A Historic Low for El Nacional

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El_Nacional_building
Treating journalistic ethics like a game of Limbo…

In a press conference today, Venezuela’s Human Rights Ombudswoman, Gabriela Ramírez, made a genuinely shocking statement. Making up legal standards off the cuff, she sought to redefine torture as something that can happen only in the context of questioning, for the purpose of eliciting a confession.

In Ramírez’s view, torture-like behaviour inflicted on detainees outside that context must be considered only “mistreatment”, and cannot classify as torture.

That should’ve been a scandal, and not only because it’s Cheneyesque in its goal-post-moving on torture or Clintonesque in its lawyerly parsing of semantics. To be clear Ramírez’s no-torture-without-questioning standard runs directly counter to the definition of torture that is binding under international law, which is identical to the definition in Venezuelan domestic law:

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person…

But it’s worse than that, because it wasn’t just any Venezuelan official inventing legal standards out of whole cloth to softball the torture (there’s no other word) allegations her office now faces. It was Venezuela’s lead human rights guarantor doing so, the officer specifically created by the constitution to defend the people from the abuse of the state’s power, that’s who was cravenly inventing non-sense legal standards to wish the “torture” out of abuses that any human rights lawyer anywhere in the world would instantly recognize as such.

And yet, is this what Venezuelans spent the day talking about?

Alas, it is not, my friend. It is not.

And why not?

Because we spent the day instead talking about El Nacional’s deliriously misleading coverage of Ramírez’s statement, coverage that without exactly misquoting Ramírez reinterpreted her words to mean something she very explicitly did not mean to say: that torture “makes sense” in the context of an investigation.

What Ramírez says is that “la tortura tiene un sentido, por eso nosotros tenemos que ser muy rigurososos con el uso de los términos.” In context, when you watch the video, it’s abundantly clear that what she means by that is that “torture has a specific legal meaning” (which, as we already saw above, she clearly doesn’t understand).

Enter El Nacional. At first, the paper selectively edited the quote, leaving out the key “por eso nosotros tenemos que ser muy rigurososos con el uso de los términos”. The maliciously edited quote made it sound like Ramírez was justifying the use of torture as a legitimate means of obtaining a confession!

The opposition tweet-roots when into uproar! Because, imagine! The Human Rights Ombudswoman endorses torture! The horror!

Later, when the video came out, it became entirely obvious that El Nacional was just up to its usual, shamelessly tendentious games again. Worse, El Universal had followed suit, quoting the Ombudswoman’s statement in the same, wildly misleading way.

With characteristic lack of accountability, El Nacional has now changed the story on its website. They haven’t run a correction (they never run a correction!), they haven’t apologized to readers, they haven’t apologized to Ramírez, as though they thought showing a minimum of responsibility for this monumental fuck-up was beneath their dignity.

El Universal, to its credit, acknowledged its mistake, retracted the story publicly and – to me this is key – apologized to its readers.

It’s been a tawdry case study in appalling opposition media standards, the kind of thing that brings out the little chavista we each have hidden away in a little corner of our hearts.

Because notice what’s happened here: the fact that the official principally responsible for protecting Venezuelans’ human rights is using a definition of torture she seems to have cut out of a box of Froot Loops has been almost entirely forgotten already. What should have been a scandal about Gabriela Ramírez once again demonstrating that she’s a regime yes-woman rather than a human rights protection officer has instead morphed into a shitstorm over El Nacional’s failure to uphold even basic, rock bottom standards for journalistic ethics. You do not edit key qualifiers out of a quote to make it seem like it means something much more grave than it does. And if you do, you fess up, fire the person responsible, apologize publicly, and vow never to do it again.

That one of the last few remaining bits of the traditional public sphere open to opposition voices is unable to get even this much right is simply galling. We deserve, so, so much better from El Nacional. 

1 COMMENT

    • You know, when one of the leading newspapers in the country tells you something, there should be some integrity in their claims.

        • What is disgusting is how corrupt this lawyer is and how she abuses her office. Today was just a display of stunning ignorance, from what it looked like to me. I imagine ignorance and/or following orders will be raised in her defense, somewhere down the road…

          • But Emiliana, you have to admit that NO PHRASE that includes “la tortura tiene un sentido” should ever, ever be uttered! Least of all by the Ombudslady. The whole thing was kind of funny actually, in a tragic sort of way.

          • But notice Juan how the Twit-shitstorm that followed centered on Hashtag #LaTorturaTieneSentido, without the “Un” – I think the reason that happened is that the original El Nacional piece dropped the “un” – which takes things from “reporting a quote out of context” to “evidently malicious tergiversación.”

            Of course, we can’t tell, because El Nacional doesn’t have the decency to level with readers, apologize, run a full and transparent correction, and have a grown up discussion about their monumental fuck-up. Instead they’ve deleted the original article in a *hopeless* attempt to cover their tracks.

            It’s just appalling. I think about it all over again and it makes me mad all over again.

          • “It depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is…”

            Look, we’re splitting hairs here. El Nacional did a poor job, but it pales next to the job she did in that presser. You blaming the paper is like making fun of a dying cancer victim, imho. It’s a bit sadistic.

          • “Un” is such a tiny word, I dunno, it’s easy not to hear it. I prefer to blame sloppiness and not evil intent on the part of the paper. Ramirez is a tool, but she will play the victim til her last dying breath.

          • Juan, the problem is how the universal tagline in all twitter/whatsapp/etc. chains was “DEFENSORA DEL PUEBLO JUSTIFICA TORTURA” ( don’t believe me? check this out: http://www.lapatilla.com/site/2014/03/08/julio-borges-gabriela-ramirez-debe-renunciar-a-su-cargo-por-justificar-la-tortura/). She is being horrendously blasé about such serious allegations instead of committing the full weight of the State to investigating torture claims, and I´ll be the first to criticize her irresponsible behavior, but to say that she “justified” torture based on that video is as reactionary and credibility-undermining as Capriles claiming there is genocide in Venezuela.

          • She is not justifying torture. But by providing a restrictive and incorrect definition of torture she is justifying punishing acts of torture as if they were less grave offenses. That is pretty bad considering her position.

