First, there’s a pretty strong pro- Chavez accusation that points out a possible connection between OTPOR and the White Hand movement … although the similarities cannot be hidden; as well as many students believed in OTPOR, many others didn’t. I saw on a documentary a testimony that assure our white hands were simply the OTPOR punch opened.
I actually know the person who might had been the one who said “Hey… why we don’t paint our hands with white painting?” and it’s not a passionate OTPOR fan and is well known for being that kind of people who do things out of nowhere.
When I came back to the university, I was painting my hands with white for going to a protest and a friend of mine refused to paint his hands “Why not?” – I asked him – “Well… it’s a personal issue really… was (put the name of the person here) idea”. He did not like this person much but no one else ever spoke again about the “creator” of the White Hand symbol. Both ways this student didn’t wanted any credit from it, and also to protect its privacy I will not say its name.
Many others have discussed our goals, saying that focusing a fight on “Civil Rights” is an empty and a very general way to approach to the difficult Venezuelan situation. It has also being said that this is our way to “hide” our real intentions: to put Mr. Chavez out of power on another state coup.
But, to focus the pain my generation felt over the difficult circumstances my country is, and lead a struggle for the Civil Rights instead of thinking about a possible end of the Revolution was the key for the success of the White Hand (student movement). A struggle for Civil Rights is vague enough to include the short struggle for the insecurity made a year earlier, the respect for the vote made months earlier and the freedom of speech request made because of the RCTV closure; all together. But it means so much more than that.
My generation doesn’t have a strong memory of a “pre-revolutionary” Venezuela. Just sweet childhood memories and some ideas because a strong memory can only be built when you have a certain age and a certain conscience. We were raised in a country changing by the minute and the political responses our parents saw as “new”, were the first we ever saw and we considered them as “normal”.
We saw the past generations fighting for us with no real success until we grow up and realize that the country was not exclusive of our parents and maybe it was our turn now.
Some might said we waited too long for that but, after waiting my whole university career to see what I saw, I cannot help but saying that some things can’t be rushed.
We realize that to only fight against, against Chavez, against the revolution… could only bring more harm.
We told the country that we suffered from certain issues that a Venezuela with or without Chavez need to solve. And it all made the fight to be focused not on fighting against, but on fighting for. Without the weight of the history upon us, like our parents experienced it, we were able to be more flexible in our ways to approach to the government to present our requests.
And the government till the day it closed RCTV was used to lead with a reactionary opposition that thought always on endings instead of beginnings, that complained instead of creating, that was not ready to negotiate because they were right and the Revolution was wrong. I’m not saying that the opposition only made mistakes until the White Hand (student) movement came.
I’m not saying that the White Hand (student) alone changed the way politics were made in our society. I’m saying that we grow up, politically speaking as a society and after seeing a painful track of political defeats; the White Hand (student) movement could only come as the result of what a generation saw and lived during that track.
I’m basically talking about two crucial things my generation saw and that has been trying to fight against. Those two things are related: one leaves to another. The first one I’m talking about is desperation and the second, radicalism.
The goal inside most of the opposition heads was to put an end to the revolution, to see the president out of his office. Of course we had other plans, many ideas about what to do with the country but we were sure that our only possibility to apply those ideas was in a Venezuela without Chavez. To simply finish with Chavez regime was a must, and all the efforts focused on that. We were pretty sure that if we didn’t succeed, it was over.
And if we were thinking about putting an end to Chavez, it meant also to put an end to the revolution and to everyone involved. So if Chavez started with a speech filled with hate and exclusion, the opposition answered in almost the exact same way. Elder generations could have continued with this vicious circle, because they had a good memory of the past and they wanted to make sure to recover it, but we didn’t.
The lives of our generation consisted on nothing else and nothing more than radicalism all around us.
From those two painful observations and experiences the White Hand (student) movement was defined by two things: the patient fight for the Civil Rights as an answer to the desperate fight that came before, and the peace and reconciliation as values to answer to the radicalism that we had to deal with.
