Dialogue and Freedom

I viscerally hate the concept of dialogue with this thuggish regime. And yet I see it setting free some of the people I care most about in the world: our political prisoners.

The Venezuelan crisis is not black and white. Last night, I learned the meaning of ambiguity, a los coñazos. Because a lot of my friends are political prisoners. And dialogue, it seems, will set them free.

I’d spent the hours since Sunday night in a state of near terminal “I told-you-so”-ness. Those of us who always knew that a MUD-backed street-level resistance was wishful thinking, were right all along.

How in God’s name did MUD agree to squander its golden opportunity to assert itself just to take part in the Nth doomed dialogue?

As a political activist and staunch critic of MUD’s insistence on institutional conservatism, the images VTV broadcast of Maduro casually chatting with the people who supposedly represent me made me sick to my stomach. Seeing Maduro’s hand casually resting on Chúo’s shoulder, my gut knew it before my brain did: “we’re stuck with this government for a good long while.”

How in God’s name did MUD agree to squander its golden opportunity to assert itself just to take part in the Nth doomed dialogue? Who decided it was a good idea to leave the optics up to SIBCI? Couldn’t MUD have waited until Thursday afternoon to call off its only credible threat, the march to Miraflores? Are they amateurs, or worse?

But as Emiliana, friend of Pancho, friend of Yon, friend of Marco, I was secretly betrayed by hope. Hope that some of these people can gain their freedom as part of the negotiation; a sign of “good faith.”

For the political prisoners’ friends — and all the more for the mothers, fathers, siblings and children of people like Marco Trejo and Alejandro Moreno, who were released last night — “good faith” has a face. The living, breathing face of loved ones who’ve had months or years of their lives stolen from them.

I get angry when tech support steals 15 minutes from my busy day. Imagine being deprived of your life for who knows how long, for reasons that don’t matter, over which you have no control.

Take a second to digest that: I get angry when tech support steals 15 minutes from my busy day. Imagine being deprived of your life for who knows how long, for reasons that don’t matter, over which you have no control. Imagine someone close to you in that position, at the mercy of a nonexistent justice system and subject to the whims of a government like the one we have.

Rosmit Mantilla is one of those someones, and if you can’t place his name, don’t feel bad.

I didn’t know it either, until my recently released friend Pancho told me about his plight. Rosmit has been a political prisoner for over two years. He was legitimately elected as a member of the National Assembly last December 6th, a fact that ought to have indisputably won him freedom. (It didn’t.)

Yesterday, Rosmit was taken to the emergency room after his doctors repeatedly insisted he needed gallbladder surgery. This video shows SEBIN agents forcibly removing him from the ER, while his mother tearfully wails. But there is dialogue. We are dialoguing now.

There are over one hundred Rosmits still in jail. I hope he and all the rest can get out soon.

Caracas Chronicles was fortunate enough to get an exclusive first interview with Francisco Márquez after his release. All throughout his jail time, I worked the (échenle bolas) goodwill of the very government that made him a prisoner. It was the only thing left to hang onto.

…the loathsome conflict that arises when you want to see someone close to you freed, but you know full well that in freeing him you empower the dictatorship that deprived him of freedom to begin with.

Pancho was categorical in his desire to bear witness to the suffering of political prisoners in Venezuela.

Though I can’t remotely claim to understand what he has gone through, I want to bear witness as well: to the loathsome conflict that arises when you want to see someone close to you freed, but you know full well that in freeing him you empower the dictatorship that deprived him of freedom to begin with.

I hope that many will come forward soon enough, to bear witness as well. I assure you these people despise the government just as much as you do, probably more so for having been forced to applaud it this week.

And yet I can’t help but find this dialogue repugnant. It’s morally reprehensible and downright stupid on a pragmatic level. But if it succeeds in granting freedom to one more political prisoner, then count me in as one of its unscrupulous defenders, a scabby victim of its degenerate extortion.

Still, vamos a Miraflores el jueves, coño.

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