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.”
The youth movements of Latin America’s yesteryear were largely born in public universities in opposition to right-wing dictatorships. Members of these Venezuelan groups may come from different backgrounds – graduates of private schools and members of well-off families – but they say their goal is similar.
“We just want freedom here,” says Julio Cesar Rivas Castillo, the controversial leader of one of the main youth groups, United Active Youth of Venezuela [known by its Spanish acronym JAVU]. “We want economic freedom. We want free elections. We want a free press.”
In their push to reform the system, Chávez was always enemy No. 1. Even as the president lay on his deathbed earlier this month, the group called a protest.