas bombs) and when we were protecting ourselves from the gas, I heard students saying that the responsible ones were probably Social Work students since the bombs seemed to have fallen from the Social Work school building… So when I saw the latest events on TV (the ones that guy was cheering) and a cousin (that also goes to UCV) told me that it all happened at the Social Work school building, I wasn’t surprised at all.
-“But before putting all the responsibility on the Social Work students and their friends” – My best friend argued – “We must put on question the radicalism on both sides”-
Combining all versions plus the press you could tell the events this way: the students from the White Hand movement were coming back from a march when they met some Chavez supporters putting some propaganda at the campus walls. From that point it all got confusing and it ended with the horrible scene of shooters in the campus –none related to the White Hand movement that’s for sure – and some radical students from the movement trying to burn the Social Work building with people inside (not all of them were shooters) for defense (or revenge? Maybe?).
“So when you see from one side people shooting at others and the others wanting to burn people alive in response, you know you are in the presence of ….” – “… A war”- I completed his sentence – “Indeed” – He kept with his argument – “And these guys, who were answering to the Chavez supporters attacks, who wanted to burn the building with people inside were not some crazy guys … they were… people like us… like the friend we just met” - After he said that, we just shut up for a few minutes lost on each other thoughts.
I never understood the meaning of peace as strong as I did those few minutes, since the possibility of seeing the best people doing the worse things due to a radical situation, popped in my head as a real scene just dancing around the corner – “Let just hope the student (White Hand) movement can win over the radicals”- He said, breaking the silence.
It doesn’t matter if it happens at UCV or UCAB, if it’s about shooting or stones or tear gas bombs. It doesn’t matter if the students who claim to have a practical mind or the adults that were once radical student activist says otherwise. The consequences of those request of “ending everything” with a violent act are so overwhelming that I had no other choice, but join my best friend desires by him back: “I hope so too…”
About the picture: Taken about a week ago (Nov, 15th) at UCAB. It shows some students waiting at the campus entrance for a Chavez supporters demonstration that it was planned to arrive to my university (I will tell those events in another entry). The thing is that for me, it is quite relevant who are the students who are part of the first line of any demonstration because they are the key element to start or to stop radicalism. I wasn't at the UCV when the riots happen and I want to put original pictures taken by me or my friends in this blog as much as possible.

jueves, 22 de noviembre de 2007

“I hope so too” Part I, at UCAB (stories of the 7th and 9th of Nov)

On Friday (Nov, 9th), while I was making some codes and organizing a bunch of information my boss gave me, I updated my browser and read the headlines “troubles at UCAB”(my university). The office right next to mine belongs to a former classmate so I quickly informed her about the headline and we immediately put our cell phones and the gmail chat (we’re not allowed to use messenger at the office, of course…) to work. We made a quick mental list of the friends that could be there in order to get some information about them and the situation.
All we could see was some random images of National Guards walking against a bunch of students right at the doors of our beloved campus. Next, the students running away as they could, climbing the bars to get inside the campus again and that familiar white smoke (of the tear gas bombs) in the parking line. I imagine that just as the things looks on TV and pictures on the net, my dad’s office must be pretty much filled with that nasty smoke but luckily, he’s out of town at the moment.

First person who answered my messages was one of my best friends “I came back home before everything started, I’m seeing it on TV and just can’t believe it…”. Second, a guy who I worked with last year “I’m not at the university but I will tell you everything when I get there”- I answer back – “Have you seen what’s happening? Don’t go there now…”- But I know it’s useless to make such request. My once classmate, now co-worker and I would also wanted to go there and we don’t even know what for. I guess seeing our campus so vulnerable definitely touched a very sensitive nerve on us; because even considering this was not the first time our campus is surrounded by police or army forces, this was the first time the tension broke, and the violence started.
Back home, at night, I searched the internet and asked the few students from UCAB that I have online about the events. All I know now it’s some random stories about students running from tear gas after trying to block a street just outside my campus.
I’m convinced that the Venezuelan situation it’s so complicated plus there are so many people filled with desires to distort the facts (not only from the government) that you cannot possible know what really happened unless you were there, and even so…
With that been said, I will write here the opinions of two friends I talked over msn last night. One of them was insanely mad with the National Guard … “how dare they to treat us like that?” and the other, just felt sad and disappointed in general: his concerns goes way much farther than those repression episodes: “it all started because some silly radicals started to burn stuff… I’m so sick of radicalism everywhere”.
I did not knew what to answer to any of them, I tend to share that general pessimism that friend has lately, instead of just blaming the Chavez supporters group or the police or the army; I simply regret the whole situation that makes this kind of episodes possible.
About the picture: taken at the entrance of one of my university' cafeterias, it shows part of the students creativity when it comes to protest. Notice that the Che poster has a white hand on his forehead, and besides that it pretends to be an example of how our university would be like if the reform is approved and Chavez continues to play with the country: a campus filled with blind Che admires and lack of food, and free thinking.

