Remember that amazing video we posted yesterday noting the way Venezuelan soldiers’ families are going through the same crisis we all are? Today, the SEBIN secret police has begun rounding up activists involved in its production.
Yesterday, three people involved in the videos were taken into SEBIN custody: Marco Trejo, César Cuellar and James Mathison.
And the crackdown is ongoing.
At around 9 a.m. this morning, SEBIN operatives turned up at the San Antonio de los Altos home of Andrés Moreno Febres-Cordero. Andrés works at the Sucre Municipal government’s youth department, and was affiliated with the production of the video, apparently involved in costume design. He’s a production guy, but his politics are out in the open.
When SEBIN turned up, he wasn’t home, but his mom, Andreyna Febres-Cordero was.
Andreyna is a commercial law professor at Universidad Metropolitana, and director of their Law school. We talked to Andrea Santacruz, a criminal law professor at UNIMET and part of the Human Rights center there -which is currently handling the case. And here’s the breakdown.
Upon arrival, the officers showed Mrs. Febres-Cordero not an arrest warrant for her son but rather, a picture of such a document on a cell phone screen. Criminal law is pretty clear on this: you have to present a formal warrant to carry out an arrest. But why would this mean anything to SEBIN?
Now the kicker: the picture was of a MILITARY arrest warrant. Andrés is a civilian, who has never had any affiliation with the Armed Forces, and yet the First Control Tribunal of the Military Circumscription of Caracas is issuing him an arrest warrant. The implication here being that, since the video features military uniforms, this would somehow constitute a military offense.
Let me be crystal clear here: this makes no legal sense whatsoever. If a civilian commits a crime, he’s cited and prosecuted by a criminal court. Period.
In any case, they showed her the picture as proof that there was a warrant, and asked her to come inside and take a look. Again, for officers to come into a person’s home they need either a warrant or the freely given consent of that person. Professor Febres-Cordero, in a show of good faith and in the name of proper justice, allowed the officers in without a warrant. Having gone inside, and verified that Andrés wasn’t home, they proceeded to ask Professor Febres-Cordero to go with them to SEBIN’s headquarters to answer questions.
Again, we hit a legal snag here. In order for a person to be compelled to make a statement, a proper subpoena must be issued. In this case, the Prosecutor’s office at our Ministerio Público would have to issue it. And here’s where Professor Febres-Cordero drew the line. She refused to go with the officers, seeing as she has no legal obligation to. And even then, she said she could offer declarations right there in her home, if they would take them.
As of noon today, officials remained in her house — for no apparent (or legal) reason.
Now the law student in me (I am, in fact, Andreyna’s student) is appalled by the evident disregard (or ignorance, or both) of the law by SEBIN’s officials. And of course, more than a little worried about Andrés and Andreyna. But the Venezuelan in me has to wonder.
How come a little video like that could go so deep under the government’s skin?
Well, if you want to push back against SEBIN’s abuse of power, what you have to do is clear: share it. Post it on all your social media. Spam your friends with it. Send it around on your school’s Whatsapp group. It’s the one recourse we have left.