University authorities in the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and other key autonomous universities are “creating the conditions” for a “silent” or forced strike, according to Jennifer Mujica, a UCV student representative.
Mujica told VTV that the UCV council had suspended classes since opposition groups began destabilising actions in mid February.
The almost two months so far of lost classes are in addition to around five months lost between May and September last year when the opposition aligned university union, FAPUV called a strike, affecting around 15% of the total higher education population.
Mujica said that the university rector, Cecilia Garcia Arocha had finished her elected term in 2012, and “she shouldn’t be in the UCV”.
Garcia is known to support the far right of the opposition. Last year legislator Pedro Carreno accused her and other UCV authorities of converting the university’s baseball stadium, soccer stadium, and its assembly hall into areas “basically managed by private companies or organisations not connected to the university”.
Late last month Garcia fired the head of the UCV’s internal security, Jesus Cruz. Cruz had detained blockaders who were damaging university infrastructure. Garcia ordered that the blockaders be let go and fired Cruz.
Garcia “has done what she feels like and she hasn’t modified the regulations within the university to make it more egalitarian for everyone, with the benefits we deserve,” Mujica stated. She said elections of the university authorities should be held in May, “but they said that the conditions weren’t right for it, and that extends their state of illegitimacy even longer”.
Mujica also alleged that some university lecturers and teachers were being “attacked” by rightwing students. “There’s political persecution. The professors who are teaching, their names are being published on a list that says they are Chavista, just because they want to guarantee the right to education to the students,” she said.
Two UCV students were injured this afternoon during violent protests by opposition groups, according to the Correo del Orinoco (CdO). Social work students told CdO that a group of around 40 people, armed with Molotovs, tubes, bottles, and “at least five pistols” had attacked university buildings after an opposition march. One of the students, Wenderly Conde, said the group took various hostages and shouted, “We’re going to burn all the Chavistas, we’re not going to let them live” at the social work students.
A similar situation of forced strike is taking place in the University of Los Andes (ULA), which, like the UCV, is one of Venezuela’s largest and oldest universities. The ULA has remained closed despite the fact that remaining blockades in Merida city are not located near the university.
“The ULA has lent itself to support the strategy of destabilising the government, they were among the first to call for supposedly peaceful marches,” ULA education student Caribay Rangel told Venezuelanalysis.com
“There was a vote on whether to resume classes or not, but 75% of students voted against it, some because they support the opposition, others because they are concerned for their safety and feel that if there are classes things will get worse, there’ll be more disturbances, and other people were harassed and pressured. If you want to study, you must be Chavista,” Rangel said.
60,000 students at the University of Carabobo (UC) have also been unable to study, and a few other autonomous universities around the country have also remained closed. All government run universities, such as the UNEFA and the UBV are open.
On Monday UC rectors called for the resumption of academic activity, but said no evaluations or attendance taking would be allowed. According to the Bolivarian student movement, 25% of students went to class, but returned home when their teachers didn’t turn up.
UC student Willian Rodriguez accused the authorities of a “conspiratorial plan against the national government, using the university”.
Schools also attacked
On Monday a school in Barquisimeto was attacked. Unknown people chained up all its doors and sprayed graffiti on its walls saying “If you open, it [the school] will be burnt. There are no classes”.
Two schools in Baruta, Caracas, have also been forced to stay closed due to barricades and violence in the area. Mevorate Florentin is a Bolivarian school (a public school with meals included) for children with visual impairments, and Ivedin is a school for children with Down syndrome.
On Tuesday violent groups set fire to five floors of the housing mission head offices in Caracas. Children who were studying in the preschool within the building had to be evacuated, along with workers.