miércoles, 21 de noviembre de 2007

50 years later, this is a day to remember

Before I continue with my long stories about protests and political inconveniences, I better make a break and bookmark this day in this blog. It was 1957 and my country lived under the dictatorship of Pérez Jiménez who was the last dictator we had... well... before this lunatic. On a day like today, a student strike against the regime exploited and was one of the many events that made the country; just a few days later (on January, 24 of 1958) give it a try with the democracy (a "try" that lasted for 45 years, not matter how much the Chavismo wants to condemn these years now with a distorted vision of history). The students planned huge demonstrations across the country in order to remember the 50th anniversary of the Student Day but, unfortunately, I couldn't leave work for attending them.
We had always celebrate the Student Day. In high school it was a day for going to the school to basically hear a boring speech and watch (in the case of more talented girls, play) a volleyball match. But obviously today this anniversary is more relevant than ever, and not just because its the 50th year anniversary.
I grew up hearing the stories of the repression under Pérez Jiménez dictatorship because my family (specially my mom's side but my dad's side as well) were strongly against. My uncle told me the story of the day my great-aunt was detained (the first woman detained for political reasons under that regime). He was a kid then, sitting on the stairs in front of my great-grandmother's house when my great-aunt told him not to worry if she didn't come back. He waited for her but her warnings were real. She was at a protest and the police came to repress the demonstration as usual and everybody ran away, except her. She stayed waving a flag and screaming "¡Viva la libertad!" ("Long live freedom!"), over and over... the policeman, surprised for this behavior, asked her to calm down: "Por favor señorita..." but she continued screaming and went to jail for a while (don't remember the exact time). She wasn't put in a real prison but in a convent instead and release at the end of the regime, on 1958. My great-grandmother brought her once one "Hallaca", our traditional Christmas dish that is covered with plantain leafs. The guards destroyed the beautiful presentation of the dish by checking inside the plantain leafs if there was something not allowed.
Another great-uncle was also detained and tortured. I got the feeling that many details of his story are lost in the mouths of one generation to another: I know that many "horrible things" were done to him, but like I said, I don't know what those "horrible things" were exactly. My great-grandmother received on December of 1957 the terrible news that his son was death. Yet, his body could not be found. My mom was about 8 years old back then and she remember the mass that were made in his name. Turns out that the "death son" came back home when democracy started, he wasn't death after all but you couldn't tell what was worse.
With at least two members in prison, the rest of the family was carefully watched. My grandmother got saved from going to prison because she was pregnant but the government sent a man to stand in the door of her house to watch what my family' life day after day. My mom remembers that man, sitting at the "zaguán" (entrance, of old houses) all day long and my grandmother, who even felt sorry for him, offering some coffee... yes, to her own spy!
When the regime finally fall, the political prisoners were quickly released. My grandparents house back then was located nearby Miraflores (the government Palace) and therefore next to a prison. So my mom saw from her balcony a crowd of man walking; she said they looked like they haven't took a bath in years, and with their sad faces it was certainly a scary image for a kid: my mom did not liked them, no matter how hard my grandmother try to explain her that they were good people, victims of a terrible situation... She gave both my uncle and my mom, white handkerchiefs to show at the former political prisoners while they were walking by. My mom waved the handkerchief because she thought that if she didn't, those men could do something bad to her.
Many people in Venezuela remembers Pérez-Jiménez with some nostalgia. I can even bet that some of them would want to have him back because he was highly efficient on making several public works specially those concerning infrastructure, those everyone can see, those buildings of "Pérez-Jiménez times" that impressed readers of a fallen country; myself included. I can also bet that many will cheer Chávez in the future, his social programs (no matter if they are effective or not), his speeches and his ideology and people will talk about "Chávez times".
But the memories of my family are not related with buildings, even though we like the 50's architecture a lot. And the memories of my family are somehow, my own, even if my birth came a lot of time after... Hope the memories of the next generation of my family are able to look at "Chávez times" as I look at the "Pérez Jiménez times" beyond the public opinion impressed about big works who can easily forgot the freedom they cost.
About the picture: I found an old magazine in my house the other day, called Elite, from 1955, two years before that student strike I remembered know. It was the closest graphic material to the event I could publish..

domingo, 18 de noviembre de 2007

"Not this reader, Mr. Berger": A green professor’s dilemma (stories of Thursday, 8th of Nov, 2007)

Introductory comment about this picture...
I have taken and seen many images of my country, and specially my city and my university during this long political crisis but for me, perhaps none is as painful as the one I choose for this entry: a picture of an empty classroom with all the desks thrown outside, taken at UCAB on Nov, 2nd. It's the way the students from the White Hand Movement or some of them express their anger or frustration in front of the government reaction to the initiatives of the movement against it.
And you can really feel that frustration when you get down the stairs, go through the hall and find those desks speaking for the students that should be receiving classes.
They can tell you about the drama of a generation that just put the studies in second place, because they might not see any point of studying inside a crashing country. When you have just finished your student years inside that crisis and you get way too soon at the other side of the river by working as an assistant professor (which makes you part a professor, more than a student); you cannot feel but an unspoken desire of picking up all those desks and calling all the students back to class even if you know that the biggest lessons of life are happen to be outside at the moment and the books gives only consolation to a few geeks, like this blogger but not to all.. that’s for sure.
So, now comes the story for real...
On Thursday 8- 11- 2007; I had a session scheduled with my students: we had to review the last four chapters of a book of whom I have to make an exam to them in just two weeks. I called the delegate of the classroom and he told me like nothing “I’m not going to class tomorrow, and my friends are not going either…”
Then I decided not to be guided just by a first year student and call another friend to ask her about the situation at the university “Well, no one is inside the classrooms, we are at the streets, not exactly blocking an entrance but given some pamphlets to the people that pass by… oh and there’s an assembly later” I know that only a miracle will allow me to give the class, and I’m also aware that a big part of my students will probably refuse to enter the class.
After all, just the day before, the events at another university (the most important one): UCV, concerned public opinion worldwide. Usually, after a student demonstration, the people just walk back to their universities. So the students of UCV did this and when they entered their campus, they met an unfriendly Chavista (Chavez supporter) group. The events after this encounter are rather confusing: gunshots, violence from both sides, explosions, fire and some scared people who were not part neither of the student demonstration, neither of the Chavista group; simply trapped in the middle. The results: at least eight people wounded by gunfire – according to the sources I’ve been reading, they all were UCV students (if you speak Spanish, read a first hand letter-report here).
So there I was, the morning after, asking for permission to leave the work a couple of hours and taking the subway with the Peter Berger’ “Invitation to sociology” book pretending to ignore everything, pretending that I can actually give a class as it were any other day. As soon as I get down the subway and start walking inside the campus I met with some second year students – “Do you guys think I’m going to be able to give a class today?” – I ask them and they look at me like saying “Do you think you live in Sweden or what?”
They are right: a crowd of the students are filling the campus gardens trying to listen to some improvised speakers settled in the middle. Definitely an assembly, but one so crowded that could not take place at the Aula Magna (our main auditorium).
So without even trying to get to the classroom where I was supposed to give a class, I took a step back till the subway again remembering all the stuff I had to do back at work now with the time I missed. Sitting in the train, I got distracted with my mix of thoughts and feelings that the word “frustration” crowns always as a headline. “I should have at least entered to the classroom and wait for the students, even if they never show up”… “I should have go to the social science school to say that at least I went to the university”… “I should have called more students”… “Well, If the social reality is hitting us so strongly, right at the campus, right at our faces; what can I teach them on class about social control mechanism or the structures of power that they do not experience daily?”… “Maybe this is was a coward exit, I should have try to give the class… after all I also suspended last week class because of another student demonstration…”
I open the book I should be speaking about to 30 students while the subway is taking me away of the university instead and those 30 students are somewhere in the middle of the campus, running from the police or just sleeping at home because they suspect the classes are suspended even if not officially.
I smile at the third line of the page 100 where the author says that he will stop giving examples about countries living under tyranny because most of the men, “the author included and most of the readers of this book”, live in a way that their social situation is just defined by a certain number of rules the have to obey without any further complications like the ones a totalitarian regime impose – “Well, certainly not this reader” – I write in one corner
That night, back home, I started writing a mail to my students explaining, just to keep the formal protocol; why I didn’t show up at class. My goal was to explain to them how important is to have this class, the relevance of the books, and the exam they have scheduled about it; that I want them to sacrifice one protest (or maybe show up late) and I will try to make the class shorter or something.
Then I got distracted writing the possible exceptions to my propose “If there are riots inside the university, the highways are blocked, or we can hear gunshots” – Then I realize how alarming is to write that paragraph and I quickly erase it. It took me more than one hour to write a simple 10 lines long email.
So I realize that just after finishing my career on very confusing circumstances; I have to make the work probably a lot of intellectuals quite brighter and smarter than me (Peter Berger is like the superman of sociology of religion and I’m just a poor undergraduate) didn’t ever had to: to make those text coherent with the hard reality my students faces. This time I ran away taking the subway instead of the blackboard marker. Maybe some other day I’ll do better. But still I have no idea how.