          • Newspapers commit mistakes all the time, in normal countries their errors are seen as, well, just errors (not fellonies), but in countries like Venezuela the newspapers end up being closed and their owners being arrested. If you notice that you got more shocked with the minor newspaper mistake than to what everything the insane ombudswoman said, you should really pay attention if the little chavista you hide away in a corner of your heart is not starting to assume control.

    • She says that “Torture” is something DIFFERENT from an inhuman, degrading or pain-inflicting action, nor it is any over use of force or that it makes sense within any context.

      She implies that the people being beaten with wooden beams once they’re captured is not a torture, kicking a person straight to the face and head looking to do the maximum damage possible (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rabrl-KGeA0) is NOT a torture, harrassing people inside a building firing rifles while mocking them and calling them names is not torture at all (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHyodiEuKcQ), or knocking down a protester, sit on top of her, and smash a helmet repeatedly on her face several times is not torture, no sire! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5LV4DRGog8)

      It’s the same double standard they have for everything, “Hey, if we do it then it’s fine because WE did it!”

      I couldn’t care less about how El Universal wrote the title, what matters is how the government openly supports and encourages all kinds of assholery as if the rest of Venezuelans were just pieces of shit.

    • Are you against the guarimbas, Emiliana? Do you think the Venezuelans will be able to handle another 5 years of 55% inflation rates, minimum civil liberties, bloody repression and food shortages? Will 20 years of Chavismo be enough then? This is a honest, not rethoric question.

      In my opinion, the guarimbas are the last hope for Venezuela because I simply can’t see Venezuela surviving another 5 years of Chavismo without a civil war and genocide taking place. I also don’t think that someone like Maduro can be removed from office through electoral means. It’s time to understand that Venezuela is not a democracy anymore. I don’t know what Capriles have in mind, but if the guarimbas fail it will be the end of Venezuela as a civilised country. The elections from now on will be just fraudulent referendums to affirm that the status quo is secure, as it happens in Cuba or Russia. The guarimbas are at least showing that brave Venezuela is not falling without a good fight. You should be proud of those students.

        • If you think that civil disobedience can’t make goverment fall and believe that there is another alternative to save Venezuela (i.e.: through votes), I can only feel sorry for you. Good luck writing your articles against El Universal.

          • Marc, students and civilians barricading themselves are going to cause the army’s top firepower units to rebel and stage a coup against the government? Brother, the Cubans have had 10+ years to shore things up. Who do I side with? Marc the baseless proponent of civil disobedience or the fucking facts and reality on the ground? Raul Baduel when he was Defmin had his wings clipped. Fucker had no direct command of the real fighting units. The shit that matters when puch comes to shove. You wanna go Ghandi on these fucks? Be my guest but 20 dead is too high

          • What do you suggest then? That the Venezuelans should just flee from Venezuela (Miami, Madri, Bogotá, Santiago, where else?) or should they just accept that their fate is to live as slaves forever? I don’t know, but I think the Venezuans should FIGHT, yes, they might lose, but at least they would had done something. Well, the Cubans with brains fled to Miami and look what Cuba is today, it were good for them but bad for their country. Choices must be made. And I understand that 20 dead is too much, but many more will be killed when Maduro remove all the civil liberties that still exist. Venezuela is entering a point of no return regarding democracy and freedom. it’s just incredibly sad and an unbelievable situarion.

          • No Marc, what he’s trying to say is that the solution to relieving Venezuela of his current dictatorship regime needs to go much deeper than just a few Guarimbas. This will be a long and painful process than no one exactly knows how it’s going to end.

      • Marc, it’s going to go another five years maybe more. A Hillary win buys them time. Rand Paul too but it’s going to be Hillary so fast forward to 2020. I am not saying the US is going to remove him but the big picture plays. It’s global chess and the regime has it wrapped up through Maduro’s term. The enemy is very cocky and confident. They held in Syria, Lebanon and Iran. Putin is carving up Ukraine, DPRK is full steam ahead with enrichment and ballistic missiles. ALBA is intact and holding. Brasil up for grabs in October but the road to Ccs not through Brasilia. These fucks bought their good.

      • Marc, when in real life (anytime, anywhere) where you have a confused and unaware victim and an abusive and manipulative aggressor who has control over your life? This happens all the fucking time with spouses and in the workplace and who wins? The victim never “wins” unless a law was broken. Again your aggressor is so cunning that he operates above the law. You suggest one try to reason with this person? Do a peaceful sit-in? Bring-attention to the problem by telling outsiders? All the wrong moves my friend.

        • No, I suggest a general strike, a massive and restless blockade of roads, millions of people in the streets PROTESTING ALL DAY, total civil disobedience and non cooperation, grafitti against Maduro on all walls of all major cities and many many things more. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. Until 99% of the people wake up and start to hate the dictator just like we do. But you sound like Buddah saying things like “we should just accept more 5 years of a miserable life”, “no one is coming to help”, “we should not fight”. Well, I guess you think that it would be clever if the Venezuelans just ingested a cyanide pill and die… painless and fast. I disagree. The Venezuelans should FIGHT!!!! NOW!!! Because if they don’t fight now, there won’t be a second chance.

          • Man, you are really so completely out of touch with 95% of Venezuelans, oppos and chavistas and ninis alike!
            And you lack any kind of creativity and knowledge of history if you think the only options are either guarimbas or self-exile.

          • Am I the one who is out of touch with Venezuela’s reality? When I read posts like that one from Emiliana saying that she is against the guarimbas or Quico writing a whole article with hundreds of words about a completely irrelevant non-issue just to complain about an agonizing newspaper (look at the headline akin to a British sensationalist tabloid!) that will be closed by the Chavistas very soon or Capriles recent remarks or your incredible naive leftist posts on Devil’s excrement I understand exactly why Venezuela is in such situation right now. You are so out of touch with reality about an organization called Foro de Sao Paulo that you think that you can remove the Venezuelan dictatorship from power with VOTES!!! It’s so absurd that I can’t even believe that you are being serious! But yes, good luck with CNE in 2019! Actually, I will even bookmark this page on my browser because it is perfect to understand WHY and HOW Venezuela entered this absurd downward spiral. Start with Quico being very very OUTRAGED with a non-relevant issue, then read Emiliana’s ironic post just below the article against the students that are blocking the roads, notice that later she even uses the Chavista vocabulary and calls the newspaper REACTIONARY! Ha! Finally, you said that I’m not “creative” since I think that only civil disobedience or exile (most of the Venezuelan upper class have already abandoned the country) can save the Venezuelans. If you think that there is another possibility available, you just can’t accept that Venezuela is a brutal dictatorship similar to Cuba’s. Wake up!

