Seeing as Venezuela’s thrust into the international spotlight came about from protests launched on the South American nation’s National Youth Day, it seemed only appropriate to get ground floor insight from a member of the youth opposition.
Introducing Mr. Andres Villegas, National Youth Coordinator with Alianza del Lápiz.
Calling it an “opposition political organization,” Villegas says their main objective is to promote the idea of education as the answer to the thousands of problems that face Venezuela. Their motto, “Education is the Solution,” plays off that fundamental principle.
Villegas tells me via email that the organization is focused on the social problems faced in some of Venezuela’s most troublesome neighborhoods. It is a well-reported fact that Venezuela is one of if not the most dangerous country in the world with one murder occurring every 21 minutes.
Due to the prevalence of crime, the government stopped producing data 10 years ago. But high-profile murders, such as that of Venezuela’s beauty who was fatally shot after her car broke down on a Venezuelan highway, reflect for international audiences the dangerous reality of life in Venezuela.
Student protests have reportedly been aimed toward general discontent with the nation’s social situation, contrary to the Chavistas contentions that the protests are being run by the wealthy minority. Villegas’ description of his organization’s hallmark project “Homes of the Pencil” also runs contrary to Chavista characterizations. The program offers vocational courses, free to Venezuela’s lower-class population — hardly the makings of sinister intentions.
At the same time, Villegas is very much aware of the political, economic, and social crisis facing his nation. “We are on the threshold of ‘Cubanization,’ which is nothing more than the imposition of communism in our society,” he explains.
Protest chants on the streets captured by VICE News capture the fear of Castro ideology making its way into Venezuela.
“We don’t feel like having a dictatorship like the Cuban one,” goes one slogan during a Caracas protest.
Villegas says the threat of “Cubanization” has forced Venezuelan student youth onto the streets. But he stresses that these students are acting “spontaneously and without receiving any political leadership.” Venezuelan quality of life has eroded, he continues, and young people are most affected by unemployment, insecurity, and food shortages. Needless to say, they have had enough.
As protests have intensified, national media outlets have poured into Venezuela to cover the movement. For this, Villegas is grateful. Yet he believes it has also forced the ruling Maduro regime to impose a black out on Internet access and social media in parts of the country, keeping a large portion of the population uninformed.
Despite no signs of relenting from the Maduro regime, Villegas says the Venezuelan youth will continue to display their “tireless fighting spirit” in the streets of Caracas. They have faced assassinations, unjust imprisonment and torture, he says. But that will not stop them from continuing in the streets, every day, trying to bring on new supporters amongst Venezuelans he says have been termed as “indifferent” to the cause.
“Students have expressed their intention to continue in the streets, protesting and demanding immediate improvements in the national political landscape.”
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