The White Hand movement speech at the National Assembly

For me, a promise is a debt. On a previous entry I promised that I would transcript, translate and finally post here for the non-Spanish speakers, the speech that Douglas Barrios read last Thursday at the National Assemblyand that, personally, I think is one of the best speeches I have ever heard. If you have any doubt about what the student's movement is really about, what do we really want to do, this is definitely a must read. For the translation I received thankfully, the help of a friend who is fluent in both languages, in order to make it as literal as possible. If anyone is interested on the transcript in Spanish, just tell me so, and I’ll be more than glad to send the document. Now, here comes the speech, enjoy!

Members of the National Assembly, parents, brothers and sisters, classmates, and whoever may be listening to this.Today, we address you because we have been given the responsibility of trying to express the feelings and thoughts of the Venezuelan youth in the context of this socio-political situation. We have been given the opportunity to vindicate the purpose of our proposal before this assembly and the country. It is a complex and noble task, but we assume it gladly because we consider as necessary the work of causing the message of our fight to reach others in a clear and understandable way, to whomever wants to listen to it.

In the first place, we would like to extend our most sincere congratulations to all Venezuelan students, because for the first time we have conquered a dissident and plural voice in this National Assembly. This is thanks to our constant, strong, and peaceful fight. We should feel proud about it, we did it, we begin to make history.
We find ourselves here at this podium to state our repudiation to the arbitrary closing of RCTV, to the criminalization with which it has meant to stain the student protest, to the insults that we have received in this very same parliament, all the students and to the systematic violations of our basic rights.

We, the university students, did not come today to this public arena to debate. The student movement's agenda is only defined by the student movement. We came here today to vindicate our civil rights. Make no mistake: the debate between and of the university students for the country will, without question, be carried out. The debate between the university students must be done in the universities, in the streets, in the slums ("barrios"), and in the towns of the country.

The debate between and from the university students must be carried out with a clear agenda and with public knowledge. The university students' debate must be done under rules which will be made with the complete knowledge of the participants. It must be carried out with impartial moderation. The debate between the university students must be carried out in such way which reflects our own student conditions, that is to say, in an organized, planned, intelligent, fair way on its own initiative.
We would also like to clarify that we did not come here to present our political tendencies nor to present a project for our country; simply, as a collective, we are still developing it .

This does not mean that the students who are not in agreement with the things that are currently happening in the country do not possess critical or analytical lines of thinking, nor are we unable to create proposals. The truth is that we are not part of an single ideological system nor do we possess a single line of thinking.
It is for that reason that today, in front of the Assembly and the country, that the doors have been opened to debate, dialogue and serious discussion. And it is within this plural framework of ideas that we present from which a common vision emerges: a vision of freedom and democracy. A common vision, that according to us, defines the students. A vision in which, according to us, we, the students, are not socialists, we are social beings; we do not follow the political economic ideology of neo-liberalism, we are free beings; the students do not make opposition, we make propositions.

We do not seek to be part of popular mythology nor do we wish for our image to adorn the walls of the universities and the t-shirts of young students. Neither have we meant to adorn the pages of the textbooks that are leafed through by the high school students throughout the national territory. Nor that a splendid highway carries our name. We do not wish to be a "could have been" or "has been," we wish to be something more, an "is" and a "will be."

We, as members of the future of this country, have the moral duty to watch out for the present, we have the moral duty to work for the future. We have the moral duty of never letting our guard down, because that responsibility is not to ourselves, it is to those who have gone before us, it is to those who will take our places, it is to those who today are with us, bringing life to this country. And to let them down would be cowardly. And to let them down would be stateless, and letting them down is not an option.

Because of that, the youth are in the streets today. We are not fighting for the interests of a corporate group, we are not fighting in the name of international interests, and we are not fighting in support of a political tendency. We are in the streets practicing politics without the traditional politicians. We are setting up a daily struggle in the name of our nation and safeguarding the interests of a whole society.

