When the Hugo Chavez Government decided to jail student Julio Cesar Rivas a few weeks ago, it was clearly an act of defiance by the Government toward the student movement. The message seem to be: Keep protesting and I will jail you too.
Because there was no real reason to pick on Rivas. The Government made him famous by choosing him and sending him to an inappropriate jail. Because in the end, pro-Chavez thugs have visibly done things that are much worse than anything you could accuse Rivas of, but remain at large, such as the 40 motorcycle thugs that accompanied Lina Ron in their violent attack on Globovision and only Ron is in jail, just because it would look bad if she were at large. But armed Lina Ron was no even sent to the women’s jail, a kids playpen when compared to the Yare jail where Rivas was sent.
The Government had the chance to release Rivas on his own recognizance when he was first brought in front of a judge. But it didn’t. There were clearly orders from above to be tough, to move forward and send a message to the student movement.
But something happened at this point. While the OAS was watching Honduras and sending missions to Honduras (Funny, no OAS CIDH mission has been allowed in Venezuela in seven years but this does not bother those OAS cynics!), a small group of students decided to start a hunger strike at the Caracas OAS headquarters to protest the detention of Julio Rivas.
It started with a group of five students, but in time, it grew, more joined and by today reportedly 58 students (going on 78?) were involved
(Foto by Noticiero Digital)
and one had to add other political prisoners to the group, as Somonovis, Forero and other, including Eligio Cedeno, joined the group.
And it did indeed look like the Government was trying to slow down the tsunami of hunger strikers with Rivas’ release.
But a funny thing happened on the way to freedom. Julio Rivas, after spending a few days at the Yare jail, figured that anything was better than that, even a hunger strike! So, he went straight to the OAS headquarters and joined the hunger strike. Thus, so far the strength of the movement has not slowed down, on the contrary, it has been picking up people.
The students, as usual, have been able to find more impacting strategies, than the so called opposition. I think the Government blinked, the question is at this time, whether the hunger strike action can be sustained in time and what will the Government do if the movement continues to grow.
Kudos to Rivas and the rest of the students!