lunes, 12 de noviembre de 2007

A new sense on normality (written on Monday, Nov 5th)

Today I had a meeting with my tutor for work on a thesis project that will allow me to graduate next year, hopefully. In the middle of our discussion about social theories and which books should I borrow from his library, he got a phone call that kept him busy for over 20 minutes if I’m not mistaken. “I’m sorry for the interruption” – He said – “We are in the middle of a trouble here … do you see that window?” – He asked me pointing at a broken window in one corner of his office – “It was done by some Chavista (Chavez supporters) gang that entered the campus during one of the student demonstrations…
quite a disaster. We are looking forward to buy some bars to increase the security”
On my way out, we took a walk outside the office (located not at my university but at UCV, the Central University of Venezuela) and he offered me a fresh chicha (chicha is a Venezuelan beverage made of milk, rice, sugar.. don’t ask me what else). “Wonder how this chichero finds the milk to keep with his business”- (Chichero means the Chicha maker and seller in Spanish) - I said – “Well, we better don’t ask” – My tutor answered ironically.
Then, while the milk shortage doesn’t seem to stop and students and professors are often surprised by some delinquency “revolutionary style”, my tutor asks me to have this thesis meetings always on Monday morning for now on “because these days, later that week or even that day, you never know what’s going to happen”.
The due date for presenting my thesis project to the faculty is on December so before I left, I asked him if he thinks that I’ll be able to finish what now looks like an impossible work to me. I wouldn’t mind presenting the project next year on another due date but given the current circumstances I’m on the need of graduate as soon as possible. If we don’t know what can happen for one hour to another, imagine just how uncertain my graduation looks – “I’m pretty sure that you can finish this project by December, but I must warn you that this date would probably be postponed because of the referendum on the Constitutional Reform”
I walked hopeless on my way home while I started to be aware of the environment I’m forced to work into. The biggest challenge is not reading all those books and putting all those concepts together; the biggest challenge is to do that while there’s sort of a war going on outside.
As soon as I open my door, I get a cell phone call from my mom asking me to go back home as soon as possible – “I just got here mom, calm down”...
I didn’t knew about it then, but while I was discussing social theory issues with my tutor; huge protest were taking place at a couple of private universities with a subsequent security forces repression that included four or five students detained by the National Guard.
A few hours after I left my tutor, the university where I was holding the meeting joined the protest blocking a street, while a former Chavez defense minister made his statement against the reform and was called “a traitor” by some loyal Chavez supporters including the Vice-president and the president of the National Assembly.
Then, the students from all universities in Caracas (except perhaps the new ones founded by Chavez that I’m not sure if I should call them “universities” since an actual universal thinking doesn’t seem allowed inside those campus) decide to gathered around the place where the National Guard was keeping the students who were detained earlier. And some more protest and riots were reported on other cities. Desperately, I try, as always, to get the most recent news of the events by downloading some popular Venezuelan news websites (related with citizen journalism mostly) and calling some friends who might be at the protest.
My tutor could not be more right: after 10 am in a Sunday morning, Caracas can easily become a chaos scenery not exactly suitable to hold academic meetings or, why am I taking this that far? Not suitable to even try holding a normal life.
About the picture: I took it about three weeks ago. The graffiti says "Campaña juvenil- estudiantil bolivariana por el socialismo" which means "Youth student campaign for socialism". These kinds of graffiti’s are very easy to find in that campus. Some UCV students are tired of just going to class one morning and find their university totally filled with revolutionary messages painted in the walls, damaging the beauty of the campus. The same people who make this are probably the ones who broke the window of my tutor office the night before this entry was written.

