BBC had the chance to interview Luisa Ortega Díaz, Venezuela’s prosecutor general, a privilege few –if any- independent media get these days. Had we had the chance, there were many other questions we would have liked to ask. But the few things she said left us in awe, and itching for a fact check.
These are a few of the things that Ortega Díaz claimed … that don’t pass the smell test:
1. Ortega Díaz: “no hay ninguna cacería de brujas ni contra el alcalde de San Cristóbal ni contra nadie. No es un problema de cacería de brujas, es un problema de justicia de acuerdo a la Constitución y a la ley”. (Transl: There is no witch hunt against the mayor of San Cristóbal or against anyone else. It’s not a problem of hunting witches, it is a matter of justice according to the Constitution and the laws.)
On February 24, 2014, Maduro claimed that 27 municipalities were affected by violent protests in the form of barricades, the so-called guarimbas.
By April 1, Rafael Ramírez said that only 18 municipalities were affected during the last 48 days of protests, and a mere 2 or 3 remained mired in protests.
On the interview with BBC, Ortega Díaz said that the violence had been “downsized to just two municipalities in the country”.
However, 23 of 76 opposition mayors have open court cases on issues related to the protests. These mayors took office for new terms a mere three months ago.
Two opposition mayors are behind bars: Daniel Ceballos and Enzo Scarano both sentenced in record time for –allegedly- defying an order from the Supreme Tribunal requiring them to dissolve the guarimbas. Ramón Muchacho, the mayor of Chacao, has not been charged but has received multiple threats from Nicolás Maduro himself.
There is also a noticeable double-standard. After the murder of Adriana Urquiola in Los Nuevos Teques, Municipio Guaicaipuro in Miranda state on March 24th, Maduro blamed the incident on Capriles and Polimiranda for not been able to control de guarimbas. But, what about the mayor of Guaicaipuro, Francisco Garcés, who happens to be a member of Psuv and former member of Chávez’s cabinet? It seems as though when the protests happen in an opposition municipality, they blame the mayor, but when it happens in a government municipality, they blame the opposition state governor.
2. The BBC asks about the President’s controversial call asking colectivos (government paramilitaries) to “put out any little fire that appears.”Has the President himself not incited violence?
Ortega Díaz said: “no es llamar a hacer tal o cual cosa, sino llamar a salir a la calle. Es estar en la calle ejerciendo violencia, trancando las vías, incendiando barricadas, con objetos contundentes, armas y objetos incendiarios.” (Transl: inciting violence is not about calling people to the streets to do this or that, but calling people to be on the street exercising violence, shutting down streets, setting barricades on fire with rocks, firearms, or Molotov cocktails.”)
To be precise, this is what Maduro said on March 5th: “tan obstinados de estas bandas de guarimberos fascistas y violentos. Hoy también la población de otros sectores del país ya han salido a las calles. Yo le hice un llamado a las UBCH, a los Consejos Comunales, a las Comunas, a los Colectivos. Candelita que se prenda, candelita que se apaga”. (Transl: People are tired of these violent, fascist barricade protesters. Today the people from other parts of the country have hit the streets to protests against these people. I have called on the UBCH, Communal Councils, the Communes, the Colectivos: whatever little fire is lit, you must put it out.”
After that, many violent groups started attacking protesters. To name a few:
Week of March 10th – 8 Universities were attacked.
March 13th – San Jacinto, Maracay, Aragua state.
March 19th – Rubio, Táchira state.
March 19th – UCV campus, Caracas.
March 23rd – Av. Cardenal Quintero, Mérida, Mérida state.
March 27th – Palaima, Maracaibo, Zulia state.
March 28th – Urb. San Isidro, Maracay, Aragua state.
April 3rd – UCV campus, Caracas.
April 6th – Catia, Caracas.
Its obvious that the colectivos, a common presence in all these protests, are attacking civilians and protesters and putting out candelitas, the little fires the President told them to be wary of.
3. When the BBC asks if human rights violations are not a state policy, Ortega Díaz responded with a very simple: “Así es, es correcto…”. (Transl: Yes, that’s correct.)
March 27th: Foro Penal Venezolano presented evidence of 59 cases of torture to Unasur.
April 1st: Amnesty International reported dozens of accounts of torture allegedly carried out by government security forces in Venezuela.
