Venezuela’s Maduro Cancels Trip to Inauguration of Chile’s Michelle Bachelet

Days after a Chilean student was shot dead by protestors in Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro called off his trip to Chile. Two demonstrations had been awaiting his arrival in Santiago, each with a very different narrative regarding who’s to blame for Venezuela’s political violence.


Santa Elena de Uairén, March 11th, 2014 (— Days after a Chilean student was shot dead by protestors in Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro called off his trip to Chile. Two demonstrations had been awaiting his arrival in Santiago, each with a very different narrative regarding who’s to blame for Venezuela’s political violence. 

It’s been almost a month since anti-government protests have sprung up throughout Venezuelan cities and led to widespread acts of hate and violence. Last night two more young men were shot dead: Angelo Vargas, a chavista student leader who had lately complained of receiving death threats and Daniel Tinoco, a student belonging to the opposition. The loss of these two brings the death count up to 25. 

Over the weekend another student, who was a Chilean citizen, Giselle Rubilar, was shot in the eye while trying to clear away part of a barricade that was limiting transit to her home in a humble Mérida neighborhood. She died many hours later in the hospital. Rubilar was also the mother of four and like many Venezuelans, had participated in local participatory democratic institutions introduced under Chavez.

This morning students gathered around the Venezuelan embassy in Chile to await President Maduro’s arrival. Violeta Seré, a student, explained to a reporter from Telesur, “A Chilean compatriot of ours has been murdered in Venezuela. Murdered for being a chavista. Murdered, as a daughter of a [Chilean] exile. We are here not only to defend the Bolivarian struggle, but also to defend those men and women who embody that struggle, as Giselle Rubilar did. We are here in Chile paying tribute to those who are struggling to advance the Bolivarian Process.”

The Chilean student movement has also made headlines in recent years, protesting privatization and the high costs of University education in Chile. Recent statements made by their leaders show that they consider themselves to have nothing in common with the current student uprising in Venezuela. 

Félix Calderón of the Federation of Students of Pedagogy pointed out that the Bolivarian Revolution has put education at the forefront and managed to achieve the very demands that they, in Chile, are still fighting for.

“As University students…we cannot but be in favor of the Bolivarian Revolution and its triumphs. It has advanced free public education… and the democratic construction of the educational processes in each school, in each neighborhood,” said Calderón.

Meanwhile in Venezuela student protestors have gone out of their way to show their contempt for the community universities established by Hugo Chavez. On Monday a student group in the state of Táchira burnt down entire facilities belonging to the free Bolivarian University of San Cristobal as well as a student radio station at the nearby University of the Andes. 

Maduro’s expected arrival also sparked oppositional protests in Chile. Last night dozens of Venezuelans and Chileans gathered around the Presidential Palace in Santiago to accuse Maduro of human rights violations. Some of the protestors had painted blood and bullet holes on their faces and held signs that said, “This is what happens to students in Venezuela.” Another sign read, “To kill is not to govern.” 

But in spite of his diverse welcome parties, Maduro never did touch down in Chile today. 

After postponing his departure twice since Monday morning, he finally opted to send a delegation to the inauguration ceremony of Chilean president Michele Bachelet’s held today in Valparaiso. 

Some official reports cited technical troubles with the aircraft due to take him, while others pointed to recent unrest as a reason for the president’s last-minute change of plans. 

His presence was expected at Bachelet’s inauguration, considering her visible support of the Bolivarian government during her first presidential term from 2006-2010. Despite Maduro’s absence and increased ties with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, analysts estimate continued endorsement of Maduro during Bachelet’s second term.

There were ubiquitous reports just after the protests began last month that Bachelet had tweeted a vehement rejection of Maduro, telling him “You cannot attack your people.” A quick investigation, however, revealed that the account in question, @BACHELET2014_ , is not verified to any user and has no connection to Bachelet’s official twitter @PrensaMichelle, and has since been deleted.

However Chile’s primarily right-wing Congress has made it clear they do not support the Venezuelan leader. Last week 67 senators voted in favor of a statement advocating for the release of Venezuelan oppositional leader Leopoldo Lopez, who played a fundamental role in inciting violent protests and was a lead player in the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez.

But Bachelet’s reelection highlights many supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution who take office today alongside her. The well-known student activist turned stateswoman, Camila Vallejo, tweeted, “In Chile [those in Congress] wish to give Democracy lessons to Venezuela, but our constitution was created by a dictator. Theirs was created by the people.” 

She also warned, “A coup in Venezuela would be a direct attack on all sovereign projects of our continent.”