Venezuelan Popular Movements Protest Student Evictions

Students denounced a “hostile attitude” on the part of authorities.

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Security and medical personnel outside the Livia Gouverneur Student Residence on Friday night. (@AlbaTV)
Security and medical personnel outside the Livia Gouverneur Student Residence on Friday night. (@AlbaTV)
By Ricardo Vaz
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Mérida, July 28, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities evicted a student residence in Caracas on Friday evening.

The move was roundly condemned by popular movements, with the hashtag #NoAlDesalojoEstudiantil (“no to student evictions”) trending on social media.

According to the Caracas municipality and the ruling United Socialist Party Youth (JPSUV), the Livia Gouverneur student residence (RELG) in central Caracas is to become a field hospital for COVID-19 patients as cases continue to climb in the Venezuelan capital.

However, students and grassroots organizations protested that authorities failed to take into account alternative proposals or ensure adequate solutions for the 90 current RELG residents.

“Together with communal councils, we proposed several alternative locations in the area,” explained Gloria Duarte, an international relations student at Caracas’ Central University of Venezuela and RELG resident.

She added that the proposal of relocating residents back to their home states was not viable for several students who also work in Caracas to support their families. Another issue was securing the belongings of 240 other students who returned home after the onset of the pandemic.

Amid meetings with authorities last week, medical personnel tested RELG students, with six taken into isolation to have the coronavirus PCR test administered after quick antibody tests returned positive.

At close to midnight on Friday, municipal, JPSUV and medical authorities returned to the residences alongside security forces to test students again. Duarte claimed students viewed this procedure as “irregular.”

“Besides the late hour of the procedure, tests were only administered once, when common practice is to do them twice,” she explained. “In addition, students were not shown the results. We felt a very hostile attitude [on the part of authorities].”

Simultaneously, activists from popular organizations mobilized to the location, attempting to mediate with the police. However, tensions escalated and several activists were arrested in the early hours of Saturday. A swift reaction from popular movements outside the police station secured their release later on Saturday morning.

Shortly after the activists’ arrest, police broke into the residences, forcing students to quickly pack what they could and board buses towards nearby hotels. While some are in isolation awaiting further COVID-19 tests, others have since been relocated from hotels in central Caracas to other public installations on the outskirts of the city.

Duarte added that a dialogue process with Caracas authorities is currently underway. Students are looking to secure transportation for those who will return to their homes in other states, as well as finding accommodation for those who must stay in Caracas.

Another priority is ensuring that the building will return to being a student residence once the pandemic is over. “This residence is an achievement of the students, it was borne out of struggle,” Duarte concluded.

The RELG was handed over to students by former President Hugo Chavez in 2011 and placed under the administration of the Caracas municipality youth organization. Additionally, students elect spokespeople for every floor of the building.