Caracas, October 24, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)-
Thousands of opposition students marched through the streets of Caracas on Tuesday in
protest of President Chavez's proposed constitutional reform. Some violence
occurred as police barricades prevented the students from reaching the
parliament buildings, but a delegation of students was allowed to pass to
deliver a document to the National Assembly.
In what was the first major protest against the proposed
constitutional reform, thousands of students from Caracas
as well as the interior of the country marched from the Central University
(UCV) towards the National Assembly building in downtown Caracas.
Singing the national anthem and shouting "No to the
reform! This is a dictatorship!" the students approached the National
Assembly around noon, where pro-Chavez students and police barricades awaited
them. When the students saw that they would not be allowed to reach the
National Assembly building they began to throw bottles and rocks at the police
who responded by firing tear gas at the students.
The police and the national guard worked to prevent a direct
confrontation between pro-Chavez and anti-Chavez student groups by keeping the
two groups separated, but opposition student groups insisted on reaching the
Opposition student leaders demanded permission to deliver a
statement to assembly members in protest of the constitutional reforms that are
still being debated.
"You can't reform our rights, and the National Assembly
is violating the constitution of 1999. They are making a new constitution which
takes away the rights of the people to elect their authorities and to have due
process in states of emergency," said Stalin González, president of the
UCV student federation. "That is why we are back out in the streets and we
will remain here."
After the confrontations with the police, in which two
police officers and several students received minor injuries, a small
delegation of students from the opposition march was allowed to enter the
National Assembly and meet with legislators. They presented the Assembly with a
document that listed their reasons for opposing the proposed reform.
Pro-Chavez students also turned out for the protest,
congregating near the National Assembly, but on the other side of the police
barricade. Students affirmed that they support the constitutional reform
proposal and came out to defend it.
"We are here to support this revolutionary process of
change and, among other things, to show the world that there are students that
debate and that support the constitutional reform," said one student
outside the assembly.
Upon the arrival of the opposition students, the pro-Chavez
students began to shout slogans in support of the reform and objects were
thrown back and forth between the two groups. One student from the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV) said they
came out to reject the "fascist violence" from "these children
and grandchildren of the oligarchy."
Pro-Chavez students criticized the opposition students for
not taking part in a debate about the reform. On previous occasions the
opposition students have refused to debate in the National Assembly, causing
pro-Chavez students to doubt their intentions.
Inside the National Assembly opposition students, led by
student leader Yon Goicochea, presented their complaints before the assembly,
but then left without listening to the response from the pro-Chavez students
who were also present.
Upon leaving the National Assembly, opposition students
announced plans for another protest this week in which they will march to the
National Electoral Council (CNE). There they will ask that the popular
referendum to approve the reform be postponed.
"On Thursday we will go to the National Electoral
Council since that is the body that controls the electoral system and can
change the date of the referendum for the approval or rejection of the
constitutional reform," said Stalin Gonzalez, one of the opposition
Although the exact date of the popular referendum has
not yet been decided, there has been talk of having it on December 2nd.
Opposition students are asking that the date be pushed back to February 3rd,