A political prisoner dies

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A recent letter to his wife
A recent letter to his wife

(I met Lissette González back in college, when we were both interns at the UCAB’s Institute for Social and Economic Research. We were never close – she, the hipster Sociologist; me, the neoliberal economist – but I liked her. I had not seen nor heard from her in many years, but I got hold of her again via Twitter and her blog, Conjeturas para Llevar. Lissette, now a Sociology professor at our alma mater, would use it to dissect different aspects of Venezuela’s social situation.

Last year, her blog – and her life – took an unexpected turn when her father was put in jail for political reasons.

Last night, her father passed away in Maduro’s political prison, under strange circumstances.

His death has touched me deeply. In his honor, I am translating her most recent post about her father from the original Spanish. In remembrance of all of Venezuela’s political prisoners, we will be changing the picture headlining our blog to Maduro’s nefarious Helicoide, the regime’s main political prison.)

A grandfather is a political prisoner, by Lissette González. Originally posted October 9th, 2014.

It all began the night of April 26th, a Saturday. We had gone to the movies with the kids, and a shiort while after we had separated, my mother called to tell me that the SEBIN (the government’s intelligence agency) had gone to their house with an order to arrest my father. The squad had seized the house, waiting for an authorization to search the premises. Just like that, with no proof nor background investigation, and no presumption of innocence. The only thing they were relying on was the anonymous testimony of a “collaborating patriot.” Thanks to that testimony, a 63 year-old man, his wife, his daughters and grandchildren have seen their lives turned upside down.

Early that morning, after being present while they searched the place, my mother, sister and brother-in-law went to the Helicoide to sign the documentation on what had transpired. They also brought with them basic stuff for my father such as a change of clothes and his toothbrush. When they are about to leave, the police decided to detain my mother as well – the second violation to any normal judicial procedure, because there was no order to arrest her.

The next day began our calvary: understanding what had happened; bringing them food, sheets, and clothes; containing the kids’ anguish; finding legal representation … That was not all, because on Sunday the 27th, my sister’s house in Santa Inés was also searched. They took computers, phones, and anything that could record information or surf the web. Again the nerves when my sister and her husband went to the SEBIN to testify, but thankfully there were no more detentions.

On Monday the 28th, the initial hearing was supposed to take place. As splitting our time between the Helicoide and the Justice Palace (the courts) to know if they would be transported, if there would be a hearing at all, etc., the small travel agency in Chacao that had been our family’s economic mainstay for more than 30 years was also searched. My aunt, who is more than 70 years old, along with several other employees were taken to SEBIN, and their personal belongings siezed. That day the hearing was suspended.

The hearing finally took place on the 29th, and it lasted several hours. During the course of the day, we found out that a student we did not know, Douglas Morillo, was being charged along with my parents with a supposed “association to commit a crime.” After the Prosecutors presented their case and the defense had presented theirs, during the break the judge took before issuing her ruling, President Maduro went on radio and TV in a mandatory broadcast to speak of “the aviator,” the supoposed mastermind of the “guarimbas,” the roadblocks that were still sweeping the country. The justice system had received a direct order by TV. We left the Justice Palace past 9 pm and the result of the hearing was as follows: jail awaiting trial for Rodolfo González, my father, as well as Douglas Morillo, with a duty to show up every 30 days for Josefa de González, my mother.

In the five months since that date, our lives have completely changed. The problems all Venezuelans suffer – inflation, crime, scarcity – have been compounded by constant worries about my father’s health, along with weekly visits to the SEBIN. Our children have lost a bit of their innocence when visiting their imprisoned grandfather. The problems in the bathroom pipes or with the air conditioning in the premises have not been taken care of, so along with the other relatives of the prisoners we have taken up many expenses to make their lives a little bit better. And, in spite of the fact that the case file says there is “no forensic evidence,” Ovnitours’ equipment and other documents have still not been returned. Neither have my sister’s belongings. Ever since being searched, the agency’s permission to sell tickets on public national airlines has been revoked. It is a shame that the company has had to suffer when it is not being charged with any wrongdoing.

