Opinion: Venezuela Protests Show the Strength of College Students

Before I begin this piece, I want to ask you, the reader, a question. Are you aware of what is happening in Venezuela today? If you answered yes, I am certain you have been educated from blogs such as Caracas Chronicles. If you answered no, it is probably because most of the major media outlets are not treating this story with the proper attention. But what if I told you that the unrest in Venezuela started by a bunch of college kids protesting?

Students at the University of the Andes in San Cristobal were protesting a week before the opposition rallies started to sprout across Venezuela. The students were protesting because a young woman was almost raped on campus and the police’s inefficiency prevented them from doing anything about the assault. This isn’t anything new in Venezuela. I sat down with a Boston College student, Ibrahim Velutini, CSOM ’16, who lives in Venezuela and has had friends and family affected by the insecurities of Venezuela.

“Insecurity has been growing exponentially in the past few years. To put it into perspective, my uncle, my aunt and my grandmother were kidnapped and my father’s best friend was shot and killed three weeks ago after being kidnapped,” said Velutini about the violence. “The violence affects everyone, rich and poor.” According to CNN, one person is killed every 21 minutes in Venezuela. Velutini states that the increase in violence is congruent with the government’s inability to seek justice in crimes.

When the attempted rape occurred, everything changed. Students were fed up with what was occurring in Venezuela and started to protest. As a result of the protests, the Venezuelan government released the National Guard and a group called the colectivos, a pro-government group that is supplied with firearms by the government. While they are not in theory related with the government, they are supplied by the government and have been more of instigation to the violence in Venezuela.

“All we wanted was to free the college students who were arrested for protesting,” stated Velutini. “But then violence erupted and college students organized for a massive protest. Three people died during the protest and it is believed that the people who attacked were the colectivos.” If you follow Caracas Chronicles, there are a number of videos depicting the violence inflicted by the colectivos on civilians of Venezuela.

Supporters of Henrique Capriles run from riot police as they demonstrate for a recount of votes cast in Sunday's election. Photograph: Tomas Bravo/Reuters

Supporters of Henrique Capriles run from riot police as they demonstrate for a recount of votes cast in Sunday's election. Photo courtesy of Tomas Bravo / Reuters

How could something so small like a bunch of college students cause so much upheaval in a country? Simple, this was the breaking point. Venezuela is under record inflation, a corrupt government, massive debt and an inability to protect its citizens from violence.

The protests in Venezuela were a testament to the power we as college students have. The violence is sickening and disturbing, but there is a great message that I see sprouting out of these protests. College students, like Ibrahim and I, are the future of this world. While the opposition has fought violence with violence by engaging in confrontations with the government officials and colectivos, these students, who have no political power or social power given their societal status have made a country cry out their frustrations.

From the voices of these students protesting came a union of a country’s ambition for change. Venezuela wants to end the corruption, end the violence, stop the inflation. But what can we as BC students do?

Velutini says we need to talk about these issues even if we don’t see them on the nightly news. “The people at BC and the people everywhere need to be aware. If every Venezuelan talked to a newspaper, created a protest, we can create that awareness and research these violations of human rights that have happened in Venezuela.”

The situation in Venezuela displays a plethora of issues. The situation displays the media's diversion of news from hard-hitting, investigative and educational awareness to soft news that don't affect us directly. The situation in Venezuela displays that even in 2014, there is still so much we need to address on human rights and corruption around the world. Lastly, the situation in Venezuela shows what we as college students can do.

We have power. We have a voice. We can be aware. We can facilitate change if we have the willpower and the motivation to do so. But in the face of these violent acts taking place in a country that has students from its country here at BC, keep Venezuela in your thoughts.

Pray for Venezuela.

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