domingo, 11 de noviembre de 2007

(Part II) "To the highway!" (Friday, Nov 2nd, 2007 and that weekend)

As soon as I woke up, I got ready for going to the university all over again. I was lucky of not having to take the subway this time since I was going exactly at the same time my father goes to the university (he works at my campus). In the middle of the way I suggested him to take another route to get there instead of taking the main highway. Doesn’t take a genius to find out that after all that happened the day before, more protest were expected.
My dad, who refused to listen, soon found out that the entrance was blocked (as I predicted)by the students so we had to make weird turns and make it inside the university by using an unusual entrance. When we finally got there, I decided to walk throughout my campus a little.
The routine these days has definitely become something uncanny even at one of the most stable places of my life: some desk had been thrown down and put outside the classrooms and even the windows, the walls exhibited many messages against the upcoming Constitutional Reform and the remaining apathy among the students. Class? Who said class? Some students find totally irrelevant to focus on class at the moment.
My walk ended at the blocked entrance of my campus just to realize that not only the entrance was blocked but also the street that leaves to this entrance. The students were screaming “A la autopista! A la autopista!” (“To the highway! To the highway!”) and the confused students leaders were trying to make a decision.
“Many suffered aggressions from the police yesterday, they are angry” – A student leader tells me and I can see how right he is. You just need to quickly review their faces to notice how angry and frustrated they are. In that state of mind, I’m afraid any madness can be committed. “Blocking this entrance is not enough for them and they have two options: go to the highway or march to the other side where I know the National Guard and some Chavistas won’t let this have a peaceful end… I’m afraid for the safety” -I see the emergency of the situation and answer to my friend’s fears – “If you don’t tell them and guide them to the highway in an organized way, they will go to the highway anyway… you better take control of this”- He looks back at me, concerned as never before and discuss briefly with the rest of the leaders.
Three minutes later, the students blocked the highway leaving only one small side open as a police request. Similar scenarios were taking place on other universities across the city. I told a friend that by being at the highway instead of the university entrance, we are taking bigger risks – “some crazy man can just pass by and shoot” – While I was making that –some might said- paranoid comment a student was killed and other several injured during a protest at a university in Maracaibo (a city located like eight hours from Caracas) on circumstances that remains unclear (means we don’t know if it was a Chavista group, or some people of the demonstration because of troubles between two different groups, who are both against the current government measures).
After a couple of hours, I got tired of protesting at the highway. By then, my friend and I had reached to the conclusion that this was more a reaction to the violent events that the student lived one day before than a carefully planned protest. But luckily, the leaders took control of the situation and the protest developed in a peaceful way. The police was carefully looking from one corner but not even a single tear gas was dropped, at least while I was there.
I’m thinking that we need to get some white painting again, to remind everybody – including some students who are starting to feel desperate about the terrible situation that surround us- that this is a peaceful movement. And we need some more protest to remind everybody – including some students, myself included, that doubts if the movement is doing enough, given the present circumstances – that we might be peaceful but we are yet, no idiots.
About the picture: I took it from a bridge, it shows the exact moment when the students started walking till the highway next to my university in order to block it.
PS: I came back home as soon as the protest stopped (only briefly). The day ended with some more streets blocked and on Saturday another protest – this time not organized by the students but yet by another opposition group- is planned but I can’t be there: my cousin is getting married and I’m one of the maids of honor. I ask myself whether she’s going to be able to get married after all. But, as weird as it might sounds for the reader, in the middle of the emergency my country faces; I go to the beauty salon, wear a nice dress and spend the night walking with a drink and dancing.
On Monday I’ll met my tutor and the political scandals will show us some new faces. My friend, who defended her thesis with all kinds of protest outside the classroom will still hang out that very same night to celebrate her degree, even if it’s a degree inside a country that crashes little by little, year after year and now, day after day. But that’s just the way our lives goes by right now: as a cartoon where one chapter the cat its running after the mouse as a typical scene of a suburb house and the next the mouse does not look tired of the chasing at all and goes to buy some ACME brand machine to start his own cheese business, knowing that no matter how hard he try to go on his way; the cat will go back and haunt him all over again, seems like forever.

