Gloria al bravo Pueblo. That’s how Venezuela’s national anthem starts, and now they have really shown that they are worthy of those words. They have risen up against a regime that for over a decade has used intimidation and implicit threat of violence against protests in order to make people passive and submissive.
The Venezuelan people have tried every democratic method in the book in order to avoid an open confrontation on the streets, but last year they reached the end of the rope. After the stolen election on April 14th, 2013, people took to the streets the say after, just to be gunned down. Rather than resign, they started organizing clandestinely, and launched street protests in the Fall. It started with a Day of Rage on the 5 month mark of the fraud, which – although it was modest with only some 60 participants – was a water divide because it was held in western Caracas, at Plaza Venezuela, in “chavista” territory, where no opposition protest had been held for over a decade. Yet there was no violence, and the marchers were not molested by the residents. This was a clear sign that the regime’s support was very weak, and it inspired the “autoconvocado” spontaneous protest on November 9, 16, 23, and 30. The Nov 9 march was the first time that the opposition backed the protest instead of trying to sabotage it behind the scenes, like they did with Day of Rage, and with the international event “Por la Verdad” (for the truth) on June 2nd.
After a lull for the December 8th municipal elections and the Christmas holidays, January saw the murder of a former Miss Venezuela. This became a turning point. A vigil in her honor that was convened in western Caracas by Operación Libertad Venezuela (OLV) had to be cancelled when illegal armed regime supporters (so-called “colectivos”) threatened to disperse it with violence. The blatant violence and threat of violence against people who just want food and a reasonable security that they will not be gunned down on the streets, was just too much. Many decided that they might as well die protesting as being shot to death by criminals, or spend 6 hours a day standing in line to buy food. Two opposition leaders, Leopoldo López, and congresswoman Maria Corina Machado, held a press conference January 23rd which initiated town hall meetings around the country under the slogan “La Salida” (the exit). Later on the streets of Caracas Ms Machado called for rebellion openly. They were joined by Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, but other opposition politicians such as the presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, from whom the election was stolen last year, have openly rejected the rebellion.
An OLV poll on Facebook shows that López and Machado enjoy a high degree of trust of 81% and 62% respectively, while Capriles is at 22%. The same poll, made around the end of February and March with 518 participants, has 79% saying that the fight can only end when the regime falls since the people will not stop fighting until that happens. Also 79% considerthe real ruler of Venezuela to be Castro on Cuba, and only 3% consider the regime and the president legitimate.
This seems to be unstoppable. The momentum is too great, the determination of the people is too deep. For years they have gathered steam and now it’s showing up in death-defiant bravery on the streets.