      • You will have 5 more years of 55% inflation, no civil liberties, shortages and plenty more… Provided the guarimbas keep on goning! You wanna bet?

  1. It would be a worse situation if the remarks hadn’t been truly horrific (though to be fair, they were kinda confused). Still, now this situation only benefits chavistas, who will make this issue a flagship against the integrity of the newspaper. Doesn’t make the woman any better, though.

  2. This is one of the most shocking statements made to date by this woman, and that is saying a lot. In any other country, she would be forced to resign. This is basically her admitting in public that she does not know what her job is (or, more cynically, that she knows EXACTLY what her job is).

  3. Am not actually sure that her definition of torture is a scandal at all. She was simply making a point of distinguishing torture, on the one hand, from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, on the other.
    In so doing she simplified the definition of torture as pain inflicted to obtain a confession. This is admittedly a narrow description of this crime, since the full definition of torture includes that it must be inflicted with the intention to obtain, inter alia, information from the victim or a third person (see article 1 of the Torture Convention). It is this particular purpose, as part of the mens rea of the perpetrators (who must be State officials), that turns the infliction of physical or psychological pain into the crime of torture. It doesn’t matter in what context this happens: it can happen in a courtroom, in Guantanamo, or in hidden places in complacent third States (a mechanism used by some States to, ahem, outsource torture so as to not be responsible for it).

    Absent that mens rea (namely the intention to obtain information), what we have is a different crime: the crime of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (see article 16 of the Torture Convention). And this is the point she was making.

    The problem here is a different one, a linguistic one: the lay use of the term ‘torture’, as opposed to the technical use. It’s the same with Capriles’s statement about genocide last week. Whatever the Government are doing, and as grave as it may be (it certainly is grave, and constitutes human rights violations for which the State may be responsible, and perhaps some international crimes for which individual state officials may be responsible), it falls short of the technical definition of genocide, as per art 1 of the Genocide Convention. But then, I am told the real academia espanola provides a wider definition of genocide than the Genocide Convention (haven’t checked). It’s fine if we are using the terms for their rhetorical power, but if using them in legal context–then we must be very clear about their meanings and follow the technical language.

    The troublesome aspect for me is that rather than allowing the Torture Commission to decide, on the facts of each of the 44 cases, if torture was committed it is the Defensoria that preliminarily decides which cases appear to be torture and only submit those to the Torture Commission. How is the decision made in the absence of all the evidence, will they allow the presentation of evidence at this preliminary stage? How much evidence: proof beyond reasonable doubt, balance of probabilities? What procedure will be followed? Can the victims take part in this decision-making process? Who decides: is it the Defensora herself? Or is it a Juez de Control? This apparent absence of minimum due process guarantees is much more worrying than her simplification of the definition of torture…

    • I don’t understand how your definition is any less narrow that that given by the Defensora. The mens rea does not necessarily go to the intent to obtain information.

      • You are right. I should have emphasized that obtaining information is one of the purposes of torture, as per article 1 of the Torture Convention. Here is the full definition:

        ‘For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.’

        Of course there must be a mens rea of intentionally inflicting the pain or suffering, but it must be performed with a specific purpose: one of the purposes specified in the Convention. It is a special intent crime. It is that special intent which distinguishes it from ill-treatment, which may include the same types of suffering but not inflicted for any of those purposes. Just like homicide is defined as intentional killing, and genocide is defined as intentional killing that is performed with the (additional and special) intention to destroy a protected group in whole or in part.

        Admittedly the Defensora simplified the question significantly. But she was not necessarily wrong: this was a brief statement on TV, after all. However, whether those 44 cases concern torture or not is a decision that should not be made preliminarily and in summary form by the Defensoria.

        I can’t find information as to the domestic criminalization of torture and ill-treatment in Venezuela. There is a Proyecto de Ley which I found on the website of the Asamblea Nacional, which contains essentially the same definitions as those of the Convention against Torture. Indeed, Venezuela ratified the Convention in 1991 and is under an obligation to criminalize torture and ill-treatment as they are defined in the Convention (which, if there is no law still, it has been in breach of for the past two decades).

        • Read CRBV

          Artículo 46. Toda persona tiene derecho a que se respete su integridad física, psíquica y moral, en consecuencia:

          1. Ninguna persona puede ser sometida a penas, torturas o tratos crueles, inhumanos o degradantes. Toda víctima de tortura o trato cruel, inhumano o degradante practicado o tolerado por parte de agentes del Estado, tiene derecho a la rehabilitación.

          …together with…

          Artículo 23. Los tratados, pactos y convenciones relativos a derechos humanos, suscritos y ratificados por Venezuela, tienen jerarquía constitucional y prevalecen en el orden interno, en la medida en que contengan normas sobre su goce y ejercicio más favorables a las establecidas por esta Constitución y la ley de la República, y son de aplicación inmediata y directa por los tribunales y demás órganos del Poder Público.

    • Sorry, did you read Article 1 of the Convention on Torture?

      1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person,

    • Federica, the intent behind torture does not have to be to obtain information only. It can also be to coerce or intimidate. This is a very important distinction. I agree 100 percent that people in venezuela use the term Genocide way too liberally. But I disagree with you that the Defensoras definition of turture is reflective of what torture is defined as under international law.

    • You can’t divorce her statement from where she was going with it – that because whatever happened to the students DID NOT happen in order to obtain a confession, then it didn’t qualify as torture. This is shocking, to say the least.

      Also, there was another aspect of the press conference that was outrageous – she blames most human rights violations on the protesters.

