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Venezuela: Manuel Rosales to devolve autonomy to universities

By Aleksander Boyd

Valencia 19.10.06 | Presidential candidate Manuel Rosales visited yesterday Mariara, San Joaquin, Guacara, Los Guayos, Guigue and concluded the tour in Carabobo state with an emotional speech in Hermandad Gallega, here in Valencia, where he promised to devolve autonomy to all universities and other higher education centres in Venezuela. Before the keynote speech, former dean of University of Carabobo Ricardo Maldonado exposed the many problems that that university is experiencing since the Chavez regime decided to exert absolute control of all aspects related to higher education. In his view the current administration has opted for indoctrination rather than research, education and the discussion of ideas, while he blasted the regime’s stance, adding that since Chavez got to power he has refused to meet with deans of universities. “Not even once he [Chavez] has had the decency of meeting with us despite the many communications requesting it. We hope that with Rosales this will change” concluded Mr. Maldonado. To the present students’ and professors’ delight Rosales announced that should he wins the presidential race he’ll meet with deans on 15 December.

Maldonado informed about university land having been expropriated, refusal from the central government to allocate budgets needed for the normal functioning of universities across the country and criticised the politization of education. Rosales, who quoted from Romulo Gallegos during his speech, stated that the youth, and more specifically university students, have always been at the forefront of democratic changes. “Temblad gobierno cuando despiertan las universidades. Temblad gobierno cuando despiertan los estudiantes” said Rosales to an enthusiastic crowd.

However not all was that nice. In Los Guayos I spent the good part of an hour trying to mediate between opposition folks and chavistas, both determined to not let the other claim supremacy. When people attending the rally finally passed Plaza Bolivar a chavista came with a pipe and smashed a chap wearing a t-shirt from the socialist party (MAS). Violence spread rapidly and the whole thing turned into a huge fight. Bottles, stones, chairs, tables, pipes and other objects were flying around. Some people got injured, including yours truly. I consider worth commenting two anecdotes. The first a Venezuelan freelance photographer, who said to me he was working for Bloomberg, was upset by my attitude. He said that preventing fights is not part of a journalist job. “Every time a fight is about to break you come and intervene. Would you do the same had you been assigned to cover the war in Iraq?” he asked. The second anecdote was equally shocking. A group of 5 police officers showed up in motorcycles when the fight was at its most violent stage to try to stop it. They had to run for cover and left the motorcycles in the middle of the street, some of them with the engines running. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures of that for my camera got stolen in Mariara and I was the last person from the press group to leave the site.

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