As part of the activities undertaken in celebration of National Student Day, a number of representatives from universities around the country delivered a document to the nation’s Attorney General’s Office last Sunday soliciting an investigation into the expulsion of a student leader from Venezuela’s Central University (UCV) last week.
Kevin Avila was suspended from Venezuela’s largest and most prestigious university on Thursday after UCV authorities accused him of participating in vaguely defined acts of violence.
Avila, a prominent pro-government student activist, has rejected the charges and accused the opposition-aligned UCV administration of political persecution in its attempt to prevent the leader from running in December’s student elections.
“They say that I offended university authorities for demanding that they take action with respect to insecurity (on campus). I challenge the University Council to show me the proof and tell me the reasons for my expulsion. I maintain my innocence”, Avila said on Monday.
For his part, Venezuelan head of state Hugo Chavez expressed his solidarity with the student leader on Monday during a rally at the presidential palace of Miraflores.
“They expelled Kevin Avila because he told the truth about Venezuela’s Central University… Long live Kevin and long live freedom of thought and the courage that you (Kevin Avila) have”, the President said.
The UCV, like all major public universities in Venezuela, receives its financing from the national government but operates under complete autonomy from state institutions. This arrangement has led to a questioning by many of the accounting practices of the university which some accuse of corruption and financial malfeasance.
Politically, many of the country’s oldest universities such as the UCV and the University of the Andes (ULA), have been dominated by conservative administrations with direct links to the nation’s right-wing opposition. In the Andean city of Merida and in the capital of Caracas, university authorities consistently slam the government over budget shortfalls while at the same time refusing to reveal their spending records to federal agencies.
In many cases, university administrations turn a blind eye to the violent anti-government protests perpetrated by opposition student groups which regularly block traffic and wreak havoc in the cities where they take place.
Kevin Avila reiterated on Monday his commitment to change the reactionary practices of some universities and informed that the progressive student movement is seeking more than just a clarification of his case by the Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office.
“The intention is to submit this document to solicit the opening of an investigation into the decisions of the University Council, not only regarding my expulsion but also issues such as the suspension of university activities and other matters of concern to the student community”, he said.
The UCV was closed temporarily by university authorities last week after acts of vandalism on Tuesday included the torching of two vehicles assigned to the Dean and Vice Dean. Classes resumed last Monday.