      • she blames most human rights violations on the protesters…

        Not only that, but she does that in the context of announcing the launch of an investigation – because, y’know, nothing says ‘credible’ like an investigations whose conclusions are announced at the same time as its launch…

      • Totally agree Juan, she has to step down. Someone that feels that influcting pain when it is not required a confession is not torture should not be an ombusdman.

        Besides, the woman was not to be seen for weeks, while all types of human rights were violated.

        As for the “la tortura tiene un sentido..” I agree with Quico. She was just explaining what was her understanding of torture.

    • Mens rea in the international law of torture is not “the intention to obtain information”. It is the intention to inflict severe pain or suffering on a human being.

  4. She actually did “justify torture” by “rigorously” lying about the binding definition set out in various international instruments. Under inclusive definitions allow torture to flourish.

  5. Gabriela Ramírez is the worst of the chavista bunch. She is poker-face and cynical, like the others, but she is supposed to be the people’s ombudsman, so her cynism is exponentially increased. She is one of those that was elected by the AN while the opposition decided to abandon the National Assembly. We are paying very dearly that mistake, Gabriela Ramírez is the example.

  6. Guilty. I shared the link to the Nacional piece on my Facebook. I didn’t see the video beforehand, though. I made a half-assed attempt to look for it but quickly gave up. I immediately took it down after seeing someone else post the full video a few hours later. Now I’m just exasperated at El Nacional for actually providing proof to the Chavista viewpoint that opposition media is deceitful.
    It’s very true that torture is not limited to extracting information, so it’s more accurate to say that Ramirez, rather than justifying torture, was trying to dismiss the denouncements of torture cases against GNB/PNB by implying that the displays of police brutality here did not comply with the “confession extraction” part, and therefore don’t count. Which, as Toro says, is just as inflammatory.
    Either way, el Nacional completely dropped the ball on this one.

    • I would like to defend El Nacional here. I think ANY newspaper in the first world, faced with these kinds of quotes, would have run the story and created a scandal. Politicians the world over get screwed because they say something stupid and then allege it was all “taken out of context.”

      I actually think SHE should retract from her horrible statement, and she should apologize to the families of victims of torture.

      • Of course she should. The problem is that many like myself spent the day outraged thinking she said despicable quote #1 when they should have been outraged that she said despicable quote #2. El Nacional doesn’t become a non-credible tabloid because of this, but let’s call it a spade: Ramirez threw them a good bone to work with and they decided they’d rather have meat. That being said, let’s move on. El Universal for instance took responsibility for its mistake, something the State media has never been able to do, so I won’t lose sleep over this. It’s just important that our media remain credible, especially since it’s going down.

  7. Torture is torture is torture , If you ONLY used the strictly legal definition of many terms commonly used in normal every day speech and by the press then it would be mandatory for journalist to previously take a lawyers degree to always use the formally correct legal terminology . For instance if your car gets stolen in ordinary spanish you would say ‘ me ROBARON el carro , and yet technically speaking if no violence was involved you woud have to say me HURTARON el carro , ‘hurto’ being the term used in law to refer to non violent theft , The Defensoras point is absurdly petty and pretentious .

    In ordinary every day language in spanish or any other language torture is the deliberate infliction of bodily or mental pain to a person by people using their superior force where the victim is helpless and unarmed , thats the term that we all recognize . To pretend that ‘technically such conduct is not torture is just arrogantly stupid .

    Its silly pretentious for an official giving information to the press to pretend to give them an absolutely redundant lawerly explanation that no torture was involved but rather excess coercion because the pain was inflicted but not to make the victim confess, but only to gratify the victimizers sadist instincts .

    If thats the case the infliction of pain for the sheer sadist sattisfaction of inflicting it on a helpless person and not to get information from him is WORSE than the technical definition of torture .

    Too bad about El Nacional reporter misreporting the meaning of what the Defensora said , but compared to what was being reported so casually , the torture of innocent people , its just a foolish excess, something that hurts the credibility of a newspaper but doesnt leave any human blood behind . At least to people who are not journalists

    If Francisco were a lawyer and saw all the legal monstruosities being commited by the regime and its minions he would have shot himself a long time ago.!! Real glad he isnt a lawyer !!

  8. I really have to quote @LuisCarlos ‘s tweet on this: “Si en vez de decir “la tortura tiene un sentido”, la Defensora hubiese dicho “la tortura tiene una definición”. Eso era todo.”

    IMHO, la embarraron todos.

  9. You all can rest easy, El Nacional will be history in a few weeks, thanks in part to Ms. Ramirez’s sure-to-be-lethal wrath.

  10. I agree 100% with your article. Article 1 of the Convention is crystal clear. Federica is as wrong and so is the Defensora del Pueblo (?). She should be canned just for that nonsense.

    On the other hand, your headline was a poor choice. Yes, El Nacional did a terrible thing, especially because they are pretending as the whole thing never happened. However, that’s not the most important thing. El Nacional’s f— up is just a sidenote, not the headline…

    Those are my two cents…

    • Why is it the headline? Because El Nacional’s fuck-up has jujitsued the fact that the Top Human Rights Protection Officer in Venezuela doesn’t know what “torture” means from being a problem for the government to now, incongruously, being a problem for the opposition!!!

      • It’s a problem for El Nacional, not for the opposition. It’s obvious that the SIBCI will spin this story and blame El Nacional while dismissing the actual problem, but that was going to happen anyway. As a matter of fact, they would have focused on how there’s no evidence whatsoever of torture and whatnot, just like Mrs. Ramírez did. What about torture? Well, what’s the sound of a sifrinito screaming while tortured in the jail if there’s no Defensora to listen?

        As a matter of fact, what did happen with Hector Rodríguez’s infamous comment? Nothing! He just blamed it on the press and moved on. The video is out there but even then, chavistas will just dismiss it because they are in denial.

        Same thing is going to happen here. Yes, chavista spinnsters this time are partially right, but the comment is still there, and there’s also a video here. Will it really matter? No. What will matter in SIBCI is not what torture is, but that most of the people have been killed by guarimberos (Ramírez dixit).

