Venezuelan University Strikes End, Not Everyone Returns to Class

Despite teachers at the University of the Andes (ULA) and Central University of Venezuela (UCV) voting to end strikes, students at the ULA have reported that not all classes have resumed.

dscf8338.jpg

The university protests were aimed at the national government (Tamara Pearson / Venezuelanalysis.com)
The university protests were aimed at the national government (Tamara Pearson / Venezuelanalysis.com)
By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Short URL

Mérida, 19th September 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Despite teachers at the University of the Andes (ULA) and Central University of Venezuela (UCV) voting to end strikes, students at the ULA have reported that not all classes have resumed.

The long running strikes have received support from opposition figures such as former presidential candidate and current Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles. The union responsible for calling the strikes, the Federation of University Professors Associations of Venezuela (FAPUV) has itself been criticised for its alleged ties with the right-wing. In an interview with TatuyTV earlier this year, the ULA's Professor Pedro Rivas accused the FAPUV of backing the 2002 coup and the oil strikes that followed.

On Tuesday, an assembly of ULA teachers voted to end strikes, according to the university student councillor Inder Romero.

Classes were expected to resume on Wednesday, after the president of the ULA teachers' association (APULA) Luis Loaiza called on staff to resume normal schedules. Speaking to local media, Loaiza said that the resumption of classes didn’t mean that teachers had given up, but will “keep up the fight”.

Loaiza stated that he hopes “that the outcome of the working groups with the government bear fruit and produce specific results, and do not end up becoming a delay mechanism as happened in the past.”

While visiting the ULA on Thursday, Venezuelanalysis observed that many classes had indeed resumed.

However, while humanities student Luis Mata told VA that his classes were running, other students on campus told VA that not all teachers had resumed work.

Across the campus there was graffiti criticising the teachers. One common slogan sprayed on walls was “Bonucci preso por corrupto” (Bonucci prisoner because he’s corrupt). Mario Bonucci is the rector of ULA, and had been accused of trying to prevent the resumption of classes.

According to Romero, university authorities have previously blocked teachers from working despite decisions by teachers' union to end the strike.

In June, representatives of university teachers from across the country accepted an offer from the government to increase wages and benefits. However, the FAPUV rejected the proposal, and strikes continued at universities including the ULA.

“The university authorities did not obey the decision of the assembly of teachers, thus violating the principle of university autonomy,” Romero stated this week.

Classes at the UCV in Caracas are also expected to fully resume by next week, after the university teachers' association (APUCV) likewise voted to end strikes. Prior to the vote, APUCV Vice-president Tulio Olmos indicated that it seemed likely that teachers would vote to return to work.

“If so, classes would start from next week,” he stated.

Following the vote, UCV Secretary General Amalio Belmonte tweeted that teachers had made the decision “without giving in to demands of the government”.

According to the APUCV, strikes will remain suspended pending the outcome of negotiations with the Ministry of Higher Education, slated for November.

This week's decisions at the UCV and ULA end over three months of indefinite strikes which began on 30 May. Since the strikes were first called by the FAPUV, ULA and UCV students have held semi-regular protests demanding more funding. Counter protests have also been held by students demanding their teachers return to work. In June, university teachers reportedly joined in student counter protests and some labelled the indefinite strike as an “opposition tactic to destabilise” the government.

Disrepair of Miranda primary schools

However, while university students are set to return to class, according to community groups in Miranda, some state primary school students there may not be resuming their studies so soon.

On Monday, protests took place in the neighbourhood of La Bombilla, Petare. Local community spokeswoman Beatriz Herrera told state media that a lack of maintenance means that some schools in the area are unfit for classes. One issue raised by Herrera was faulty sewerage; something which she said the state government had failed to address during school vacation.

“There is no response,” Herrera stated, arguing that the Miranda government had failed to act on community concerns. She and others blamed state governor Capriles.

“We are angry because we see Capriles traveling to Miami and then Miranda state schools are in complete disrepair,” Harrera said.

Capriles responded to protestors, saying ,“There are 700 schools in Miranda, only ten have not started classes,” he stated on Thursday.