We’ve witnessed all sorts of abuses of power under the revolution, and they just keep stacking up. These days, 2004’s Lista Tascón, is almost vintage, but its victims are still waiting for justice. Recently, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard a case against the Venezuelan state on this very matter. A decade late is still better than never.

Cast your mind back to 2003. The opposition is going strong, and decides to seek a recall referendum against President Chávez. Chávez already controls de CNE, and Venezuelans have to sign… and sign… and sign…and then “repair” those signatures by signing again.

When the CNE can’t find anything else to object to, the recall election is held in August 15, 2004. Chávez wins with 59% of the votes. It would’ve been all fine and dandy, BUT Chávez now wants the list of voters to be public. He sends a letter to then-CNE board chairman, Francisco Carrasquero, requesting that the information on the signatures to be sent to congressman Luis Tascón, which he does. Tascón publishes the list on his website. Now anyone can check if a person has signed against the government just by using the ID number.

That’s how the Tascón List, a tool for open political discrimination and harassment, was born.

According to Human Rights Watch’s 2008 report, approximately a half million public employees were fired and many others were denied passports or even the all-important cédula (National ID).

The case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is particularly significant because the incidents it alleges happened took place in the National Council of Borders (NCB), right inside Miraflores, and were headed by José Vicente Rangel, the vice-president at the time.

Rocío San Miguel Sosa, Magally Chang Girón, Thais Coromoto Peña and a fourth colleague were allegedly fired from the NCB after signing the referendum petition. The fourth employee was re-hired after withdrawing their signature.

On March 7, 2006, San Miguel and her colleagues sent a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights alleging the violation of articles 5, 8, 13, 23, 24 and 25 of the American Convention. A decade later, on March 8, 2016, the Commission submitted the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights with the name Rocío San Miguel Sosa and others v. Venezuela.

Last month, during the public hearing, the Judges heard witness statements from one alleged victim, Rocío San Miguel, and three expert witnesses: Roberto Saba, Román Duque Corredor  and César Tillero (proposed by the State). Here’s what they had to say.

Rocío San Miguel

San Miguel said the Tascón List was created —the signatures were photocopied— in the Vice-presidency and that José Vicente Rangel himself asked her direct supervisor to fire signatories. She said her supervisor refused at first, but then, during a phone call he confessed “you are signing the petition to recall of the guy who is paying your salary.

Being on that list ruined her life. She stated how she has faced systematic persecution years after the events, not only losing her job at the NCB but also being dismissed from her position as professor in the Advanced Naval War School and the Advanced Air Force Academy. Her husband lost his military career because of his association with her, her brothers have had problems getting jobs and must hide their last name, and being a human rights activist has put her in an even more vulnerable position.

State Agent Larry Devoe kept interrupting her, claiming he “only had 20 minutes to interrogate her” and she replied that she “had waited thirteen years.” Judge Eduardo Mac-Gregor intervened and told Devoe to “let her answer.”

You are signing the petition to recall of the guy who is paying your salary.

San Miguel recalled the attempt on her life in 2008, and the most recent incident in 2015 when a guy in a motorcycle told her they “were going to break her” while she begged not to be killed in front of her daughter. She has also had her personal email hacked; has been followed by unmarked cars; has had her house burglarized; has faced smear campaigns from State TV, and has had personal and private pictures distributed through twitter with defamatory messages attached.

“You know what can happen to me when I arrive back [in Venezuela]. The worst can happen and you know it,” was just one of her replies to State Agent Larry Devoe.

Roberto Saba and Román Duque Corredor

Roberto Saba, an expert witness proposed by the Inter-American Commission, focused on the rule of law: the State cannot terminate a labor contract for political reasons. This blacklist violates freedom of speech and it’s used to punish dissidents.

Duque Corredor, proposed by the victim’s representatives, argued that civil servants must be loyal towards the public administration and the Constitution, not towards a political project. They are forbidden from performing political activism, but that doesn’t exclude the exercise of civil and political rights.

César Tillero

Now it was time for the representative of the State. He argued that there wasn’t a connection between the fact the three women signed the petition for the recall election and the fact that they were fired. The State only applied a contractual clause and claimed that the alleged victims were given the severance package they were entitled to under the law (Rocio claims it was a lie).

He apparently embellished his resume, and struggled to answer the questions the from the alleged victims’ representatives and judges, and admitted he didn’t know some of the facts concerning the case.

“I’m really surprised that you as an expert witness don’t know the proportion public employees within the government who are career civil servants servants instead of contractors […] I believe one teaches and applies the law based on facts. If you come here to talk about [so-and-so] you should know what you are talking about.” (Judge Eduardo Vio Grossi to Tillero after he couldn’t answer Judge Elizabeth Odio’s question)

The Court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of this year.

Who cares? the government won’t follow the ruling anyway…

We all know that if the Court rules in favor of the alleged victims, the Venezuelan State will likely disregard it (though Judge Vio expressly told Devoe that he hoped the government would enforce it). However bleak the chances of an enforceable outcome may seem, this case is truly emblematic, since it is the first case regarding political discrimination that has reached the Inter-American Court.

