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by By Leonardo Badell and Darrall Cozens
Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007 at 3:43 AM
They came in their tens of thousands, in their hundreds of thousands. They came from schools, from colleges, from universities, from teachers' unions and trade unions, and from the Social Missions concerned with education. They came in their red shirts with different names but all saying the same thing, Si in the referendum. Here in Venezuela learning is on the order of the day. Everyone is studying in one way or another, everyone is a student, so they came in all ages.
We gathered in the Plaza de Venezuela and as each minute passed we grew in numbers. In all parts of the gathering crowd there were sound systems belting out different rhythms and people were dancing, singing and shouting slogans. It was a carnival atmosphere with a serious message. The small group of students also dressed in red but with No placards quickly disappeared after having been confronted by revolutionary students shouting "No pasaran", they shall not pass.
We moved off chanting slogans such as "Eduacion Primero para el hijo del obrero; Educacion después para el hijo del burgues" (Firstly, the children of workers should be educated and only then the children of the bourgeoisie), "Obreros y Estudiantes, Unidos en Combate" (Workers and Students united in Struggle) and very importantly "Alerta, Alerta, Alerta Camarada, Que ya esta Preparada la Resistencia Armada" (Watch out Comrades, Armed Resistance is Ready). As the slogans were shouted red flags were being waved.
The size of this march will dishearten the opposition. Last week opposition students had gathered in numbers perhaps reaching 50,000. They claimed that students were against Chavez and the proposed constitutional changes. Here were at least 300,000 stating Si and for Chavez. Many different schools and universities were present - UCV (Central University of Venezuela), ULA (University of the Andes), UNEFA (National University of the Armed Forces dressed in blue and white uniforms) and UDO (University of the West) among others. Now we know the forces that can be mobilised.
We moved up the incline from the Plaza to Avenida Andres Bello, on to Avenida Urdaneta at the end of which is the Miraflores Palace. The gates were open for marchers to sit on the steps and rest before the speeches began. We had met at midday and now it was approaching 6pm and still the Chavista forces were arriving.
Two events were being celebrated today, November 21st. Firstly, it was the Day of the Student, el Dia de los Estudiantes. In the year 1957 there was the first student strike against the electoral fraud of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jiménez and it was bloodily repressed. The strike started in the Central University and quickly spread to other centres of learning. In the aftermath students were imprisoned, but in early 1958 the regime fell.
Secondly, it was the first opportunity that students had had to show their support for the reform of the constitution, and for Chavez. And didn´t they show their support! At around 6.30pm the man himself appeared on the platform. He thanked the students for their support and asked them to continue the fight for a Yes vote. The Chavez government has been the first in the history of Venezuela to allow groups of students into the Miraflores Palace.
Late in the day the throng wound its way home safe in the knowledge that for now (por ahora) the opposition had been given a bloody nose.
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