About two weeks ago the editor of Caracas Chronicles, Quico Toro, told the readers of this excellent site that he was leaving the blog and interrupting his analysis of the Venezuelan situation in order to go to South Sudan to help in developing that country. Dozens of readers, including me, wished Quico the best of luck in his new tasks.
But he is back, at least as a guest contributor, see:
http://caracaschronicles.com/2014/02/17/34988/ . The Krakatoa-like political eruption in Venezuela took him (and many others) by surprise and he could not resist the urge to comment. However, his message was not supportive of the protests, not because he does not consider them justified but because, in his opinion, they will eventually amount to nothing. As Juan Nagel would say, the money quote is:
“Middle class protests in middle class areas on middle class themes by middle class people are not a challenge to the chavista power system, they’re part of the chavista power system.
And he adds: “This is really painful, but figuring it out is crucial. Chavismo doesn’t thrive despite this type of protest, it thrives because of it. It will break your heart. It broke mine. But it’s important to see it clearly because, tragically, some people never do piece it together”. A reference to Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the protests.
In other words, Quico believes the protests are bound to fail because they only represent a sector of the population, the middle class, and are not supported by the poor, who live in the barrios. The protests would be an elitist exercise, without real popular support. His advice to the protesters would seem to be: go home and keep quiet. Do not risk your lives unnecessarily. I have seen this type of effort fail before.
I do not agree with this advice, although it represents a sincere attempt at safeguarding the lives of our youth. But I think the advice is based on wrong assumptions and, even if these assumptions were right, protests would still be justified since the alternatives to submission are unthinkable.
I believe Quico’s assumption that the protests are strictly a middle class affair is wrong. Students cut across social strata, from the rich to the poor, all equally indignant about the Venezuelan tragedy. And the parents of poor students are also poor and live in the areas of Caracas where Quico says nothing much is taking place. I would say that the protests are taking place in many cities, in middle class and poor sections of those cities. One thing is apparent: there are no popular protests in favor of the regime.
But even if Quico was right about the social identification of the protests as strictly middle class, to speak at this moment in such a pessimistic manner is probably not the best thing to do, especially if our words will not alter the course of events. Much of the country is in the streets. Given this situation, it is very important that our best minds either support the protesters or, if in doubt, refrain from discouraging them.