Later on she adds: “no es política del Estado venezolano la violación a los DD.HH., pero siempre ocurre que hay individualidades en los cuerpos policiales que pueden cometer estos excesos. Pero ahí está la garantía del Estado y sobre todo del Ministerio Público de investigar esa violación y que se sancionen a los responsables”. (Transl: Human rights violations are not a state policy, but there are always individuals within the police force that can commit excesses. That is where the State and the office I preside guarantee that the violation will be investigated and prosecuted, and that those responsible will be held accountable.)
It might be that “individuals in the police force can commit excesses”, but dozens during 55 days of protests must either be a state policy, or there is a huge lack of control over public security forces.
One of many cases stands out.
On February 24th Marvinia Jiménez was brutally attacked by a Guardia del Pueblo in La Isabelica, Valencia- Carabobo state. There were photos and videos to prove it. Marvinia was taken under custody. She was released 3 days later, but the charges against her have not been dropped, and she has to show up for parole every 45 days. The Guardia del Pueblo was released.
4. Ortega Díaz: “No, no milito en ninguna organización política. No lo he hecho nunca, porque la Constitución me lo prohíbe. Pero no solo por eso, sino que nunca he militado. Pero considero que el hombre más humanista que ha existido en el planeta se llama Hugo Chávez”. (Transl: No, I don’t belong to any political organization. I never have, the Constitution forbids it. But it’s not just that, I have never belonged to one. Still, I think the most humanist men to have ever walked the Earth was Hugo Chávez.”)
We were told –from a reliable source- that Ortega Díaz is not a member of the Psuv.
It should also be said that the the claim that she has never belonged to a political party … is false. She was, just like her husband, a member of the PRV, the Partido de la Revolución Venezolana, a tiny radical left-wing outfit from way before Chávez. Here is what some former PRV friends of Luisa have to say:
“Hablaré y poco acerca de Luisa Ortega Díaz, desde hace algunos meses Fiscal General de la República (no confundir con Fiscal de la República de los Generales) a quien le decían “la China”, allá en sus años mozos y maracayeros, cuando mucho antes de vestirse de seda se calaba su uniforme de militante del PRV-RUPTURA (botas Frazzani, camisa marrón manga corta y bluyins). Fueron los gloriosos años de las grandes huelgas de los obreros textiles y caucheros de la región central del país, cuando “la China” prestaba su presencia y su apoyo al equipo de abogados laborales, comandado por Priscila López y el inefable Isaías Rodríguez”. Harry Almela (Caracas, 1953): writer and cultural promoter. Bachelor of Education from Universidad de Carabobo
(Transl: “I will speak short and sweet about Luisa Ortega Díaz, who became Prosecutor General a few months ago. They used to call her “La China,” the little Chinese one, back in her old days in Maracay, when long before she wore silk outfits she would wear her uniform of a fighter for the PRV-RUPTURA (Frazzani boots, brown short-sleeve shirt, and jeans). Those were the glorious years of the big worker strikes, when the textile and rubber workers in the center of the country would go on strike and “La China” would support the legal team headed by Priscila López and the inexplicable Isaías Rodríguez.” Harry Almela, writer.)
“Allí conocí a una de nuestras militantes más aguerrida, quien siendo una imberbe estudiante de bachillerato, periódico “RUPTURA” en mano, iba de portón en portón a “propagar, agitar y organizar” a los trabajadores en sus derechos laborales y al de estar bien informados con su periódico revolucionario. Esta militante de la prensa proscrita en la etapa de la cuarta república era la hoy flamante Fiscal General de la República, “la china”, la misma Luisa Ortega Díaz que ha llevado un proyecto de ley ante la Asamblea Nacional, sobre el control de la información y los delitos mediáticos”. Douglas Zabala: lawyer and former left-wing militant.
(Transl: There I met one of our fiercest warriors, one who, as a lowly high school student, would go door to door, with our newsletter “RUPTURA” in her hands, trying to spread the word, agitate and organize workers to remind them of their labor rights, inviting them to stay informed with our revolutionary newspaper. This apostle of the censored written press during the Fourth Republic is now the Prosecutor General of the Nation, “la china,” Luisa Ortega Díaz, who has brought a law in front of the National Assembly, basically legalizing the control of information and “media crimes.” Douglas Zabala, former left-wing militant.)
Finaly, Ortega Díaz’s husband is Germán Ferrer, a member of the Psuv and a legislator in the National Assembly, representing Lara state. It is said that Ferrer is linked to many irregular activities, and also connected to insurance businesses. He is also a former member of the PRV.