There is a direct proportion between the numbers of political prisoners of the Chavez Revolution, and the revolution’s need to boost its image at the expense of victims it has designated for revenge.
Among the more illustrious members of this Club of Prisoners is Henrique Capriles (Radonski), mayor of the municipality of Baruta. Capriles is imprisoned in the Helicoide by the Chavez regime, using trumped up accusations. (*)
And to think that it was only in February 2003 that chavista propagandists, living comfortably abroad, were weaving spider webs, such as “there are no political prisoners in Venezuela” [María Páez-Victor (PhD., Sociology), “Why Canada Should Support Chávez” (CERLAC Bulletin 2.1). Uhh-huhh. Of course Páez-Victor’s comment, which was offered on a silver platter to innocents at York University-Toronto, was rebutted when a member of the audience (moi) asked her if the name of General Alfonso Martínez meant anything to her. It did not as, beyond the torch she then carried for Chavez, Páez-Victor had lived outside the Venezuelan reality for a number of years. And so the rebuttal continued, mentioning that this General of the National Guard was under house arrest for several weeks, in spite of there being no charges laid against him, and in spite of his having a habeas corpus in his favor. Páez-Victor then obfuscated the issue, skipping merrily along to the next point in her marketing agenda.
Fast forward 16 months. The international brigade of apparatchiks has become more aggressive in its propagandizing of the Chavez regime. And members wait – always so comfortably outside the Venezuelan reality. For what? For the Second Coming that would be the crystallization of their verbal revolutionary dreams. While the regime, more threatened than ever by disfavorable international opinion, slithers, squid-like, squirting greater amounts of black ink to muddy the waters, to confuse, and to hide. Hence the snowballing of political prisoners. And the open joke that has become the rule of law in the regime of Hugo Chavez, now into its sixth year of incompetence and corruption.
Where is María Páez-Victor today? I suspect she’s gone quiet in her defense of the revolution to foreign groups of innocents. But other delusional servants continue to parry and thrust. You can find some by lifting the rocks in haunts such as Venezuelanalysis.com or Le Monde Diplomatique. How about the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)? Or a host of freelancers, such as filmmakers from Ireland, Donnacha O’Briain and Kim Bartley? And how can we forget a whole slew of ‘caimanes’ – alligators, if you will, among loyalists of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, Marta Harnecker comes to mind. These are the technicolor dreamers of a bygone era, the verbal mercenaries of packaged promises, the neo-imperialists of hidden agendas. They are all are marked by a common denominator: an inability, or unwillingness, to conduct solid, quantititative analysis to support their ideals. And so these princes and princesses of the proletariat market and sell their flim-flam dreams from far away, with no concept of practical realities inherent in an economy they completely disregard. While the poor, whose numbers have escalated in the past five years of the Chavez administration, are left with no option but to buy in, in exchange for dole. And tears when hunger is at the doorstep.
It could have worked out differently. And the majority of Venezuelans thought that this might be the case when Chavez was first elected on a very different platform than the one he changed after his investiture. No one disputes that a change was vastly necessary.
Just think what might have been: a partnership between government largesse and business efficiency – each keeping an eye on one another for the good the whole, working together to provide jobs and a measure of independent dignity to a far greater number than are the beneficiaries today.
But that was not the Chavez strategy from the get-go. Instead, the deliberate tactic was to polarize, slowly and inexorably. For what better way is there to divide and render submissive for conquering, a significant voice, which is the private sector in Venezuela? That is, a private sector significant only in voice and know-how, but puny financially, when compared to government coffers.
But I digress. Here then is the truthful account of Father Sirico, following which I have added news items relating to the trumped up accusations against Mayor Capriles.
A Caracas Mayor Pays
Dearly for Opposing Chavez
By ROBERT A. SIRICO
June 25, 2004; Page A11
The Wall Street Journal
Pastoral work has taken me to many prisons over the years. But none has left an impression quite like the one I visited here on June 13.
Residents call it the Helicoide, or the Helix in English, because of its twisting, maze-like structure. It looks like New York’s Guggenheim Museum but more brittle and fractured. Filled with criminals and political prisoners, and serving as the headquarters of the secret police, it is located in the center of the capital, in the Libertador district of Caracas, an urban jungle with five mayors for its 5 million residents.
One of those mayors, Henrique Capriles, is currently serving time here for “public intimidation,” “abuse of power,” and other such trumped up political accusations following a protest in front of the Cuban Embassy in 2002. He has not been charged with a crime, and has been denied bail. A kept court upheld his detention last month.
Everyone here, however, understands that Mr. Capriles is being jailed for political reasons. He is a well-known opponent of President Hugo Chavez and his regime, which is notorious throughout the region for its dangerous blend of political populism, domestic socialism, and protectionist and nationalist foreign relations. To defend it all Mr. Chavez has militarized the civilian government.
Because I was here to address a conference on globalization, and Mr. Capriles’ case interests me, I was hopeful of visiting him. In a Catholic country where the Church is still held in high esteem, in part for its heroic resistance to the Chavez regime, it may have been my Roman collar that gained me entrance. Deep within the Helicoide, I found a pleasant, intelligent and affable young man who emanates a sense of inner strength.
These days Mr. Capriles sports a beard, which symbolizes his protest of the detention. He is the youngest man ever to be elected to Venezuela’s Congress, and his political experience, including a stint as speaker of the House, predates the present regime of Castro-wannabe Chavez. Mr. Capriles was active in the formation of a new party, Primero Justicia (Justice First), which is trying to form a new political consensus here. He describes himself as a moderate and jokes that his friends say that he is sometimes too progressive.
