Students Sew Lips Shut During Hunger Strike

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela—A hunger strike in Venezuela has escalated as four university students sewed their lips together while demonstrating to demand more funding for public universities.

The initial hunger strike began on February 23; it was started by five students and quickly grew to about 55 protesters.  The hunger strikers argue that Venezuelan universities are in danger of shutting down and that the government should give satisfactory funding to keep them in operation.

Administrators from various universities in the country have announced that by early next month, over two dozen public universities may be financially unable to continue operating cafeterias or buying supplies.

Government officials have responded by denying the claims.  They have stated that the protesting students are being influenced by President Hugo Chavez’s political opponents.

During a program televised in Bolivar state, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said: “If they want to walk naked through the street, let them do it.  If they want to sew whatever they want to sew, let them sew it, but . . . we’re going to keep working for our homeland.”  Maduro went on to attribute the hunger strike to the Venezuelan right wing, which “continues with its madness.”

One protester, 18-year-old Gabriela Torrijos, took the hunger strike to an alarming level on Friday as she and other students demonstrated near the United Nations Development Program office in Caracas.  Torrijos, a political science student at the Central University of Venezuela, sewed the left corner of her mouth shut.  Following her example, three other students partially stitched their mouths shut as well.

Enduring the pain of the improvised stitching, Torrijos told the Associated Press, “After seeing my friends take this action, I did it in solidarity with them.”

28-year-old Villca Fernandez had a more sever reaction to his stitching: his face ballooned out and remained puffy for three days.  He said he had not eaten solid food for 30 days and would not resume regular eating habits until the government increased the universities’ budgets.  “I’m willing to die for my university,” he declared.  “I’m willing to die for my country.”

On Tuesday, President Chavez stated that he would increase students’ stipends and review universities’ budgets.  The striking students, however, have not yet taken those promises seriously.

For more information, please see:

Press Association-Students stitch lips in protest-26 March 2011

AP-4 Venezuelan students partially sew lips together demanding university funding-25 March 2011

Seattle Times-Venezuelan students stitch lips in protest-25 March 2011

Author: Impunity Watch Archive