Yo mas bien lo compararia con el 2002
We Had Our Tamarrod, and Failed
An opposition rally in Maracaibo, Venezuela, in November 2007.
By DANIEL LANSBERG-RODRÍGUEZ
CARACAS — I was in Egypt on a fellowship studying the now-suspended Constitution of 2012 during the weeks before the recent revolution there. In Cairo and Alexandria, the streets were buzzing with talk of a looming showdown between the government of President Mohamed Morsi and Tamarrod, a protest movement organized by a small group of youth leaders hoping to bring him down. Witnessing the mounting frustrations of many ordinary Egyptians, I couldn’t help but notice the startling similarities between Morsi’s government and the Chávistas of my own Venezuela.
Swap Islamism for Socialism and beards for mustaches, and the two regimes start to look remarkably alike. Not in ideology, perhaps, but in bearing. Same persecution complex. Same division of people into “us” and “them.” Same easy appeal to a triumphalist historical narrative rather than to pragmatic solutions to specific problems.
And if Venezuela has by now endured 14 years of harsh populist majoritarianism under the late Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro, it once had a thriving youth movement not all that different from the one that spurred Tamarrod.
In late May of 2007, when Radio Caracas Television — the oldest and most popular TV station in Venezuela — was closed on political grounds, the country’s youth spontaneously began to demonstrate. At first it lacked a grand strategy or clear aims, but its protests soon became a beacon for popular discontent. Mere hours after its first coordinated demonstration began on May 28, its ranks had swelled from hundreds to many thousands.
The Chávez government responded with derision and repression. While official spokespeople chalked up the struggle to a shadowy C.I.A. cabal or the ennui-fueled anarchism of spoiled brats, the National Guard hit back. Hard.
I remember one moment during that first protest in Caracas’s Plaza Brión, when a group of us were hiding by a fence in a small alley while government water cannons and rubber bullets pounded our comrades across the square. Seeing us cornered, a guardsman hurled a canister of tear gas our way, as if daring us to flee back into the chaos. I still wonder sometimes if he was smiling behind his mask.
We all made it over the fence before the gas overwhelmed us, but the brutality of the crackdown undermined the government’s claim that we were in this for selfish reasons: Clearly, they were taking us seriously. When word of the suppression spread, more adults began to join us in the streets.
This was a major development. Chávismo, like the Muslim Brotherhood, had among its strongest weapons several generations’ worth of enduring resentment toward earlier regimes. Chávez, like Morsi, had been sent to prison for his political activism. To some, the fact that his own government used repressive tactics seemed acceptable at first: After all that had come before it, overreach was perhaps inevitable on the way toward improving Venezuelan society.
But the youth movement’s calls for accountability resonated even with the older generations. In a matter of just weeks, its numbers and its influence grew. In a December 2007 referendum, Venezuelans delivered Chávez his lone electoral defeat when they voted against a proposed constitutional reform that would have abolished presidential term limits and substantially strengthened the hand of the executive.
In the end, of course, the movement foundered. After the failed coup of 2002, the failed general strike that followed and countless, pointless protests, it became a victim of its own early success. Once they left university, many of the movement’s high-profile leaders went on to join existing political parties. Others got desirable positions in elite universities or businesses abroad. Individual accomplishments, however deserved, undermined the common cause.
After returning to Caracas from Cairo last month, I found myself, once again, surrounded by signs of our movement’s failure. Government-sponsored billboards, official graffiti and government media programming assaulted the senses, trying to convince all Venezuelans not only that “La Revolución” survives but also that its triumph was inevitable.
Seen from this position, Tamarrod’s successes to date are inspiring. The movement has already accomplished far more in Egypt than we ever did or, frankly, ever dreamed of in Venezuela: Twice now, Egypt’s youth has played a critical role in stripping power from governments it thought were keeping the future from it.
Our youth revolution fell short; may yours be realized.
Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez is a fellow at the Comparative Constitutions Project based at the University of Chicago Law School and a weekly columnist for the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal.
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We Had Our Tamarrod, and Failed - NYTimes.com