Caracas, May 17, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Students from Venezuela’s autonomous public universities mobilized in anti-government protests across the country on Monday amid reports of fresh violence in Tachira state.
On the outskirts of the Los Andes University’s Tachira campus, hooded militants hijacked a truck belonging to the Venezuelan state telecommunications company CANTV, subdued the driver, and set the vehicle on fire. The incident coincided with student and faculty protests over alleged budget shortfalls.
Elsewhere in the southwestern border state, three students affiliated with the ultra-right student group JAVU (Active Youth, United Venezuela) chained themselves to the ombudsman’s office demanding the release of so-called “political prisoners”.
Tachira has long been a hotbed of anti-government student violence. This past March, a pair of university students were charged with double homicide after they allegedly hijacked a public bus and ran over two police officers during a protest at the Technology University Institute in San Cristobal.
As part of Monday's day of action, students and faculty also demonstrated on the campus of the Central University of Venezuela over an alleged lack of government funding.
At the Los Andes University in andean Merida state, students and faculty suspended classes and closed down the university with roadblocks over similar budgetary demands.
The protests mark the first significant uptake in nationwide student activity since the 2014 guarimbas, which saw students and opposition supporters erect violent barricades on campuses and in affluent neighborhoods across the country. The violent actions resulted in the death of 43 people, the majority of whom state security personnel and passerby.
Monday’s demonstrations come as students prepare for a national student march planned for May 26.
Last fall, Venezuela’s elite autonomous universities went on strike for the entire semester over budgetary disputes with the national government.
According to the Ministry of Higher Education, these institutions in 2015 received 40% of the $7.6 billion national higher education budget despite only enrolling 15% of total university students in the country.
As autonomous universities, administrators are not required to publish university budgets, let alone disclose them to the national government, fueling allegations of internal corruption.