I heard more than one comment demanding more radicalism from the movement, saying that we were too “come flor” (“flower eaters”, it means like too peaceful… too dumb). We are not naïve “come flor”.
The peace isn’t an empty concept and maybe this is better understood by someone who has felt the presence of its opposite. The peace was the only choice we found available if we wanted the movement to survive and to achieve the goals we had. It wasn’t because we are “good people” really. We were tired of the hate around us plus we didn’t want to give the government more arguments to attack us instead of focusing on our ideas (with their creativity we have enough).
At the end, the effort cheered by some and attacked by others, pay in general with good results. The electoral defeat Chavez had last December, the first one in 9 years (that’s all the years he has been in power) was due to a variety of reasons and a more serious study is needed to see which of those reasons made a major effect. Chavez built his own grave when he decided to close RCTV and definitely the food shortages can’t help anyone to win an electoral process. Apparently they were too many mistakes in the Chavez campaign and “the people was not prepared” for socialism. But you can speak about the defeat Chavez had in December without mentioning the White Hand (student) movement.
You might say this success of the White Hand (student) movement has been also due to a favorable media treatment to it worldwide. I honestly can’t tell if the advertisement has been good or bad. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it makes us look like a sort of Gods and Goddess with magic solutions to save Venezuela from the Chavez era. And that’s certainly something we are not.
Whenever someone holds those expectations I give a very simple answer: “Yon doesn’t have the legal age to become president” - The people usually laughs at first but then they understand what’s behind my comment and is that “Hey… we are kids!” No matter how adults we might look sometimes we are still passionate and irrational, we still love to date and party. We are odd kids that spend more time on political activities than dating and partying but kids none the less. We are not your Jesus Christ and I certainly hope you are not waiting for us to grow up so we can be old enough to be your saviors.
The student movement leaders are certainly special but they are not precisely aliens so I’m not exactly trilled about a media focused on their life and personalities. My opinion on Yon, Freddy and Manuela for example, among other leaders is bound to be always subjective because the first and strongest reference I have on them is as friends and not as political leaders.
And as I know them and trust them to be very talented, passionate and as people that are going to make great things in the future, I know at least 20 more who can equally fill their seats. You don’t trust me on that one? Go to one UCAB assembly at the Aula Magna and stay until the end of it, see the presentation of the student leaders you don’t often see on TV and see the intervention of the students who are not leaders, making critics on the microphone. That should be enough.
Either way, I often wonder in what kind of country I’m into, If a part of the society expect their kids to solve their troubles… (Sigh… we still have some work to do…)
Plus, as a movement, we have certainly made mistakes: like attacking the political parties during the first days (thing that could be fixed afterwards) or making some senseless crowd concert that I did not liked the way it was organized but in general terms the movement made a way of opposition so original, so balanced and so democratic that the government found itself hands attached to deal with and therefore the accusations of CIA influence and other no sense less arguments were brought to the table.
About those accusations, I can’t really know where all the finance comes from, because the movement involves a lot of people and a lot of universities working together but to say we support the “Empire” and that we want to overthrow Chavez regime is simply stupid. At the end, some eyes see only what they want to see and they are going to look at us as puppets of anyone no matter what arguments I put here in return. So I won’t waste anymore lines, and I won’t make the reader to waste its time. At the end those who call us puppets, no matter from which side of the political spectrum they belong too, are simply mad because we are not their puppets.
As for the government in particular, too bad for them, that to a smart opposition they can’t answer with a smart government in return but yet only react in a very negative and destructive way to the movement initiatives. “If you think about it” – I told my friend the other day- “The government’ behavior since the White Hand (student) movement was born has been merely reactionary, to call them spawns of Washington, to create an “alternative” and artificial pro- government movement, to base the campaign for the reform on the critics the opposition and the students made…” – “Same as the opposition was before the RCTV closure” – He replied – “we were more into a desperate reaction to the change than an attempt of proposing anything, it was all “we hate Chavez”” – “Roles has changed: the opposition was acting in a merely reactionary way and now, it’s the government who acts in a reactionary way while the students….” – And I thought on a popular sticker made during the first protest of June that said: “the students are the Revolution”.