A vibrant youth movement played a major role in Venezuela's beleaguered opposition during the rule of Hugo Chávez.
Weeks before Hugo Chávez died, while he was holed up in a Cuban hospital with details of his condition unknown to the public, youth protesters chained themselves together in front of Cuba’s embassy here, demanding answers.
“The people deserved to know what was happening,” says Vanessa Eisig, a 21-year-old communications student who participated in the February protest. “We thought we could raise attention by doing it in front of the Cuban embassy.”
Two days later, the government released photos showing Chávez sitting up in his hospital bed, flanked by his two daughters and reading the Cuban daily Granma. The public would not see Chávez, who died Tuesday, again until his body was displayed at a Caracas military academy.
Whether or not the protests helped push the government to release the photo (some have suggested the influence they exerted was minimal), the demonstrations underscored the important role youth play in Venezuela’s beleaguered opposition. The groups are filled with young people raised in a Venezuela in which Chávez was the defining figure. Many came from families who fled the country or whose businesses or lands were expropriated as part of Chávez's so-called 21st-century socialist revolution.
“These are the sons and daughters of the opposition,” says Miguel Tinker Salas, a Venezuelan-American professor at Pomona College in California who largely defends Chávez's record. “They are not the typical Latin American student movement.”
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