        Polarization will do the trick: chavistas will remain chavistas, Ramírez will remain Defensora and El Nacional will be demanded for a gazillion dollars.

  11. On the other hand, it’s fucking 2014! People should not buy anything unless it is on video!

    Haven’t you heard the adage: “pics or it didn’t happen”. Well, you can update that now and say: “vids or it didn’t happen!”. And that is even more important is the thing comes from a press conference or something more or less official…

    I did not mention anything about last year’s Giordani confessions about CADIVI’s +$20 billion scam, or the infamous Héctor Rodriguez phrase a few days ago until I watches an unedited video. That’s how things should be done nowadays…

    • Yeah, I’d do that if it came from another source; but we are talking about one of the highest profile newspapers in the country, surely you can expect it to be other than a blatant lie. Of course, I’m never going to trust again.

  12. “We deserve, so, so much better from El Nacional.”

    I guess y’all are just flogging a dead horse. I think it will be a miracle if either El Universal or Schumacher survive 2014. Both are more dead than alive.

  13. Let me get this straight: does her statement imply that her role is to help distinguish between torture and other forms of abuse to ensure that any guilty party does not get punished for even a little more than they deserve?

    • I guess that’s what she thought she was saying. She tried to make a nicely anodyne, institutional sounding statement that painted her as fair-minded and just applying the law. She mangled it comprehensively, cuz she clearly isn’t very familiar with the international human rights law, and doesn’t seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer either. But then again, we just got through having a Chairman of BCV who can’t read a pie chart, so…

      • Yes, but what I mean, what I find scandalous is that I thought her role was more about justice for supposed victims of abuse at least on par with defense of suspects of abuse, but she makes it seem like she’s *only* there to prevent the abusers from mistakenly being punished as torturers.

        Consider the analogy of several rapes by various police officers, and this lady making a statement to the effect that what is important is to be rigorous in specifying if a condom had been used in determining the sentencing of said officers. Really?!

  14. There is the beginning of a civil war out there and some are discussing the sex of angels. Does not matter the intention of Gabriela Ramirez over what she said, all that matters is the damage to her reputation, far and wide. She has proven time and time again she is just Chavista trash not the ombudsman of all Venezuelans. El Nacional should be congratulated.

  15. Thank you for clearing this up. As a foreigner with little Spanish skills I had gotten the wrong idea from reading articles with the wrong quote as well. It often seems like the opposition is standing in its own way…

  16. Francisco, It is very welcomed to see you stand up for press responsibility. If an opposition press, above all else, cannot be trusted to HONESTLY report and critique officialismo, then what sort of an ‘opposition’ press is it?

    Frankly, the standards at El Nacional are pretty loose — even dishoest, as you clearly show– which is all consistent with the politics of many of their leadership — a type of derichismo that Veneuela needs to leave far behind if it is to be a modern, democratic state with sustainable social justice and equality.

    Well, that’s just my impression from reading the paper frequently and meeting some of its leadership, past and present. I don’t mean to tar all the journalists and management with one brush, of course. But, the honest journalists and managers deserve batter than this taudry incident.

    The editorial leadership sabotaged the honest opposition press by verifying chavismo’s claims against the independent press! People should demand El Nacional retract and apologize transparently, as per Universal.

  17. Another commenter posted this excellent analysis in spanish from Joaquin Villalobos former guerrilla fighter in El Salvador turned to non violence after:
    http://runrun.es/impacto/106261/como-enfrentarse-al-chavismo-por-joaquin-villalobos.html

    Villalobos hit the nail in the head when he said:
    “Si López persiste en su estrategia de revuelta popular para que “Maduro se vaya ya”, las protestas tenderán a ser cada vez menos masivas, menos pacíficas, más violentas y más impopulares. Los grupos de choque de López se enfrentarán a los grupos de choque de Maduro por el control de la calle, hasta volverse una situación cotidiana desgastante que producirá muertos por goteo de lado y lado, tal como ya está empezando a ocurrir.”

    “If Lopez continues his strategy of “Maduro go now” popular revolt, protests will tend to be less and less massive, less peaceful, more violent and more unpopular. Lopez’s shock groups will face the Maduro’s for control of the street, until it becomes a daily wear down situation producing a drip of deaths on both sides, as is already beginning to happen.”

    I disagree with his assessment that elections are the way out. I believe that protests and non cooperation are the way out but not an all out all-or-nothing terminal confrontation with continuous protests. Instead a growing swell of discontent channeled with periodic protests and different non violent tactics can erode the government’s power structure and produce real gains of power for the opposition.

    • Antoher tidbit:

      “Las protestas pueden servir para acumular fuerzas, denunciar y debilitar al chavismo, pero no podrán por sí solas derrocar al Gobierno de Maduro.”

      “Protests may serve to accumulate forces, denounce and weaken Chavismo, but alone can not topple the government of Maduro.”

      • “Leo, esta mañana, un artículo de Joaquín Villalobos en EL PAÍS (Cómo enfrentarse al chavismo), desaconsejando a la oposición venezolana la acción directa que ha emprendido y recomendándole que espere, más bien, que crezcan sus fuerzas para poder ganar las próximas elecciones. Sorprende la ingenuidad del exguerrillero convertido (en buena hora) a la cultura democrática. ¿Quién garantiza que habrá futuras elecciones dignas de ese nombre en Venezuela? ¿Lo fueron las últimas, en las condiciones de desventaja absoluta para la oposición en que se dieron, con un poder electoral sometido al régimen, una prensa sofocada y un control obsceno de los recuentos por los testaferros del Gobierno? Desde luego que la oposición pacífica es lo ideal, en democracia. Pero Venezuela ya no es un país democrático, está mucho más cerca de una dictadura como la cubana que de lo que son, hoy en día, países como México, Chile o Perú. La gran movilización popular que hoy día vive Venezuela es, precisamente, para que, en el futuro, haya todavía elecciones de verdad en ese país y no sean esas rituales operaciones circenses como eran las de la Unión Soviética o son todavía las de Cuba, donde los electores votan por candidatos únicos, que ganan, oh sorpresa, siempre, por el 99% de los votos.”
        Mario Vargas Llosa, “La libertad en las calles”, El País.
        http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/03/06/opinion/1394116119_987776.html

