(IV) Reaction and Revolution: The recall hangover

Even counting I have talked about the 2004 recall against Chavez in this blog before, I only discussed some technical aspects related to the credibility of that electoral process but I did not focus in the sentimental aspect of those events. But, in order to understand the nature of the White Hand (student) movement, it is inevitable to speak about the effects this lost recall brought for the Venezuelan opposition.I wouldn’t be over reacting if I stand that the opposition suffered a strong depression after the defeat. A depression of the same irrational nature of a 15 year old girl after being fooled by the most popular guy of the school.
Only weeks after the recall, the “Coordinadora Democrática” (an opposition political alliance that worked altogether against Chavez government at least since 2002) revealed a weak structure and started to simply disappear. The parties and the organizations one by one, took separate ways and retire of the Coordinadora. I guess is only in the hard times when the defects are revealed and is harder to stay together.
The next move of a big part of the opposition was to retire their candidates of the upcoming parliamentary elections as a protest of an electoral fraud (that could never be proven, in part because it was impossible to proof) during the past recall against Chavez and specially for showing their distrust to the electoral institution (CNE). This explains why our current parliament – National Assembly is “roja rojita”, red-red: the Chavistas simply elected themselves and half of the country slept during those elections.
The party I belong to back then: Primero Justicia took both the decision of leaving the opposition alliance and to retire their candidates of the elections without consulting to the basis of the party. It was a decision only taken by the leaders. “If we want to build a democracy outside, we must start on the inside” – I told to my youth group during the last official meeting I had with them. Soon one by one left the party as well. We were not sure if our reason was a legitimate reason to resign but over all, we did not felt identify with the party anymore.
In the meantime, our society was still a prisoner of an increasing radicalism. In my environment, all government supporters were taken as “bad people” simply because they supported the government and it worked the same way on the pro-government side. This “recall” hangover had its maximum expression during the “guarimbas”, a series of radical protest that spread for two weeks or so at least in my city. Several wounded and death came as a result of those protest and the government took the term “guarimbero” (from guarimbas) as a yet another insult for the opposition. But I won’t discuss those protest here, my duty for the moment is to only mention them in regards of the effect they might had for the White Hand student movement.
When the “guarimbas” finally ended, my calm and quiet street looked like a war zone with burned stuff everywhere. I met my boyfriend –back then- there after a week or so of not being able to see each other because we lived in two distant neighbourhoods of Caracas and must of the streets were blocked, we asked to ourselves “What happened?”. It looked more like we burned ourselves rather than burning the government.
I think many university students politically active might lived similar events, and experienced similar feelings during those months. The kids who proudly went with their parents to several demonstrations from 2002 till the recall of 2004, although they didn’t reacted at all or even contradict their parents, at least got the feeling that maybe things should had be done in a different way and the fight should had been focused on different purposes. We were not sure of what those “purposes” should be yet but this can explain to the reader why the White Hand (student) movement claimed autonomy from the traditional opposition (despite if its media, political parties, organizations etc) and pretended to be original from the start. But over all, if you wonder why to simply bring down Chavez regime (like the opposition proposed as a goal during 2002-2004) was never an objective of the movement, I hope you have found your answers now: the goal of simply bringing down the government proved to be not only impossible to get but also a useless one to look for.
In short words, this “recall hangover”, like I like to call those months after the recall, caused two feelings in my generation if I’m not mistaken: on one side, the typical depressive “all is lost” one and on another, a slight idea that it was going to grow later that this was the wrong path to follow.
On the next couple of years (my 3rd and my 4th year of university to be exact) many youth organizations were created (or I started to get to know them), aside of the political parties. Some had a very diffuse or none political aspiration at all, some were just a small group of university students with a certain not well defined “project”. But all of them had very similar concerns: how damaged our country was in all possible senses (especially social and political) and what the members, as young and educated people, could possible to about it. Must of those initiatives stayed on paper or were too small to be relevant except for their members but some others were the ideological content that feed the White Hand (student) movement for not talking about the structure of the movement itself. Therefore, I will dedicate the next entry to talk about them.
About the picture: The man on the left lost his 17 year old son during the events of April, 2002. The man on the right who’s talking to the TV lost his wife when a group of pro-government shooters surprised an opposition group gathered at Altamira Square during the “Guarimbas” of 2004. I took the picture on the anniversary of her death (August 18, 2005).