The Central University of Venezuela renews its authorities after a bitter confrontation with Chavismo | International

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After being on hold for 15 years after a tough struggle with the authorities and the legality of Chavismo, and having been postponed on May 27 due to logistical problems, the long-awaited rectoral and co-government elections of the Central University of Venezuela, the oldest and most important state autonomous in the country.

The holding of these elections constitutes a kind of concession that Chavismo makes in the context of a political agreement, - advanced, on this occasion, by Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, and her brother, Jorge Rodríguez, president of the National Assembly, with the university authorities - and has been received with enormous enthusiasm by the academic community, which turned out to vote in a proportion of more than 70 percent.

The UCV elections have been interpreted as a victory for the anti-Chavista democratic society, which in this situation preserves academic freedom and its programmatic autonomy in the face of the revolutionary and one-dimensional positions of Chavismo.

Just as it was controlled by the left in the days of the democracy of the Punto Fijo Pact, the UCV is today, on the contrary, a redoubt widely dominated by the opposition currents to Nicolás Maduro, although the best-known political parties of both trends have been absent from the campaign.

On this occasion, the opposition civil society has not considered it necessary to organize in unitary fronts to avoid a Chavista victory in the UCV. Humberto Rojas, an atomic and molecular physicist, and Víctor Rago, an anthropologist and doctor of linguistics, are the two candidates who obtained the most votes from a list of seven, and they will face each other in a second and final round on June 30. Miguel Alfonzo, a doctor, headed the best-known plate with ties to Chavismo. He got fifth place.

One of the two, Rojas or Rago, will be the successor of the outgoing rector, Cecilia García Arocha, who has involuntarily served a long and controversial 15-year mandate amid the harsh legal and media siege of the Chavista governments and their minority currents in the University, who at all times have wanted to colonize the autonomy of these and other universities in the country, who have always questioned the mechanisms for student admission, and who have organized innumerable violent acts of protest within or near their instances.

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For the first time, in these elections it has been approved that the right to vote goes beyond the faculty and the academic community and that students, administrative and worker personnel, graduates and retirees also participate, forming an electoral universe of 280 thousand people.

“This experience has brought out the best in our university and in our society,” says Jacqueline Richter, Senior Lecturer in Legal Sociology. “I was moved to see the lines of alumni, people who left their jobs and stood in lines of up to 3 hours, knowing that their vote is percentage-wise lower than that of a teacher. In the conditions in which this country is, and the UCV, it is a gesture that has enormous value. All the candidates were overqualified doctors, with an excellent track record within the UCV, including Miguel Alfonzo, the Chavismo candidate.”

Color has returned these days to the UCV, a space that in recent years offered a desolate aspect: a diaspora of students and professors; miserable salaries; exhausted authorities; pressures of all kinds from the Miraflores Palace; selective acts of sabotage and crime on campus. Since last year, the Government of Nicolás Maduro has carried out a deep process of maintenance and restoration of the Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in the year 2000.

The failures of the Electoral Commission, which has issued some confusing and late bulletins, and in whose hands this consultation had to be postponed on May 27, have resulted in the mole of the UCV elections. Part of public opinion and the university community feared that the failed election two weeks ago would give the Chavista government excuses to challenge or prosecute the elections with any argument. It hasn't happened.

Jorge Rodríguez, president of Parliament, spokesman for the pro-government PSUV (and a graduate of the UCV), commented that the elections that were suspended 15 days ago represented "the most disastrous process that I have seen in history." Rodríguez described the outgoing rector, Cecilia García Arocha, as a "dictator" and accused her of "illegally acting as rector of the UCV."

“The elections were very crowded, respectful, happy. The debate of the candidates for rector, including the Chavista candidate, of great height. This referendum is a victory for democracy and university autonomy,” says Rosa Estaba, a retired professor from the School of Geography, and winner of the annual award from the Academy of Engineering, Housing and Habitat. "After what I have seen, I have decided that I am leaving retirement and I am going to teach again."

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