  18. Am I the one who is out of touch with Venezuela’s reality? When I read posts like that one from Emiliana saying that she is against the guarimbas or Quico writing a whole article with hundreds of words about a completely irrelevant non-issue just to complain about an agonizing newspaper (look at the headline akin to a British sensationalist tabloid!) that will be closed by the Chavistas very soon or Capriles recent remarks or your incredible naive leftist posts on Devil’s excrement I understand exactly why Venezuela is in such situation right now. You are so out of touch with reality about an organization called Foro de Sao Paulo that you think that you can remove the Venezuelan dictatorship from power with VOTES!!! It’s so absurd that I can’t even believe that you are being serious! But yes, good luck with CNE in 2019! Actually, I will even bookmark this page on my browser because it is perfect to understand WHY and HOW Venezuela entered this absurd downward spiral. Start with Quico being very very OUTRAGED with a non-relevant issue, then read Emiliana’s ironic post just below the article against the students that are blocking the roads, notice that later she even uses the Chavista vocabulary and calls the newspaper REACTIONARY! Ha! Finally, you said that I’m not “creative” since I think that only civil disobedience or exile (most of the Venezuelan upper class have already abandoned the country) can save the Venezuelans. If you think that there is another possibility available, you just can’t accept that Venezuela is a brutal dictatorship similar to Cuba’s. Wake up!

    • Guarimbas are counterproductive for the opposition cause. They are and all-or-nothing tactic with very high possibility of failure because they cannot be sustained for long. People get tired. Maduro can wait them out while stoking them on purpose to extract every ounce of opposition energy leaving behind only disappointment and frustration.

        • Protests, civil disobedience, non violent tactics are all part of a long game. Sorry, there are no shortcuts nor guarantees of success. I know that is not what you want to hear.

          Phase I: grow the base of support with
          Demonstrations: protests, rallies, both targeted and massive.
          Communication: Leaflets, graffitis, creative media
          Phase II: disrupt the government: strikes, flash mobs, operacion morrocoy, etc. boicots (targeted)

          The strategy is to reach the population in their discontent and maintain the focus of that discontent on the responsibility of the government for the deterioration of their standard of life. The objective is to grow in support, both passive (sympathizers) and active (participation).

          Massive rallies and protests and other demonstrations are tools to channel discontent and make a show of force. They are good publicity. Targeted strikes show solidarity with the plight of workers of specific guilds and professions and aim to gain their support.

          The real target of the demonstrations is the population, not the government and not the international community. The government will always ignore the protests and/or try to use them against the opposition by turning them violent with infiltrators plus repression. Also the protests cannot constantly disrupt the lives of people because that is precisely the cause that really matters to them, their lives and their livelihood. That is why the issues need to be social, not political in nature. Not about Chavez or fascism or communism or dictatorship but about: crime, unemployment, inflation, scarcity, respect for the individual, education.

          • I agree with you with most but for strikes.
            In such a pathetically país rentista as Venezuela, strikes haven’t had much effect but in some isolated areas like the dilapidated metal industry, which hardly a shop stopper these days in Venezuela.

          • Consider also teachers strikes, doctor strikes (never 100% but symbolic), lawyer strikes, taxi drivers, transport…

          • The important distinction is that this effort needs to be sustained in time, in the medium to long term, but not continuous, 24 hours in the street. That will tire people and reduce the novelty effect ultimately detracting from the message.

    • Marc,
      I am right now 8125 kilometres away from Venezuela, but it seems you are and were 10 light years away from it.
      I happen to have dozens and dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles who live in mostly Chavista territory. I also have some who live in middle and upper middle class areas. The vast majority of them are and were opposition. But they don’t have as primary source of information for Venezuela El Nacional
      or Rafael Poleo. They have life. And they go out the whole bloody day and talk to people who comprise the vast majority of the population, not the 1% upper and not the 5% middle who might support the guarimberos

      Mind: less than 1% of Venezuela’s population is “upper class”, at least for world standards. Less than 15% are anything comprising “middle class” (including a lot those who currently have a university title but who cannot afford even to rent a 45 m2 flat in Caracas or Caracas with the salary they get). Do the maths.

      There are lots of people who are in poor areas and who want things to change but they tend not to go out because they – NOT YOU OR ME – will very likely be shot at.

      The situation is incredibly difficult but what people should do, if they can, is to support on a really active way the anti-propaganda campaigns, which does not mean parading in Chacao but actually going to La Hoyada, going to bus terminals in Charallave, in Los Teques, in Southern Valencia, in Guacara, in Maturín and distributing flyers with well-supported information about different topics that MATTER to everyone, not to your frequent Miami flyer. What kind of information? Proposals. Very detailed accounts of why the economy is really as it is. References to other Latin American countries. And a lot of details about corruption affairs from the Boligarchs.

      They should do that and support the establishment of information networks and try to act faster than the cops.. You don’t do that with guarimbas.

      You don’t annoy people who do are not the cause of the problems
      I repeat:
      You don’t ANNOY PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT THE CAUSE OF THE PROBLEMS.

      That’s what you do. And you wait because what you would be doing is to prepare society for when
      the economic situation becomes more dramatic..and it will, this very year.

      You can obviously go on ranting about how out of touch with society all the rest are.
      I wonder when was the last time you talk to people who make up the vast majority of the population of Venezuela

      • Kepler liked very much most of your comment but not so much the harsh tone with which you attack Francisco’s position which after all is honest and conscientious albeit a bit off kilter.

        Same as you I sometimes get fired up when writing my comments and may allow myself to exceed the boundaries of customary civility., Still we owe our fellow participants in this blog some respectful consideration even while disagreeing sometimes with what they say!!

        On another point Ive now read the legal text which defines torture in Venezuelan law and the Defensora was totally off mark in wht she said !! She really deserved a trouncing for being so disingenious and ignorant in defining torture as she did.!! That should have been the first order of business in treating the topic . Somehow it got lost on the way to getting commented . !! .

