A Day of Blood

Your daily briefing for Tuesday, January 16, 2018. Translated by Javier Liendo.

A police operation for the capture of former CICPC inspector Oscar Pérez and his team took the entire day in Venezuelan social media. By 11:00 p.m., there was no official statement about his situation, only reports of the police takeover of the Bello Monte morgue, as an insinuation that his corpse might be there. Oscar Pérez’ group made a live digital recount of the assault they faced, uploading videos on his Instagram account (@equlibriogv) that showed what was happening. An unprecedented method that raised more suspicion than solidarity and prompted official mouthpieces to make unwise statements.

The oficial version’s edition of facts turned this group of rebel officers into a terrorist cell, whose capture ended in fatalities while they recorded the way State security bodies operate. We lived an OLP 2.0 which, among other lessons, leaves us with the conviction that the government’s capable of torture and murder, instead of guaranteeing human rights or due process.

What we know

Oscar Pérez rebelled on June 24, 2017, after flying on CICPC helicopter over the Supreme Tribunal and the Interior Minister. Subsequently, he was involved in several attacks against military institutions to steal weapons. He was located yesterday morning along with his team in the Araguaney neighborhood, 16th kilometer of El Junquito road. The operation was carried out by members of the PNB’s Special Actions Force (Faes), the National Guard, the Military Counterintelligence Directorate and the Army. In one of the videos uploaded by Pérez, he said: “We’re negotiating our surrender but they’re shooting at us,” to prove that the regime’s forces didn’t want them to turn themselves in, they just wanted to kill them. The government’s version is that the rebels opened fire first but still, “their human rights were respected.” Pérez’s videos and the neighbors’ accounts say the contrary. For Provea, the State “didn’t engage in a peaceful resolution and favored an ending with corpses and injuries in the arrest operation.” Faes reported the wounded: Ramón Escalona, Jesús Navas, José Gregorio Hernández, Freddy Ramirez, William Tovar and Elliot García. There’s no information regarding who died and who was arrested.

Exemplary punishment

Lawmaker Diosdado Cabello was one of the first to give his opinion yesterday morning, accusing non-State media of defending Pérez; claiming that the officers only opened fire to defend themselves and offering a fake balance of the operation.

Prisons minister Iris Varela wrote about Pérez’s “crying show,” to call him a coward and a rat, accusing him of murder, promising “the full weight of the law” and emphasizing the urgency of arresting former minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres as Pérez’s alleged mentor.

But the audio attributed to Freddy Bernal is far more serious, as he admits the presence (and death) of an armed civilian in an official police operation. In his portrayal of events, Bernal was abject enough to praise Heiker Vásquez (Colectivo Tres Raíces) “because that’s war.”

Imposed prosecutor general Tarek WIlliam Saab and Ombudsman in charge Alfredo Ruiz remained silent. If both institutions had taken earlier action, they could’ve avoided the Oscar P{erez’ operation’s balance and mediated for a peaceful resolution. Don’t forget Nicolás’ words on December 19, after Pérez was accused of stealing the weapons from the National Guard: “I ordered the Armed Forces to fire against terrorist groups wherever they come up. Zero tolerance with these groups that threaten people’s peace with guns.”

This information brings all the more tension after unclarified rumors about the arrest of Zurda Konducta host Cabeza’e Mango for hitting four firefighters in Barquisimeto with his car while carrying a SEBIN ID spread in social media.

Nicolás’ version

During his fake Accountability Speech, after speaking for three hours, Nicolás mentioned the operation to arrest Oscar Pérez, without specifying if he was dead. He claimed that Pérez’s team was making a car bomb to detonate it near an embassy and that Colombia had offered them protection. He congratulated the PNB and the Armed Forces, he didn’t name the colectivo from the 23 de Enero. He mentioned two policemen dead “with shots in their heads and six seriously wounded PNB,” claiming that Pérez’s terrorist plans for the coming months were terrible. Nicolás said: “Terrorists don’t respect human rights,” as if those who break the law were responsible for guaranteeing human rights, instead of the State.

More absurdities for the day

ANC member Jesús Farías spoke of establishing a free currency market to displace DolarToday –which allegedly sets the black market dollar price– and he didn’t forget to mention that the Venezuelan state must guarantee a regulated market that covers people’s most pressing needs. Farías proposed it as a possible solution “before unifying all exchange rates, which would be the ideal scenario.”

In an interview about oil, PDVSA honorary chairman Alí Rodríguez Araque mentioned three details that prosecutor Saab should have at hand: that he’s baffled by the corruption accusation involving PDVSA’s Vienna Office because the office “doesn’t handle money or sells or buys oil”; that he doubts the Prosecutor’s Office lacks the “evidence or proven indications to make” that accusation and that he was Bernard Mommer’s main advisor, so if he “engaged in acts of corruption, it would be an extraordinary surprise,” not just for his personal trust in Mommer, but because of the possibility that he did it in Vienna.

Lastly, a sparsely attended march took place to request businessman Lorenzo Mendoza (Polar) to run for presidential elections set for 2018.

There’s still more

The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict revealed the record of protests during 2017: at least 9,787, or about 27 daily across the country.

  • Meanwhile, the group Soy Venezuela called for a march set for Monday, January 22, to protest for the country’s situation and supporting the Lima Group, although they didn’t reveal the march’s route and time.
  • After a 35-year career, Monagas’ newspaper El Oriental will cease circulation for lack of newsprint: they’ll continue working on the digital format.
  • A military court convicted photographer Héctor Pedroza, arrested for taking pictures of anti-government protests in Maracay. He was accused of instigating rebellion and terrorism and will be held in Ramo Verde.
  • Due to Nicolás’ Accountability Speech for 2017, National Assembly lawmakers started a campaign in social media, daring Nicolás to expose key elements of our crisis such as human rights violations, the situation of political prisoners, the health crisis, malnutrition deaths, the shortage of food and medicines, all of these elements grouped together under the hashtag #MaduroTeReto.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.