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The Hunger Strike in Venezuela

While the U.S. goes broke and the Middle East bursts in riots, students have gone on hunger strike in Venezuela protesting human rights conditions in the country.

Noticias 24 reports that the students are dehydrated but in stable condition. The strike started on Jan. 31 at the OAS office with a dozen students but by now a total of 67 people are on hunger strike in several locations in 10 states across the country, including the Brazilian embassy in Caracas. The protesters are requesting that all political prisoners named in a list of 27 people be freed and given medical attention:

The protestors, mostly university students and youth activists, have been calling for the OAS to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in Venezuela as well as for the release of jailed opposition figures they believe are political prisoners. OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza has said that he could not meet with the protesters in Caracas without an invitation from the Venezuelan government.

Maduro said the protest should be handled internally, without the intervention of the U.S. or international organizations. He also alleged that right-wing opponents of Venezuela's socialist government were operating from Miami and playing a part in orchestrating the hunger strike.

About a dozen students and activists began a fast Jan. 31 outside the local Caracas office of the OAS. Some news reports have stated that the protest has grown to include as many as 65 protesters.

The protesters have called for the release of several jailed opposition figures, including two jailed members of the national parliament. One of the officials faces corruption charges while the other has been found guilty of being complicit in a homicide.

Bryan Llenas writes, Venezuela Student Hunger Strike Gains Momentum, Gov. Worried About a "Virtual Egypt":

On Friday, the hash tags #OperacionLibertad, and #HuelgaDeHambre saw feverish activity as tweets supporting the Venezuelan hunger strike poured into those conversations.

"#OperacionLibertad is for all Venezuelans!," Milagros González tweeted in Spanish. "They aren't in a hunger strike for nothing! They are using their bodies as a tribute to the survival of Venezuela.#OperacionLibertad," Rafael Marín wrote.

This Venezuelan social media awakening comes months after an amendment to the Social Responsibility Media law that allows the government to restrict Internet messages and access. The measure stated that the use of Facebook and Twitter to spread "media manipulation" would be prohibited.

However, Llenas's article trivializes the plight of the hunger strikers by comparing them to the University of Puerto Rico students striking over a $800/yr tuition increase. I am also doubtful that the strike will lead to Egypt-like riots at this time.

The Venezuelan situation is a lot different: Venezuela News and Views explains,

The fact of the matter here is that the regime has long ago placed human life in the bargain department. How can you explain that Chavez does not lose any sleep over the thousands and thousands of violent murders taking place every year in Venezuela? When someone has the chutzpah to say that those murders are not his responsibility then you know he is not hurting whatsoever.

Amen of those who die in Venezuelan jails shot by the other inmates as if nothing!

The way the regime has managed the natural disaster victims since 1999 is another telling sign: they are simply exploited for political purposes and real help is barred if it does not serve the regime purposes. For memory, the refusal of help from the US in 1999 or the confiscation of the relief truck of Voluntad Popular last year.

And equally as damaging if not as bloody, is the total ignorance by the regime of the brain and energy drain that Venezuela is suffering. For all practical purposes these people leaving Venezuela in search of better hopes under other skies should be also accounted with the "death toll" of the people we will never see again.

The reality here is that we are dealing with a regime who is not afraid to eliminate its opponents. It has not been that obvious so far in an era of Internet and CNN, but all the signs are there, do not be mistaken, elimination is an ever present option for these people.

The U.S. media's attention is elsewhere, which makes the possible outcome all the more unpredictable.

Cross-posted at Fausta's blog