sábado, 10 de noviembre de 2007

(Part I) "To the highway!" (Thursday, Nov 1st, 2007)

I decided to attend a White Hand – student movement demonstration. We were marching till the Electoral Centre in order to ask for a delay on the date to hold the referendum for approving that nasty Constitutional Reform proposed by the government.I met my mom at some square and we soon found the first problem in order to go to that protest: a few subway stations, basically the ones we needed to get there were closed due to an electricity trouble that perhaps was just that: an electricity trouble but on a demonstration day looked certainly suspicious.
We walked a few walks and took a bus with some more protesters. Before we knew it we found ourselves surrounded by dozens of people – students mostly- , ready to start walking till the CNE. As always, the start of a demonstration is filled with happy screams; small peaces of paper being dropped from the buildings, chants, pictures and smiles. Quite a carnival, just that the people is not there to perform a parade. I hope that, Inside their heads, bigger concerns develops.

As we get to our goal, in Caracas downtown, the tension grows. Some groups of Chavistas are separated from us thanks to a huge police ring, not that this scare me since I have seen the exact same scene since I started marching back on 2002. I recognized the corner were the troubles started on the last demonstration and take a huge breathe that it was totally worthless in order to calm me down. Out of nowhere, we started hearing some “boom, boom, boom” strange explosion sound. First seemed far, then it approached. The people stands for a minute and rolls their heads trying to figure out where does that sound comes from. No one runs because since we don’t know the origins of those explosions, we also don’t know if we might end up running just to met the people who’s making them.
“Tear gas bombs, perhaps also a molotov” – I try to distinguish the sound of the explosions – “Come, lets stay behind this car” – My mom said. She had found out the origins: some policemen were running with their shields through one corner: perhaps they were dealing a Chavista protest right next to ours that got out of control.
A terrible and not understandable fear - given the fact that I've been there, done that - took advantage of me and as soon as we stopped hearing the explosions, I asked my mom more as an order than a request, screaming in an annoying way, to go back. And so we did, while my best friend decided to keep walking till the CNE. I put the excuse that given the fact that I had a surgery just a few weeks ago and the doctor said very clearly "no sports"; walking some miles under the noon heat of Caracas, chanting; then standing for hours at the same place and running from the military and/or the policemen can be considered as a sport so I cannot take a lot of risk. But, to be honest, this is a terrible lie and a poor excuse and even my mom quickly noticed that all I have was fear and it had nothing to do with my health.
I don't know if it's ok or not to have fear, specially since the chant "no tenemos miedo" ("we are not afraid")has become so popular during the demonstration and at the assambly, some students often criticize - and they are right- others of leaving the streets empty and a few lonely students just after the first tear gas bomb was dropped. I don't know if the protests are getting more dangerous as time goes by or I'm getting more coward with time. I remember being afraid five years ago when the biggest protest against this government started, I remember how hard it was to me to go marching to commemorate just one or two months after, the events of April 11, 2002. I spent that whole march looking at the buildings as if I could, by doing that, see a shooter before the rest of the marchers. But the fear was never as strong as it is nowadays, never before it made me ask my mom like a stupid little girl in the middle of a student protest counting that I'm one of the older ones; to go back and don't get to the ending point.
I have no excuses or even stances about this fear yet. As I always say, you can't fully understand the nature of the events and your feelings related to them at the exact same moment when they are developing. It's only when you think about it later when you maybe, if you are lucky enough, get to understand them. At least, this is my case.
Anyway, on our way back home, we stopped at the first Mc Donals we saw (the anti- imperialist dreamers can sue me for this if they want to, but I like the Mc Donals greasy French fries and won't stop liking them because of politics) to have lunch and unfortunately, there was no way to get news there. Since we saw some demonstrators also entering to that place and with no signs of damage, we thought that putting the scary explosions we heard aside; this was going to be a peaceful demonstration. When we got home and we saw the images of students running across the Bolivar avenue with their eyes red because of the tear gas (and my cousin who's just starting the university told us on the phone the "funny story" about her naive attempt to kick one of those tear gas bombs that fall just next to her feet and then fall in a stupid way because of being out of football practice), we knew that we were naively mistaken
About the picture: I took it when the demonstration was just starting. I must tell that even if it was officially a student demonstration they were more than students there -mostly moms, dads, and professors plus people from political parties invited- which explains the lady in the center of the picture.

