SOS Venezuela: College Students’ Roles in Government Protests

While most college students in the United States are worried about getting their homework done, studying for a big test, or what their plans for the weekend are, Venezuelan college students are out risking their lives, protesting against their government, and rightly so.

On Feb. 12, on Venezuela’s national Youth Day, thousands of students peacefully protested against their corrupt government.

Students hit the streets to voice their disapproval of their president, Nicolás Maduro. He has led the country into one of the highest rates of inflation in the world. In result, there is a shortage of necessities such as toilet paper, milk, and cooking oil. Also, he has done nothing about the recent increase in violence.

The amount of violence has heightened since the murder in January of former Miss Venezuela, Monica Spear. She and her ex-husband were killed right in front of their five-year-old daughter. According to NBC News, every 21 minutes a person is murdered in the country.

It is no surprise that as the protests have ensued, the Venezuelan National Guard has resorted to what they know best, violence.

According to the Venezuelan government, death tolls have risen to 21 and the number of arrests stands at 1,322, but is increasing day-by-day.

Videos have surfaced of the National Guard opening fire against the protesters for no apparent reason. The protesters cover their face with shirts to guard against the tear gas thrown at them, and since they are weaponless, they cannot fight back against the injustices being committed upon them by.

In response to the excessive force used against protesters, the United Nations Human Rights Chief released a statement on March 6 in which he expressed his concern for the violence in Venezuela.

Perhaps more frustrating than the acts of violence in Venezuela is the decision by the government to censor media coverage of the protests.

Many journalists and reporters have either been physically attacked or intimidated by the National Guard and many have been denied credentials in hopes that they decrease the amount of coverage.

As a result, many news channels have ignored the protests. One Columbian news channel, NTN24, was brave enough to report on it. The channel was completely taken off of the airwaves and the internet via a presidential decree.

Nicolás Maduro has even gone as far as blocking the access to images on Twitter.

As an aspiring journalist, I cannot put myself in the shoes of the many Venezuelan journalists who have been deprived of their fundamental job, which is reporting on the truth. If, as a journalist, I am stripped of my duty to report facts, then what am I really a journalist for?

The fact that the government thinks that they have the right not to show the videos and images of the protests to the public speaks volumes as to why the protests are happening in the first place.

The situation in Venezuela is chaotic to say the least, but times like these remind us what our roles as college students should be.

We are the future of our country and it is our right and our duty to seek the best government possible.

The Venezuelan students were brave enough to pioneer the protests and their courage has led other civilians to join them.

Like the Venezuelan students, if it is necessary, we must also show some valor and not conform to whatever the government says. When a government becomes oppressive, like Venezuela’s, we have to speak out against it.

I undoubtedly support the brave Venezuelan students who have decided that enough is enough and have taken matters into their own hands. You should too.