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.
In the heat of Venezuela’s summer, they chained themselves together in front of a Supreme Court office in Caracas.
“All we want to know is if Chávez can govern. If not, we want new elections,” Gabriel Boscan, 23, a law student, said at the time. “Not only the president is sick, the country is sick. There are serious problems that need to be solved: crime, food shortages, and the economy. We can't be without a president for longer."
Their protests were later buttressed by throngs of disenchanted middle-class Venezuelans who marched in the street last Sunday.
Two days later, the government announced Chávez's death.
“Nobody in Venezuela believes Chávez died when they said he died,” Mr. Rivas says. “I think the demonstrations put pressure on them to come out and say it.”