In the beginning, our mobilization was born as an answer to the unfair measure taken against RCTV. Our actions in the street are an answer to the threat of free expression that measure represents. It is an answer to the emptiness and the nostalgia that one feels in Venezuelan homes. It is an answer to the reality which 3,000 workers whose livelihood is at risk face, and of whose cause we are absolutely supportive. We will maintain the RCTV flag until the signal of the channel 2 returns to its legitimate frecuency. Along the way, we have come to realize that our responsibility to the country goes beyond that.

It is for that reason that today we are still in the streets. We are convinced that all Venezuelans should be treated in the same way, without discrimination and without value judgements which distinguish between "the good" and "the bad." We believe in equality and equity. We feel that if some Venezuelans have the right to go to Miraflores (the government palace) then all Venezuelans should have the right to do so. We feel that if some Venezuelans have the right to travel from the interior of the country to the capital to attend a demonstration, then all Venezuelans should have the opportunity to do so.

We feel that all citizens, despite their political stance, have the right to work and advance as a state employee. We feel that we must reject any form of international interference in the internal affairs of the country, no matter if it comes from the United States, Nicaragua, or Cuba.

We feel that now, once it for all, the divisions, the double-speak, and the discrimination must come to an end. We are in the streets because we are democrats and therefore we do not believe in authoritarianism on any level, we do not believe in hegemony on the part of either the majority or the minority.

We categorically reproach any form of government, past or present, that goes against the right of the citizen to live, and even beyond, to live freely. Today our classes are in the streets. Today, we not only ask but we demand and promote the vindication of the civil rights, it is our right and it is our duty to do so.

We say; ¡Enough of this discrimination! We demand and promote national reconciliation. Let us express and demonstrate in a free way. Consider our propositions on issues of national interest because it will be our generation that will have to face the consequences. Do not criminalize the protest from the start. Do not underestimate and insult the student initiative, and free and give respect to those who have been unfairly persecuted and publicly humiliated as in the case of the student Nixon Moreno and the more than 200 detainees since the last protests; under these auspices we demand the immediate revocation of our court presentation orders.

We believe in the work for safety, well-being, and the greatest possible happiness for our people. It is because of that that we demand, with the same strength that the right to choose be guarded and guaranteed. Understanding the right to choose from the most simple thing, like the right to choose which clothes to wear, what to eat, and which road to take to go to work, to the most complex thing, like choosing their religion, their ideology, and their political authorities, even including the right to choose what do you wish to read in the newspaper, listen to on the radio and to watch on TV, because that choice at the end falls on the individual, on the citizens and not on the state, nor on the government.

That right to choose whatever we consider best for us is what makes the man truly a man, truly free. And a life without elections, a life without decisions, has little freedom, little humanity, little life. That would be an robotic, singular existence, it would be, in the end, meaningless.

That is the goal of our struggle. It is a struggle without those who aim to participate in coups or destabilize the current situation. It is a struggle for freedom, a struggle for choices. A struggle that as men, women, students, university students and above all, as Venezuelans, we cannot stop fighting. It is our right, it is our duty, it is our responsibility, it is our moral obligation.

We belong to a generation without a dark past, a generation without hatred and desires of revenge, a generation that has overcome the short-term mentality. We, the youth of Venezuela are armed. We are armed with conscience, with strength, heart, temperance, solidarity, joy, optimism, and humility. A generation ready to fail and get up again. A generation ready to start from scratch. A generation able to really make freedom and even more, create a reality. A generation that will not rest until we become the country that we can be, and the society we should be. A generation that will fight, today, tomorrow and forever to be free and truly humanistic.
We dream about a country where we can be validated without having to wear a uniform (that was the moment when the student Douglas Barrios took off his red t-shirt).
Without anything else left to say, we leave, for now"

PS: The speech, in spanish only, it's also available on Youtube. Click here to see it.
PS1: The pic used for start this entry was taken at the demonstration of last friday, 08th, 06- 2007 in Caracas