Opposition violence at Venezuelan university - What really happened at the UCV
By Rodrigo Trompiz and Jorge Martin (with eyewitness information from Caracas)
Thursday, 08 November 2007
Violent opposition students outside the School of Social Work (ABN)
According to eyewitness reports from Hands Off Venezuela members, violence broke out yesterday in Caracas when opposition students arrived back from a peaceful demonstration against the proposed constitutional reforms. Apparently frustrated by the lack of violence, a group of about 250 of the opposition students (many from other universities) went straight to the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) to the School of Social Work which is a stronghold of revolutionary students inside UCV.
There, a group of revolutionary students was campaigning for a yes vote in the referendum. They had an assembly for students/teachers/non-teaching staff in the morning and were putting up posters and giving out leaflets.
They were then attacked by the opposition students who surrounded the School. Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown, the toilets were destroyed, the door of the Students Centre (Bolivarian dominated) was burned down, and around 150 people (students, teachers and non-teaching staff) were trapped inside the building for several hours, with the violent opposition students trying to force their way into the building to lynch them.
Some of the students inside the Faculty are nationally known Bolivarian student leaders (including Andreina Taranzon who spoke in the debate with opposition students at the National Assembly earlier this year at the time of the RCTV protests). They managed to call the state TV and reported live on what was happening.
The police are not allowed to enter University premises owing to a law on University autonomy. The Mayor of Caracas offered the possibility of the Metropolitan Police going in to contain violence and allow people in the School to come out, but the rector of the University, a member of the opposition, refused the offer. The University authorities are responsible for security on their own premises and did nothing to prevent violence from escalating.
Violent oppositon supporters at the UCV- picture Reuters
Meanwhile, opposition TV stations were full of reports that masked Chavista supporters had fired on opposition students and that one person had been killed (this was then proven to be false, nine students were injured, most of them from inhaling fumes from the fires started by opposition students).
Finally, the head of emergency and fire-fighting services was allowed by the rector to go into the university and negotiate the safe exit of the people who were trapped inside the School of Social Work by a violent mob of opposition students.
The School of Social Work trashed by opposition students (ABN)
The international media has been "reporting" about these clashes as if "armed Chavista gunmen" had fired on peaceful opposition students. A member of Hands Off Venezuela was present at the University when the violence broke out. He reports that the gunmen who originally opened fire stopped him on his way through the UCV to the Bolivarian University nearby. He reports that the two gunmen on the motorbike did not look like students, but were more likely thugs hired for the occasion and that they were shouting anti-Chavez slogans and boasting of having shot at Chavistas.
Even news agencies now are reporting that Bolivarian armed men arrived at the UCV after the opposition students had sieged 150 people inside the building of the School of Social Work to help those sieged gain safe passage out:
Later, armed men riding motorcycles arrived, scaring off students and standing at the doorway - one of them firing a handgun in the air - as people fled the building. (The Guardian )
What Hands Off Venezuela eyewitness report is that, faced with the inaction of the University authorities, hundreds of students, University workers and people from nearby neighbourhoods finally went into the University to help the people at the School of Social Work escape from the violent mob of opposition students. Some of them were carrying guns, which was only normal considering the extremely violent nature of the situation.
Bolivarian students, teachers and non-teaching staff have now held a joint meeting at the UCV and called for a demonstration against fascist aggressions to take place in the UCV on November 15.
Videos of the violent attack by opposition students can be seen here: