Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Venezuelan Story: The Frogs

At the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty Dinner, I met a Venezuelan student who I have since kept in touch with: Daniela Blank. One of the student leaders who took the stage with Yon Goicoechea to receive the award, Daniela has been emailing me with updates and stories about what is going on in Venezuela and the role that students have taken to promote liberty. I'd like to share one story that she sent to me when we first started emailing one another that illustrates both the oppression that Venezuelans face and the hope that students represent in the country:
My dear President has been crazy as usual and we had to take lots of street action, which has kept me busy. One of the things he did was create a law (he has the power to do it) that obligated the citizens to spy on your neighbors and friends and tell the government if they are engaging in any activity that would disrupt the normal continuance of the government, just like in communist countries. If you didn't tell on your friends the government could send you to jail for 8 years! We students knew we had to do something, so we made frogs and hung them all over Caracas. (In Venezuela you're called a frog if you rat someone out!) We were only 40 students and we filled the city with them. Thanks to this and many other actions, Chavez repealed the law!

I wanted to share this experience with you because I remember our conversation, and you guys were amazed by how many students there are fighting for liberty in Venezuela. There's something you have to understand. The Venezuelan student movement existed way before the TV channel [RCTV] was closed. That day was merely when the world found out we existed! The most important thing that happened as a result of the channel's closing was that we started to meet different student movements. It's not just one movement or one ideology. There are more than 100 little ones in different universities and parts of the country and we all gathered together to fight for the same cause!

Also, most students that went to the streets are not interested in politics and the don't want to be politicians, so now that the worst is over they all went back to the classroom and never went to a meeting again. It took us a while to adjust but we understand that it is perfectly normal for that to happen. Now the student movement has gone back to normal again: little ones in different parts of the country working for what they believe in! But now we all know each other. We know the power we can have when we are together, and if it is needed we will go to the streets again. We don't care if we are 1 million or just 40 students! So don't worry about numbers.

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