        • Sorry must correct above comment , reference to francisco was really to Marc. Apparently Francisco is still a strong presence in our minds.!!

      • Kepler and Amieres, I agree with most of what you have written in your last posts, but I don’t understand the part about not “not annoying or disrupting the average citizen’s life”. I guess you both would have impersonated the annoying “responsible older brother” persona when Ceausescu was being deposed in 1989 if you were there. I can also imagine you two screaming for the Western Germans to return to their normal lives when thy were ripping apart the Berlin Wall. “Go back to your normal lives, YOU DON’T DISRUPT OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES!”, wouldn’t you have told them? The problem is that you think that the Chavistas are just like the Democrats in the US or the Socialist Party in Chile. But in fact they are more like Mussolini’s Partito Nazionale Fascista or Kim Jong Un’s Juche Party.

        Anyway, I see that the guarimbas are indeed dying, many here must be happy, Maduro and PSUV too. “Civil disobedience will work in the long term”, some might say. Right! But the window of opportunity is closing, since the Chavistas will complete two decades in power, in Cuba it’s already completely shut, in Venezuela it will be soon. Capriles, LL and MCM should not even bother anymore. If these recent protests indeed end, there simply won’t be a second chance. I insist: you will miss the guarimberos.

        • No, I don’t think Chavismo’s top echelons are like social democrats or US democrats. I have never said so. I do consider them to be mostly thugs, criminals: Cabello, Bernal, Maduro, the Chávez clan, Ramírez, Rodríguez and so many others, thousands of them. But the actions used for the guarimbas did not have the critical mass and never had at this time and moment. We actually have been missing an opportunity to foster discontent by providing real information to the rest.

          The problem as I see is that even most of the opposition do not see that the necessary measures needed now and for the last decades will also have to be paid by them.

          Look at page 34 here:
          http://www.scribd.com/doc/210075786/Encuesta-Venebarometro-Febrero-2014
          If most people don’t see a lot has to go away, we haven’t done our homework.

          We must focus our efforts on uniting as many people among the poor against Chavismo – peacefully.

          Besides: there is indeed the fact we need to wait for an election or referendum to take place.
          Pinochet could be beaten like that. We need to think for the first time long term. The more we think long term, the faster we will get there.

        • Marc, in politics, like in war and chess the issue is when to go and mount “the final offensive”. Do it too early and it can result in a disastrous defeat. You will lose all the progress and momentum you had built up to that moment. Back to square zero. A bit of fervor and a miscalculation on the relative strengths of both sides, and not understanding what protests can and cannot achieve (they simply cannot topple a government that is not internally fractured) made us jump into this situation where there is no good way out. You simply do not risk it all and gamble all the political capital in one all-or-nothing bet.

          Nevertheless, in politics different than in war defeats are not counted in lost lives but in diminished support and in tarnished images. Demoralized and disappointed as the opposition may emerge from this moment the struggle must continue. Hopefully there will be lessons learned: do not put all your eggs in one basket, and violence and guarimbas do not help the opposition.

          The discontent on the population will still be there and the standard of life will still be an issue, the government will continue to be a bad one. It will be the job of the MUD to reignite the protests and raise the spirits of the frustrated and regain the support of the people in general.

          About not disrupting the lives of people it is very simple: the objective of the protests is to call attention of the people (not the government) to gain their support. You are not going to gain their support by angering them. Of course every demonstration is a little disruptive, and that is ok a little disruption is even welcomed, but things go back to normal the next day so people can go about their lives as they need to do.

    • Marc, 1)I never said anything against students, I fully support everyone’s right to protest (read my pieces on Táchira), 2) I never said this government will leave through votes, in fact, I know it won´t. 3) How is reactionary a chavista word? and 4) I was merely cautioning against getting carried away (which happens VERY easily here in Vz.) in the frenzy of radicalism and zealotry to the point where your judgment is blinded, your credibility destroyed, and your tolerance for other points of view is nonexistent.

  19. Veamos Quico qué dijo la señora y cómo lo dijo. Primero, usó las siguientes palabras: “la tortura tiene un sentido”. Igualmente dijo: “y tenemos que diferenciarlo de lo que es maltrato excesivo”. En principio, ella está dando una explicación para diferenciar los posibles delitos (tortura ó maltrato), y supuestamente aclarar el tipo de pena asociada con cada uno de ellos. Sin embargo, la falta de contundencia de Ramírez al condenar la tortura, y las piruetas retóricas para diferenciar las cosas, demuestra que su discurso es un discurso “prudente” (por no decir alcahueta) que busca acomodarse a los intereses del régimen. Si hablamos de contexto, y tomamos el contexto general de las actuaciones de esta señora como Defensora del Pueblo, podemos concluir que lo que dijo en estas declaraciones concuerda con su falta de voluntad para defender los derechos del pueblo, y con su orientación clara como defensora del régimen criminal. Además, al decir que la “tortura tiene sentido” (sic) introduce en su discurso un término ambiguo que semánticamente se mueve entre la legitimación de la misma y su definición. Por otro lado, el titular de El Nacional ayer en la web no refleja la verdad de sus declaraciones, pero ese es otro problema.

    • Prudente is giving it way too much credit. Es un discurso “errado” en cualquier contexto en que se este discutiendo la tortura como una violacion de derechos humanos.

    • Thanks for that.

      The best part that MANY HERE should read and re-read SEVERAL TIMES!