Neither Mr. Capriles, who holds two law degrees, nor his lawyers fully understand the detention order against him. The authorities claim that he was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Fidel Castro. The incident at the root of this claim is caught on film. It shows the mayor calming an agitated crowd that had surrounded the Cuban Embassy, located in his district, to protest against Cuba’s influence in Venezuela. At the time, the Cuban ambassador thanked Mr. Capriles on television for his efforts. Nevertheless, the videotape showing the protest is the main evidence against him.
Sitting in a small visiting room on a ripped car seat that serves as a couch, one of my companions examines the walls and furnishings and Mr. Capriles gives a wide grin and says, yes, there are microphones everywhere. This should come as no surprise in a building built in the 1950s by dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez and now home to the secret police.
Mr. Chavez paints Mr. Capriles as a radical oligarch who “works for the empire.” Such rhetoric is in style these days. Returning from the prison, we listened to Mr. Chavez booming on the radio. Like his idol Castro, he is given to marathon speech making. Attacking the upcoming referendum on his rule, he asserts that the battle is not against the “white oligarchy” of Venezuela. Instead it is against one enemy alone: George W. Bush! Thunderous applause follows.
If Mr. Chavez thought Mr. Capriles would retreat, he was mistaken; the prisoner remains optimistic both for his case and for his country. When I ask what sustains him, Mr. Capriles, whose grandmother was Jewish, fingers the rosary he wears around his neck and says, “You know, I am a third generation immigrant. My grandmother spent 26 months in the Warsaw ghetto under the Nazis. I have only been here 33 days. By comparison, this is nothing.”
The real issue, he says, is judicial power. Without a strong and independent judiciary, there can be no freedom or stable democracy. Indeed, Human Rights Watch recently issued a 24-page report highlighting recent attempts to stack Venezuela’s Supreme Court in anticipation of a referendum loss by the government.
This is my third visit to Venezuela, the first under Mr. Chavez. The change is notable. The streets are more violent and the entire atmosphere is politically charged — with neighborhoods maintaining their own independent police forces. The government news channel broadcasts Cuban cartoons telling stories about what happens to those who betray the Revolution. As in Nicaragua, the literacy programs organized by Cuban “advisers” are thoroughly politicized.
In my conversations with a wide variety of Venezuelans — priests and porters, blue-collar workers and journalists
— it appears that everyone’s focus is on the Aug. 15 recall referendum. There is a general sense that Mr. Chavez will try anything to remain in power, including imposing martial law to prevent the referendum. Another concern is the vulnerability of voting machines to tampering. (The company that has the service contract for them is partly owned by the Chavez government.)
A venerable former government minister, the oldest living member of Venezuela’s first democratic government, told me that fraud is the main concern. Unless international organizations are watchful, it is likely Mr. Chavez will steal the referendum votes, and there is already talk from Chavistas of banning international observers.
In many ways, the case of Henrique Capriles symbolizes both the sadness and the hope that is Venezuela’s. The sadness is that the best and brightest people in this nation should find themselves in this situation. The hope is that even people like Henrique Capriles are optimistic for the future of their country.
Father Sirico is president of the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich.
RELATED NEWS ITEMS:
On June 26, 2004, Union Radio reports that Deputy Gerardo Blyde of the First Justice party (Primero Justicia) indicated that the Nation’s Public Defender, Isaías Rodríguez, is the “author of the represssion of the chavist regime and is to blame for the deprivation of civic liberty of Henrique Capriles Radonski, mayor of the Baruta municipality”.
He (Blyde) criticized one of six crimes attributed to the mayor of Baruta as that of “ommission of action, based on the report from the Defender that Henrique had to stop the events that were occurring outside the Cuban Embassy the 12th of April (2002). That obligation does not involve municipal powers.”
“The Vienna Convention, to which Venezuela is a signatory, establishes that State matters refer to National Public Powers, and in this manner, the representatives of this regime reflect an immense ignorance of this sense”, said Blyde.
He asserted that nowhere in the world do “municipal police provide custody to diplomatic entities”. Otherwise, he (Blyde) commented that in “the police record there is no proof that would compromise the mayor of Baruta”.
The El Universal newspaper furthered those arguments, whereby the First Justice party (PJ) blames the Public Defender for Capriles’ illegitimate imprisonment on account of the events in front of the Cuban Embassy on April 12, 2002.
Deputy Gerardo Blyde (PJ) noted that Capriles is imprisoned for being “a successful mayor”, for belonging to an opposition party and because “Julián Isaías Rodríguez should never have been the Public Defender” because he has put the Public Ministry “at the service of his party and political convictions”.
“Beyond laying the blame on secondary players such as (Danilo) Anderson, the head is called Isaías Rodríguez, who orders his subordinates to maintain the illegitimate deprivation of freedom of Henrique Capriles Radonski”.
(Blyde) was more precise in that the accusation presented yesterday to the second tribunal of the metropolitan area accuses teh mayor of ommission of action, in that according to Anderson, Capriles had the obligation to act to avoid the violent acts that were occurring outside the Cuban Embassy on April 12, 2002, a function which does not correspond to the municipality.
Blyde explained that this function of protection of embassies corresponds to the National Public Power, according to the Vienna Convention as invoked by the Public Ministry.
The legal defender, Juan Martín Echeverría, noted that in the accusation, no mention was made of the video taken by Televen during the mayor’s entry to the Cuban Embassy, a copy of which was sent a month ago to Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations.
This fact was not even mentioned in the accusation when the Penal Code requires to take into account, not only the proofs that favor but also those that implicate the one charged.
As The Revolution Turns. Stay tuned for the next installment.
Posted by Sydney Hedderich, courtesy José R. Mora.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.