Venezuelan government officials met on Tuesday night with members of the opposition in order to negotiate a potential end to nearly two months of unrest. (Update: Both sides reportedly agreed to hold "formal talks" that could start as soon as this Thursday).
While plans are being made for the upcoming of the discussions, anti-government activists continue to voice their complaints against the regime led by President Nicolas Maduro. One of the most unique protests took part recently in response to allegations of human rights abuses.
Using the hashtag #MejorDesnudosQue (roughly translated #BetterToBeNudeThan), the campaign began on April 4th when a team of Venezuelan ad executives uploaded semi-nude photos of themselves. The previous day, images emerged of a young man at the University of Central Venezuela (UCV) who was forced to disrobe and sit naked on the grass while masked gang members assaulted him. (Video of this incident can be seen at the top of this post).
“When I saw the video (of the nude young man) it hit me very hard and that’s when I came up with this idea,” said ad agency executive Ricardo Cie.
“My friends and family where receptive and they generally commented that the photos where a distinct way to peacefully and intelligently protest,” said one of Cie’s workmates, Eliana Mora Golding.
“Generally nobody was offended though we did receive negative comments,” she added.
Between the start of the #MejorDesnudosQue campaign and Monday the hashtag became a trending topic on Twitter and mentioned over 201,000 times on that social media network.
Cie noted he and sixteen of his colleagues opted to do the campaign via Twitter since “there is an absence of Venezuelan TV channels that are showing the reality on the streets.”
Among those who have spoken out in favor of the #MejorDesnudosQue campaign and it’s related hashtag #DesnudosConLaUCV (#NudeWithTheUCV) is Cuban blogger and opposition activists Yoani Sanchez. She claimed that authoritarian regimes believe that “undressing their opponents constitutes one of the repressive practices they most enjoy” but the #MejorDesnudosQue idea may have changed this perspective:
The images coming from Venezuela confirm that the practice of stripping people of their clothes as a moral punishment continues. A young man is stripped by a group seeking to degrade him by exposing every inch of his skin. However, they end up making him into a beautiful icon, pure, innocent. There is nothing dirty about the human body, there is nothing to be embarrassed about appearing before others as we came into this world.
What is shameful is these others, hiding behind their uniforms, trappings, the military ranks they awarded to themselves. They should be embarrassed to be hiding under the dishonorable garb of their fear.Ironically, the semi-nude protest was employed as a tactic by a small group of Maduro supporters who last year demonstrated against ex-presidential candidate and opposition governor Henrique Capriles’ visit to Colombia.
Meanwhile, UCV administrators and students repudiated the violence on campus during a demonstration last Friday.
"The problems we are experiencing stem from a government policy of not allowing peaceful public protests," Victor Marquez, president of the UCV faculty association, said. "We have had several students and professors arrested for exercising their rights."
Maduro last Saturday railed against the violence at the UCV but did not mentioned the images of the assaulted nude man. Instead, he “condemned” photos showing an "unauthorized" armed person at Friday’s protest at the Caracas campus.
At least thirty-nine people have died as a result of the political unrest that has hit several Venezuelan cities including Caracas and San Cristobal since early February. Another potential victim could be Venezuelan TV news network Globovision journalist Nairobi Pinto who was reportedly kidnapped on Monday.
Video Source– YouTube users 25 segundos and lapatillavision
Online Sources – Los Angeles Times; Twitter; Generacion Y; El Mundo; El Universal; MIlenio.com; Bloomberg; BBC News