400 estudiantes / Fausto Masó

400 Students

In 1928 the Universidad Central de Venezuela had 400 students. Today it has more than 40,000. Comparisons are never exact. Gómez wasn’t Chávez nor were the students of 28 the ones in 2007. Having made these exceptions, a few similarities remain. Just like in 28 the students are awakening society, which was resigned to its fate. Also, like in 28 the students possess a moral force. Disqualifying them with personal attacks means little because for a thousand different reasons they won’t back down. They’re demonstrating this. The times are different, but the result of repression will be the same.

The government has access to vast resources, it controls the legislative power, along with the judicial, electoral and moral ones. Does it control them? Up to what point does a Chavista today feel revulsion at finding himself on the stronger side, having to repress? The government is like the person who wins a battle, if it wins, and loses a war.

The same thing has happened at other times, because power is blinding and absolute power is more blinding than any other. The students aren’t asking Chávez to leave now, but rather that he not stay forever. A simple petition. To accuse the students of being coup plotters won’t diminish their moral force, on the contrary. Those who have all the resources today, who can repress, are some of the ones who condemned official repression for a long time. These Chavistas have to be going through a bitter moment, they’ll have to decide up to what point they’ll continue on this bad path taking them nowhere.

The past reveals something. Repression multiplies rebellion. Internationally, the government isn’t facing imperialism or the forces of oligarchy, but rather the students. Thus it has everything to lose, but it probably won’t stop to reflect because it has already gone too far. Chávez has undoubtedly behaved astutely, he has known how to defeat his adversaries, overcome difficult situations, but he didn’t count on the unforeseen, he didn’t guess that history has many surprises. Now he finds himself in a difficult position even though everything seems to be in his favor. As Unamuno said: he can conquer, but he won’t convince, and above all he won’t convince in the ghettos, in the world of the students.

Up until now Chávez has maintained a democratic fiction, but his intention of imposing indefinite reelection and controlling the regional powers puts him in a shooting gallery, because democracy supposes respect for the rights of others, of the minority and the majority. The attempt to perpetuate himself in power places him outside democracy. He only has one exit, just one, to renounce the constitutional reform. This isn’t possible, which means the country is marching on a bad path. Another contributor to this newspaper, Tulio Álvarez, describes in an essay, “The Path of Violence,” the history of countries that imposed perpetual reelection: none of them ended well. When the spark lights the plains there’s no way to extinguish it. A new stage begins for Chávez on a path without a happy ending. The students won’t give up and neither will Chávez. Can anyone imagine a revolution without support from the students?

{ Fausto Masó, El Nacional, 27 October 2007 }

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