We asked Rocío San Miguel for comment:

“Just being in the presence of independent and impartial judges is an act of reparation. There is also the moral dimension of being able to relate the events that continue to occur in Venezuela, which is something that helps us construct the truth.

One of the fundamental elements in terms of reparations in the case of human rights violations is that the State is obligated to sit in front of us, to listen to us, to be questioned by the judges and by the Inter-American Commission itself.

And of course, being able to witness how the State tries to disguise its international responsibility with very weak arguments gives us great satisfaction, because it ratifies how political discrimination is part of Venezuelan State policy.”

Here’s hoping for more satisfaction when the Court hands down its ruling.

 

10 COMMENTS

  1. While this action under the Chavez regime is the most obvious and flagrant abuse of civil government employees it is not the first instance of this kind of political retaliation. This is an issue in Venezuela that has gone on for many years.

    In 1984 my Venezuelan brother-in-law worked for CANTV. He was an advocate of COPIE and during the 1983 election for president; he frequently wore Green to support the Copie presidential candidate, Rafael Caldera. After Jaime Lusinchi the AD candidate took office, my brother-in-law last his job. He was told that is was for political reasons.

    He was not the only person at CANTV to suffer such a fate. Many others also ended up losing their job because they supported the losing party.

    • Gringo, Hi although your fathers outcome with CANTV was despicable, being a “State” run “enterprise” it was one of the outlets to serve “clientelism” So was every Ministerio, las nominas, were to repay those who supported the “winner”. I know that one Ministerio in particular, The Ministry of Education was used to the extreme. Instead of upward mobility by meritocracy, it was known that the “principals” were appointed by party “jerarcas”. This is one practice that has to stop and unfortunately I saw it grow in the US, not in schools but in state offices.

  2. A moving testimony by Rocio San Miguel, a very courageous woman. It left no doubt about the miserable human condition of the members of the regime, especially the despicable Jose Vicente Rangel.

  3. Venezuela renounced it’s membership in the IACHR in 2012. I am surprised that they even sent a Representative. It would seem that they would have been better off to just preemptively note that they have rejected the institution and that that will apply to any ruling made by that body. But, maybe the guy just wanted a free trip…

    It all seems so pointless anyway. Everyone knows the truth. The regime knows that everyone knows the truth. Everyone knows that the regime knows that everyone knows the truth, etc… It is all such a pointless f____g charade.

    • ¿Por qué crees que hay elementos infiltrados en la MUD que juegan a la cohabitación permanente con el régimen?

      Es más, ¿Alguna duda de por qué García se negó a revelar el otro audio de perico silva que hubiera destrozado la credibilidad de la gente hcia Chávez directamente al revelar que toda la fulana “revolución” sólo fué un plan para hacer multimillonaria a su familia y que los pobres le importaban un pito?

  4. It is all such a pointless f____g charade.
    —–

    That’s what makes reading this and most any other news about Venezuela so torturous. NOTHING every changes. My two kids, both in Caracas, refuse to even watch the news because no matter how true or tragic, the population is apparently unable or unwilling to mount a sustained resistance. I think that’s what’s worst of all – a proud and capable populace reduced to such passivity, simply rolling over and taking it for fear of starving or jail or having their brains blown out. But hope burns somewhere. I hope…

    • That’s what makes reading this and most any other news about Venezuela so torturous. NOTHING every changes. My two kids, both in Caracas, refuse to even watch the news because no matter how true or tragic, the population is apparently unable or unwilling to mount a sustained resistance. I think that’s what’s worst of all – a proud and capable populace reduced to such passivity, simply rolling over and taking it for fear of starving or jail or having their brains blown out. But hope burns somewhere. I hope…

      Plenty of revolutions have been caused by a little spark or a bunch of little sparkes: one too many innocent shot, one too many empty shop or one too many act of autoritharianism will flame the powderkeg.

  5. It seems to me to be a case that raises some interesting questions as many people do not accept that a government cannot insist on political loyalty from the civil service. Another recent president famously walked into a room of civil servants and after boasting about himself came within an inch of asking for a show of hands from his supporters.

    I don’t know what we can expect from this group of jurists it terms of a careful and thoughtful examination of the issues, and in some ways it is unfortunate that the regime is represented by a clown, as there are some smart and diabolical defenders of their position out there who could really push the court to dig deep into the issues. In any event, in a perverse way, this case has been so badly delayed it finds itself in a moment of relevance far beyond the country in which it originates. I hope it makes for a compelling and illuminating read when it is done.

    And yes, we all know the Tascon list was systematically used for hiring and firing. Any civil servant can confirm that. They missed a few people once in a while out of desperation or sheer incompetence, but there’s no question people who signed were treated as enemies of the state, and frankly, they deserve to be recognized as patriots: they put their consciences before their self interest, and they and their families paid a heavy price.

  6. There was one certain reason the Tascón family preferred to cremate Luis’s remains rather than “planting” them in a graveyard as good ol’ “catholic revolutionaries”

    And it’s the same reason the Mountain Headquarters mausoleum remains guarded by some of the most viciously armed and dangerous criminals kissing the involution’s ass.

Leave a Reply