Yon Goicoechea and Venezuela's Student Movements

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Our friend Etty added something to her MSN Messenger screen name yesterday, and it was this: “wooo hooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!” I immediately knew what that was about. As a proud Venezuelan living in New York, Etty is extremely passionate about her country’s political situation and Sunday’s referéndum was an important milestone.

As I was chatting with her about it, she pointed out students and young people are the ones making a difference in Venezuela. Yon Goicoechea, a 23-year old law student in Caracas’ Universidad Católica Andrés Bello is the leader of the Movimiento Estudiantil student coalition (which is anti-Chavez. Obviously there are thousands of pro-Chavez students as well. ) I had seen Yon speaking on CNN and was struck by his composure, his eloquence, he seemed to have a permament smile on his face. Etty tells me since Chavez government shut down the RCTV channel in May (one of the few TV options besides Venevision not controlled by the government), students took to the streets to protest, many of them getting arrested.

Yon (yeah, like John but Venezuela-style! There’s also Nixon Moreno, Stalin Gonzalez and Douglas Barrios) told The New York Times in November that “We want social transformation, not a coup. […]We believe in exhausting the democratic options available to us through peaceful action.” Etty tells me that Yon and a group of students asked for – and were granted – an audience at the National Assembly, which is of course completely Chavista, so they could protest the closing down of the channel as well as the mistreatment of the police and the government during their protests. You can watch Yon and other student’s speeches and Cilia Flores, the president of the Assembly’s response here. That night, Chavez went on TV to reply to students in a 4-hour speech.

Douglas Barrios

Yon Goicoechea

This is Yon Goicoechea at a press conference at Simon Bolivar University

Yon Goicoechea’s father is in prison, and he’s become such a threat to the status quo that it seems he sleeps in a different location each night and changes cellphone numbers every few days. His leadership and others like him and the mobilization of thousands of young people made sure there were witnesses at each voting center on Sunday to avoid fraud, and inspiring people to vote. Etty believes without these students, the results would’ve been different. He might be the face right now but there are thousands of people out there making it happen. A few weeks ago, Yon himself was punched and he didn’t move a finger.

I’m just learning about Yon and the strong student movement and I’m really inspired, beyond what they are proposing or their ideals, just their passion and their GANAS to change things. If only us in the United States (and in my home of Puerto Rico) could become so politically engaged and active as the venezolanos. Thanks Etty for the info and the links. Please comment your thoughts and other points of view.