      “Es contra esta trágica decadencia y la amenaza de un endurecimiento todavía peor del régimen —una segunda Cuba— que se han levantado los estudiantes venezolanos, arrastrando con ellos a sectores muy diversos de la sociedad. Su lucha es para impedir que la noche totalitaria caiga del todo sobre la tierra de Simón Bolívar y ya no haya vuelta atrás. Leo, esta mañana, un artículo de Joaquín Villalobos en EL PAÍS (Cómo enfrentarse al chavismo), desaconsejando a la oposición venezolana la acción directa que ha emprendido y recomendándole que espere, más bien, que crezcan sus fuerzas para poder ganar las próximas elecciones. Sorprende la ingenuidad del exguerrillero convertido (en buena hora) a la cultura democrática. ¿Quién garantiza que habrá futuras elecciones dignas de ese nombre en Venezuela? ¿Lo fueron las últimas, en las condiciones de desventaja absoluta para la oposición en que se dieron, con un poder electoral sometido al régimen, una prensa sofocada y un control obsceno de los recuentos por los testaferros del Gobierno? Desde luego que la oposición pacífica es lo ideal, en democracia. Pero Venezuela ya no es un país democrático, está mucho más cerca de una dictadura como la cubana que de lo que son, hoy en día, países como México, Chile o Perú. La gran movilización popular que hoy día vive Venezuela es, precisamente, para que, en el futuro, haya todavía elecciones de verdad en ese país y no sean esas rituales operaciones circenses como eran las de la Unión Soviética o son todavía las de Cuba, donde los electores votan por candidatos únicos, que ganan, oh sorpresa, siempre, por el 99% de los votos.

      Lo que es triste, aunque no sorprendente, es la soledad en que los valientes venezolanos que ocupan las “Trincheras de la Libertad” están luchando por salvar a su país, y a toda América Latina, de una nueva satrapía comunista, sin recibir el apoyo que merecen de los países democráticos o de esa inútil y apolillada OEA (Organización de Estados Americanos), en cuya carta principista, vaya vergüenza, figura velar por la legalidad y la libertad de los países que la integran. Naturalmente, qué otra cosa se puede esperar de Gobiernos cuyos presidentes comparecieron, prácticamente todos, en La Habana, a celebrar la Cumbre de la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (CELAC) y a rendir un homenaje a Fidel Castro, momia viviente y símbolo animado de la dictadura más longeva de la historia de América Latina.

      Sin embargo, este lamentable espectáculo no debe desmoralizarnos a quienes creemos que, pese a tantos indicios en contrario, la cultura de la libertad ha echado raíces en el continente latinoamericano y no volverá a ser erradicada en el futuro inmediato, como tantas veces en el pasado. Los pueblos en nuestros países suelen ser mejores que sus Gobiernos. Ahí están para demostrarlo los venezolanos, como los ucranios ayer, jugándose la vida en nombre de todos nosotros, para impedir que en la tierra de la que salieron los libertadores de América del Sur desaparezcan los últimos resquicios de libertad que todavía quedan. Tarde o temprano, triunfarán.”

      • Vargas Llosa is a wonderful writer!
        I agree with him (and disagree with Villalobos) that elections are not “the solution”. We always need to remember this basic principle:
        – We cannot defeat a dictatorship with an election, we need to defeat a dictatorship to have an election.

        I disagree profoundly with this:

        “Desde luego que la oposición pacífica es lo ideal, en democracia. Pero Venezuela ya no es un país democrático”

        The implication being that if it is a dictatorship then the only option is violence. Villalobos knows all about violence, much more than Vargas Llosa can ever know (and he calls him naive!). He was after all a guerrilla commander in El Salvador for many years until he realized that violence was not a solution.

        Violence is a foolish proposition for the opposition. The solution is what Villalobos recommends grow in strength, in political strength, in support. That is a prerequisite in any campaign be it military or political.

        • “The implication being that if it is a dictatorship then the only option is violence.”

          What?
          No, violence is not an the only option and Llosa did not say that it is.

          • I’m glad you mentioned Gene Sharp my understanding of non violent struggle come from his publications.
            He advocates non violent struggle which is the same as peaceful opposition. He warns greatly about violence as a contaminant of the struggle.
            He also warns about using “terminal” strategies when the situation is not yet ready for it. That is what a guarimba is.

  20. “La tortura tiene un sentido” is a Freudian slip if there ever was one. As fascista, golpista and disociado are psychological projections. See, I am becoming a shrink!

  21. A lot of interesting comments here. I was one of the ones who tweeted that story yesterday as told by El Nacional, I didn’t use the suggested hashtag.But if you live in Venezuela that probably was the response of many angry people. My feeling was that she wanted to play some sort of high level academician using a word game. Why was she doing that? even if the newspaper misquoted her, why was she playing that way? In an era of social media we did see the attacks, the slashes, insults and abuses of the GNB and people already have an opinion about it. Nevertheless, our Defensora has been quite slow to react, lacked proactivity and typically has come out to defend the government acts above justice and human rights. Human Right activist on the governmental side, to the best of my knowledge, have remained silent. Many of us were just waiting an opportunity to react. In spite of the newspaper’s flaws, the incident shows once again this tendency of our main human right defender to play with words instead of acting. My hope is that it leads to a proper discussion of the abuses we have witnessed and which are documented. If we wanted the renewal of the democratic powers, perhaps here is a sign of where we should be starting, because this game of definitions, words, rhetoric academicism has been used already and will continue to be used while injustice goes rampant.

  22. Good article and perspective. Yes, we need to hold newspapers accountable to minimum levels of journalism standards. And that holds true for both opposition and government press. This “El Nacional’s” lack of professionalism puts a great question mark on everything that comes from El Nacional pages in the future. At the same time, this article from Toro shows that the Caracas Chronicle forum aims to be serious and objective. And god knows we need objectivity now.

  23. Oh come on ! That was actually a nice explosive devise left ticking by El Nacional in Gabriela’s lap. It too her sometime to figure out this one couldn’t be defused.

    She obviously did not defend that the government should be able to torture citizens. But she attempted to do something much worse, which was an attempt to get a license for the government to torture it’s citizens and get only a mistreatment rap.

    What the Nacional did was to get her out explaining what she actually meant which was in fact perhaps much worse, because knowing that it is illegal and punishable in international justice, she tried to get cover for the regimen to be able to commit the crime with impunity.

    Tell me you don’t agree, once she said the words, she could only dig deeper by trying to clarify what she meant. Which she proceeded to do quite effectively.

    I thought it was a devious maneuver. Perhaps not on purpose, but still glad they did it.

  24. She is responsible for failing to clearly articulate her ideas. El Nacional is right in emphasizing one possible, and very dangerous, interpretation of her words. I don’t see anything questionable here; on the contrary, I believe they are doing their job…

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