Venezuela: Mass student protest for Chavez

February 19, 2010

Tens of thousands of students rallied on February 12 in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in a show of support for President Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution.

The demonstration, to celebrate the "Day of Youth", occurred just weeks after violent protests by hundreds of right-wing opposition students in support of private television channel RCTV made international headlines.

Robert Serra, an activist from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela-Youth (J-PSUV) said the rally was "a clear demonstration of where the majority of the youth and student sectors of the country stand".

Dani Valles, a student councilor from the University of the East, said: "We are on the side of the people and we're not going to let the oligarchy destabilise Venezuela."

From the early hours of morning, students gathered at the Bolivarian University of venezuela. To the sounds of music and chants of "Chavez is here to stay" and "Expropriation, confiscation, the means of production for the people", students danced and marched 10 kilometres to the Miraflores Presidential Palace, where Chavez spoke.

The president called on young people to assume a leading role in the revolution, saying its future depended on them.

He called on them to be critical and to tackle bureaucracy, which he said posed the biggest threat to the revolution. Chavez pointed to the example of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Russian Revolution last century.

Chavez referred to the recent, much smaller, opposition student protests. He said the opposition students were being used by local and US elites to attempt "regime change" in Venezuela.

Venezuela's sharp class divisions and political polarisation are reflected in the competing pro- and anti-revolution student movements.

The experimental universities, the new "Bolivarian" universities and the "social missions" providing free education to all ages together account for about 700,000 students from mainly poorer and working-class backgrounds. These students strongly support Chavez and the revolution.

However, most elite "autonomous" (nominally state-run) and private universities, which account for about 300,000 students from largely middle- and upper-class backgrounds, are dominated by right-wing US-backed groups.

[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]

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