After many suspensions, the initial hearing procedure ended yesterday. Two other people, Renzo Prieto and Yeimi Varela, have been included in the same case. These are people we only met after all this began. The judge decided they should all go to trial together, and they are all being held while the trial lasts. Now we must wait for a court to be assigned the case, and for the process to begin.

During the past few months, we have received the support of friends and family, along with the anonymous solidarity of many people who collect essentials to bring to political prisoners – everything from soap and toilet paper, to homemade meals and even letters of support. Our thanks go out to all those people who, day by day, contribute in their own small way.

Today I post this on the web because it is important to remember there are still many Venezuelans in jail, people who have not committed any crime. It is a reminder that when there is no rule of law and no judicial independence, anyone can be the victim.

1 COMMENT

  1. When I read something like this on Venezuela I can’t help but think that there is no hope for Venezuela for at least a generation or two or more. Here is what appears to be a completely innocent man who is turned in by a neighbor and arrested on trumped up charges and ultimately driven to suicide.

    I can’t help but think that the hatreds and resentments that have been unleashed in the population by chavismo will take several generations to overcome. Very, very sad.

    I hope the family can have the strength to survive this and carry on with their lives to have some justice against the regime in the end.

    • Eastern European countries were able to regenerate quite fastly from a far worse situation than what Venezuela is in.

      We emulate our leaders and act according to our laws, if we have good leaders and good laws, we behave better.

      • Good point Marc, but the situation in Vzla is made worse by all the criminals that have been given power, be it weapons or privileges. They will not relinquish their part of the pie without a fight. In Eastern Europe I have the impression that a lot of it was simply civil servants doing their jobs, made worse by human pettiness. In Vzla there is a toxic brew of social resentment, and hate that has been a part of government policy and if you top it off with the usual pettiness, I am more pessimistic than what you may be implying about the future of Vzla.

  2. What a dark hour in the history of Venezuela, made worse by what circles the sewer drain: Intervention by Cubans and their acolytes, the cynical set that sucks up to a pseudo political philosophy and the government that makes their livelihoods possible, and all the underachievers who have been given a chance to pretend to be that for which they have no training (“if you can dream it, you can be it”), if much of any education.

    About a week ago, there was mention of fear that the SEBIN would murder Leopoldo López and make it look like a suicide.

    That’s the first thing that crossed my mind when I read the sorry news of Rodolfo González’ suicide (?). I next read that it was one of the U.S.-sanctioned rojo-rojitos (Katherine Harrington) who sent presided and sent him to el Helicoide.

    Payback?

    I wonder how Roy Chaderton is reacting? With sarcasm, perhaps? Or black humor?

  3. This man was killed while being tortured. There is no proof that he hanged himself.

    Suicide is a handy tool to get away with the murder. Ask Cristina K

  4. Another crime and human rights violation. Even if it was suicide, governments are supposed to guarantee minimum rights of prisioners; (yes Maduro even political ones). Its a whole tragedy that reminds me how easily situations repeat itself. What was sung once by Sting in “They Dance Alone” it is sadly repeated today in Venezuela, just changing Pinochet for Maduro. Let the voices be heard that they are not alone….#theyarenotalone for every political prisioner

  5. This is one of the saddest posts I’ve seen. Fifteen years of my life were invested in Venezuela and I always took the over-optimistic position in discussions with long term residents such as, “It would only take an efficient manager to sort this (whatever situation..) out”
    I still have family in Venezuela and it is becoming more and more evident that they have to leave.

  6. When death or black humor about it is all one wants to write about, I just wonder whether it is time to stop writing.

    • I have been asking myself the very same question. It just feels that one depressing day follows another.
      Maybe I have been in denial for the last ten years or so.

  7. The 20th century saw millions of people suffer incomparable tragedies in the name of leftist social justice and here we are in a new century witnessing this very same cancer and we have learned nothing. My condolences.

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