Caracas, November 3rd 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Chavistas and student movements are denouncing what they describe as the politically motivated murder of student Eleazer Hernández (22), who died following an altercation at the University of Zulia (LUZ) on Friday.
According to Venezuelan media, government supporter Hernández was allegedly pushed against a glass billboard by a group of students during the internal PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) elections at the university. The blow dislodged a heavy shard of glass which fell on the student’s throat, causing him to bleed to death.
Although authorities have not released any official information surrounding what motivated the altercation, political groups allied with the Bolivarian Revolution are stating that Hernandez was attacked by rightwing student activists. They claim that three men belonging to the Federation of University Students (FCU) and the MUD (Roundtable of Democratic Unity) attempted to sabotage the elections before turning their attention on Hernández.
“The rightwing (students) arrived… they caused a brawl, they burnt the voting boxes, they beat the young man, they pushed him against a glass billboard and unfortunately he died with his throat slit. He was murdered,” said Great Patriotic Pole legislative candidate, Fidel Madroñero to national state television.
Vice-President of the Republic, Jorge Arreaza, also appeared to confirm this version of events and promised “justice” for the young student on his Twitter account.
“The political violence of the rightwing will not prevail,” tweeted the politician.
Friday’s student elections were being held across Venezuelan universities in a bid to elect spokespeople to attend the founding conference of the Sole Federation of University Students (FEUV), due to be held this November 21st.
Back in September 2014, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro backed student proposals at the 7th anniversary of the JPSUV (Young People’s Socialist Party of Venezuela) to build the new federation as a way of democratising universities and increasing student input into higher education content and management.
Nonetheless, the creation of the new FEUV has caused tensions with the already existing FCU, which has been the leading student federation in the country for over half a century. The nascent rivalry between the two federations is currently being touted as a possible cause of Friday’s violence.
Following the incident, LUZ authorities published an article on the university website distancing management from the violence and appearing to confirm that the attack was carried out by a rival student body.
“It was carried out due to a motive which the University Council does not share… (nonetheless) the LUZ has student organisations that operate with all the legitimacy and legality which the law of universities grant them. They have an elected leadership, regardless of the behaviour that those leaders might adopt and which can be questioned,” reads the article.
The university also appeared to accuse the students who organised the FEUV elections of goading the rightwing faction. They accuse them of attempting to construct “parallel” institutions without the knowledge of university authorities.
“The fact is that that there was a trigger: coming to the LUZ to carry out these elections, which appear to be internal to a political party and which could have been carried out elsewhere, not with the university practically closed due to a lecturers’ strike,” continues the statement.
Authorities also confirmed that elections would soon be carried out to update the FCU leadership and confirmed that they would not allow “parallelism” to take hold of the university.
The reaction prompted government officials to hit back at university management and accuse it of compliance with the violence.
“Why not tell the truth?… What pact might you you have, Mr. Rector, with the criminals that murder on campus?” commented the governor of Zulia for the ruling PSUV, Arias Cardenas, to press.
The University of Zulia is one of Venezuela’s oldest and most important universities. Despite being officially public and receiving state funding, the educational institute manages its own budget, staff, admissions and curriculum autonomously.
Traditional public universities have previously been a battle ground between the ruling socialist government and rightwing student groups. Most infamously, rightwing student bodies organised ongoing hunger strikes against government attempts to reform universities in 2007.
In recent years, rightwing militancy has increased in universities such as the LUZ which are situated on the border with Colombia. The National Experimental University of Tachira has also been a site of increasing conflict over the past two years. Students at the border state university frequently come to blows with local police and have attempted a number of arson attacks on university property.