Wanna Beat Hugo Chavez? Learn How to Fight Mike Tyson.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
June 5 2012 2:12 PM

Wanna Beat Hugo Chavez?

Then learn how to fight Mike Tyson.

(Continued from Page 2)

“If the vice president had told me if I quit, my father would be out of jail, I would have quit,” replied Goicoechea, with no hesitation. “What I couldn’t do was to stop something that was bigger than me and that I was responsible for. I have consequences and I pay daily.” After Goicoechea refused the vice president’s offer, the charges against his father were changed in order to raise his possible prison sentence. Instead of 6 years, Goicoechea’s father was sentenced to 20 years. After a few moments, Goicoechea says quietly, “They intimidate and they play hard.”

Six Bulletproof Vests

On Sunday, Dec. 2, Venezuelans came out to vote on the referendum. Neither side knew if it had the votes to win. The bluffing began almost right away.


Yon Goicoechea got a phone call from a Chavista student leader at noon. He said he needed to meet with Goicoechea and it was important. “We got together in a public place and there was a very high functionary of the secret police there,” recalls Goicoechea. “And the high functionary of the secret police told me that they had the information that they had won. He offered all the resources that I need—

whatever that means—to avoid bloodshed in Venezuela. Of course, the way to avoid it was to not go to the streets.” After using his father’s fate to threaten Goicoechea, the regime was now resorting to bribery. Goicoechea simply needed to convince his fellow student leaders not to protest the outcome of the election.

Goicoechea knew that the regime didn’t actually know if it had won or not. It was only midday and people were still voting. But he could just as easily bluff. So, he told the officer of the secret police that they had information that the students had won. “If we win, we will go to the streets and defend it,” Goicoechea replied. “And if you want to avoid bloodshed that is your responsibility because you are the national security.”

The students had no illusions about what it would take to triumph on Dec. 2, 2007. Goicoechea told me that there are two things you must have if you want to win an election in Venezuela. “You have to win and you have to have the Army. If one of those elements fails, you lose. Because the Army won’t defend you if you lose, and if you win, and the Army does not defend you, you also lose.”

It wasn’t that the military needed to support your goals or your political project. Rather, it needed to see the costs of overturning an election as too great to pursue. “One thing is understanding how the military works, especially in countries like Venezuela,” says Barrios. “If there is a degree of institutionalism still alive in the military, they would take the decision that requires the less use of force. So we wanted to create a credible threat, saying that if you don’t recognize the official result, you’re going to have to use an incredible amount of force.”

Throughout the day information coming into their headquarters was largely positive, but the students had no idea if they were winning. Even at its best, they believed any lead they might have remained within the margin of error. Nevertheless, they did nothing but project confidence. Around 7 p.m., Goicoechea, smiling from ear to ear, gave a press conference congratulating students and supporters for their work and saying that all that was left to do was defend the vote. The clear subtext was that they had won, and it was just a matter of being announced. His bravado was pure theater. He had no idea if they were ahead or not.


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
Sept. 23 2014 1:04 PM Which States Should Secede From the Union?
The Eye
Sept. 23 2014 11:33 AM High-Concept Stuff Designed to Remind People That They Don’t Need Stuff  
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 11:48 AM Punky Brewster, the Feminist Punk Icon Who Wasn’t
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 10:51 AM Is Apple Picking a Fight With the U.S. Government? Not exactly.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 11:00 AM Google Exec: Climate Change Deniers Are “Just Literally Lying”
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.