Something weird is going on (Wednesday, Oct 31, 2007)

Introduction: I took this picture the other day at one bathroom of my university. It made me laugh. The sign says (roughly translated) “Please do not throw water in the sink, thanks”. Weird way of saying that the sink was broken… For me it symbolizes our current situation.
On, last Wednesday I decided to go to my university to support a classmate who was going to defend her thesis. When I get to the subway station that its just near by my campus I find it overly crowdie: maybe something weird is going on. Then I notice some people walking in the middle of the highway next to my university: definitely, something weird is going on.
A student protest maybe? No, the students are no the only “trouble makers” lately.

Turns out that the people who lives at some barrios (shanty towns) that surrounds my campus decided to block the highway as a protest in the middle of demands to the government for better life conditions. I looked at the protest suspiciously because many of the people are wearing red shirts and I still find it hard to understand why, if they don’t have even the basic services like current water and the government does not listen to them; are huge supporters of the Revolution.
The protesters look at some students who are seeing the chaos behind the university doors. We ask ourselves what to do about it since a few months ago we stopped being just students and became huge political actors. One guy decides to go down and walk through the highway to find out why they are protesting exactly and if it's ok for the students to join.
After he talked to one of the leaders, he asked us to come down – “Where does the Civil Rights struggle begins?” – He asked us. I decided to come down for a little while with a group of friends but soon I felt incredible awkward. First, another leader of the protest warns to the rest of the barrio habitants that we are not “guarimbeiros” (a frequent word used by the Chavistas to label the radical opposition since several protest with the name of “Guarimba” took place back on 2004).
Then, I feel the killer looks from the ones who are wearing red t-shirts and I realized that going to the highway was definitely a mistake. I ask my friends to go back to campus looking hopeless at the people of the barrios (shanty towns) who for some reason can’t join my fight, neither I can join theirs no matter how much we need each other for our struggles.
Back in campus and carefully dressed, my friend expects impatiently for the thesis defense that will make her soon get a degree. But the defense looks uncertain since the jury its literally parked in the highway surprised by the protest blocking their way. They are condemned to be there for more than five hours. So we walk through the university, watch from a safe place the develop of the protest and just wait. The patience must be a strongly value these days.
Finally, long after it was expected, my friend finally defends her thesis (with one jury missing because of the protest around the campus) and gets a very high grade. I envy her (in a good way) because no matter what happens next to the country and therefore, to our lives, at least she has her degree now and no one can take that way from her.

A new window (quick news from this blogger)

I know I will disappoint some of my readers with the next statement: I’m no longer a student. Or for saying it in a better way: I’m not exactly a normal regular student. I’m living in what you can call a transition from being a student to become... still don’t know what else (an adult, maybe? Well, I bet older readers with laugh with that statement).
Although I officially finished my career back on July, I’m still missing the thesis and, until that work is not done, I will remain as a student as far as the official university student list concerns. Yet, I have no classes and just recently got a great temporal job that will keep me away from the university except for one, maybe two times a week when I have to give a session to about 30 first year as an assistant professor (a second job, you could say). That's why I'm writing this entry.
Some were expecting to keep reading here about the naïve words of a young woman who haven’t still experience what some people call “the real world out there”. Others, still convinced of the hidden reporter inside me (another wrong statement) were expecting some first hand stories about the most recent events related to the White Hand student movement as they read a few months ago.
Maybe this blog will still have some of that, but for the better or the worse, most (not all) of the latest events I will speak about here from now on, are not the words of a student inside the protest but the words of a girl seeing those protest from an office from 8 till five, through the small window of internet news opened in one tiny corner of a computer surrounded by paperwork.
This does not mean that I’m becoming indifferent of the events are developing or that I have abandon the struggle. No matter how hard you try, this always affect you: you have friends at the protest, or you need to go to the place were the protest is for saying the least.
Also, since a lot has happened these past few weeks that cannot possible be said in just one entry; I have found, as the only way to tell my experiences related to them a sort of diary of the past 15 days that the reader will receive as I finish writing my recent memories of every day.
PS: I often avoid personal details in order to protect my identity, but those were truly necessary so the reader could understand the nature of the following entries