The Oscars were last night. For many Venezuelans, the man of the hour was definitely Jared Leto, as he mentioned Venezuela during his acceptance speech. Videos of the speech aren’t being kept up on YouTube for very long, but here is a part of what he said while accepting the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor:
“To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight in places like the Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here and as you struggle to… to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible… We’re thinking of you tonight.
And this is, is incredibly special as well because there’s so many people that helped me get here. And I just want to say thank you to Focus Features, to Mick Sullivan, to Jim Toth, to Jason Weinberg, to Emma Ludbrook, to Kelly Adams, to the entire Dallas Buyers Club team. Matthew, I love. Jean-Marc.”
At the one month mark, the protests appear to be going strong. The turnout for yesterday’s demonstrations was quite large, given how “old” this round of protests has been. That, plus the fact that Venezuelans should be at the beach right now, means that the grievances the protesters have against the government continue to motivate them to go out onto the streets on a near-daily basis.
Today, Altamira in Caracas continued to prove itself to be a hotspot. The Luis Roche and Francisco de Miranda avenues were both blocked by protesters, and as of 6:00 PM Caracas time, the National Guard in the area was in the process of clearing out the mass of demonstrators with tear gas. The name of the game, coined by Leopoldo Lopez, is “El que se cansa, pierde” (He who tires, loses). And so, the trend arises: block roads, get tear gassed, wait until tomorrow, repeat.
As they did in Barquisimeto:
In other news, a group of protesters on motorcycles on their way to El Paraiso, Caracas, were “ambushed” by National Guard troops today. A woman at the scene who did not want to give her name said,
“They ambushed us and two men with sticks appeared and asked us if we were escualidos [roughly, “bums”], so then they hit my husband’s bike and then they hit my husband twice [with their sticks]. We managed to turn around and then they started throwing bottles at us. We managed to evade them and got away.”
On February 12, I asked my cousin who is currently a university student in Venezuela, “Are these protests different from the ones before? What do you think is going to happen?” He answered that these protests were indeed different, because they were the first ones that his generation was spearheading. The last time social upheaval of this magnitude and persistence had taken place was during the April 2002 coup. That time, my cousin assured me, his parents had been in charge. Now, however, the students were at the wheel, the 18-28 year old, many of whom only knew Venezuela has a socialist state under the control of the PSUV. They were also different, he claimed, because even people who had supported Chavez in the past were really feeling the effects of inflation, scarcity, and insecurity. Without a charismatic leader to carry them through their hardships, even PSUV supporters were starting to feel strained.
As to what might happen next, my cousin replied simply, “No one knows”.
A month in, and it looks like perseverance is winning the day here for the protesters in a way that we haven’t really seen before. After all, this is the first true test of Maduro’s presidency and of the post-Chavez PSUV. El que se cansa, pierde.