June 07 2007
Students march against President Hugo Chavez's decision to not renew the license of RCTV broadcasting station in Caracas June 6, 2007. Students took their 11-day-old protest over President Hugo Chavez's shutdown of the last nationwide opposition television station to Venezuela's Congress on Thursday, in a rare appearance by the opposition in the legislature.
CARACAS (Reuters) - Students took their 11-day-old protest over President Hugo Chavez's shutdown of the last nationwide opposition television station to Venezuela's Congress on Thursday, in a rare appearance by the opposition in the legislature.
Addressing the 167-member body, where there have been no opposition lawmakers since 2005, student leader Douglas Barrios said daily demonstrations against the closure of RCTV would continue.
"Today our classes are in the street," he said in remarks that were broadcast nationally.
At one point, Barrios took off his T-shirt in the signature red of Chavez, saying Venezuelans could refuse to wear the government uniform -- a reference to the opposition's charge that Chavez intimidates people into displaying support for him.
The closing has become the rallying cry for a nascent pro-democracy student movement that critics of the president hope can help fill a void left by a weak opposition in the polarized OPEC nation.
Congress, which has granted Chavez the power to rule by decree, organized a debate over the station's closure between pro- and anti-government students and the government required all Venezuelan television and radio to broadcast the session.
The anti-Chavez students -- part of a mainly middle-class movement that has at times drawn tens of thousands onto the streets -- walked out after the first pro-government speech, complaining the event was politicized.
They were escorted past Chavez supporters outside by security forces with anti-riot shields. Some were driven off in a troop carrier.
The remaining student speakers mocked their adversaries as an affluent, English-speaking minority manipulated by the United States and a Venezuelan opposition that they said is out of touch with the majority poor championed by Chavez.
The early departure of the anti-Chavez students prompted harsh words from Congress President Cilia Flores.
"How can you not think that behind them are the same right-wing fascists as always?" she said.