Photo: CanalSur


On Wednesday the Carabobo Police headquarters was the setting of another mass prisoner death event. There are still no official statements on the matter, the national public media system hasn’t mentioned it and 13 hours after the incident, governor Rafael Lavaca wrote on Twitter about the start of a “serious” investigation. The unofficial death toll surpasses 70 people and over 30 others were wounded. The identities of the deceased remain unknown. NGOs specialized in penitentiary issues: Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons (OVP) and Una Ventana a la Libertad (UVL) have issued reports that may help in understanding such a huge amount of people dead and wounded in a preventive detention facility: by 2017, 90% of civilian preventive detention facilities were experiencing a 250.86% overcrowding rate. The prisoners’ relatives went to the police command to request information but they got no answers, which caused a protest dispersed with tear gas. The police officers also attacked several journalists who were covering the incident. OVP and UVL spokespeople held the Prisons Ministry and its minister Iris Varela responsible for this massacre, the latest of a sad and terrible trend which includes the massacres at Uribana prison in 2013 and 2014. Criminal lawyer Luis Izquiel wrote: “If the unofficial death toll of 80 casualties is confirmed, the PoliCarabobo incident would rank among the 5 worst massacres in Venezuela’s prison history.”

At 11:00 p.m. last night, imposed prosecutor general Tarek William Saab used Twitter to announce the appointment of four prosecutors to investigate the fire at Policarabobo headquarters in depth; to say that 66 men died along with two women “who were there as visitors” and report that they’ve practiced autopsies and the bodies were handed over to their families. Efficiency or nothing, Saab.

Switzerland sheds its neutrality

Yesterday, the Swiss Federal Council imposed sanctions against Venezuela and against seven high-ranking government officials for “human rights violations and the decline of the rule of law and democratic institutions,” which join the sanctions imposed by the European Union. In their statement, they confess being seriously concerned “by the repeated violations of individual freedoms in Venezuela, where the principle of separation of powers is severely undermined and the process in view of the forthcoming elections suffers from a serious lack of legitimacy.” The Federal Council froze the assets of the seven high-ranking officials and banned them from entering the country. They also froze the assets of companies and institutions; they banned the sale, supply, export and transport to Venezuela, of weapons and assets that could be used for repression, as well as any equipments that could be used to monitor and intercept phone and internet communications. The sanctions are effective immediately. Switzerland’s sanctions are crucial due to the country’s financial relevance. The fact that they’re shedding their neutrality evidences Europe’s stance against the Venezuelan government.

Officials sanctioned and why

Switzerland chose to explain the reasons to sanction each official:

  • Interior minister Néstor Reverol, because he’s “responsible for serious human rights violations and repression of the democratic opposition in Venezuela, including the prohibition and repression of political demonstrations.”
  • SEBIN chief Gustavo González López, because he’s “responsible for serious human rights violations (including arbitrary detention, inhuman and degrading treatment, and torture) and repression of civil society and the democratic opposition in Venezuela.”
  • CNE chairwoman Tibisay Lucena, because “her actions and policies have undermined democracy and the rule of law,” including facilitating the establishment of the ANC and failing to ensure the autonomy of the Electoral Branch.
  • Supreme Tribunal chief justice Maikel Moreno, because he “has supported and facilitated the government’s actions and policies which have undermined democracy (…) and is responsible for actions and statements that have usurped the authority of the National Assembly.”
  • ANC-imposed prosecutor general Tarek William Saab, because he “has undermined democracy and the rule of law (…) by publicly supporting actions against opponents of the Government.”
  • PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello, because he’s “Involved in undermining democracy and the rule of law (…) including by using the media to publicly attack and threaten political opposition, other media and civil society.”
  • Former National Guard commander Antonio Benavides Torres, because he’s “Involved in repression of civil society and democratic opposition in Venezuela, and responsible for serious human rights violations committed by the Bolivarian National Guard under his command.”

Parliamentary justice

With 57 votes in favor and the abstention of Cuba, the World Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) approved the report made by that instance’s Human Rights Committee about the Venezuelan case. Lawmaker Delsa Solórzano explained that with the approval of this report, protective measures were issued for the 57 Venezuelan legislators who have been confirmed as victims of torture, intimidation, illegal and arbitrary arrests, violations against freedom of thought and speech, violations against freedom of association, violations against the freedom to move through their country, violations against parliamentary immunity and the government’s obstruction of the exercise of parliamentary duties. The resolution includes the commitment to work so that Venezuela can hold a free and democratic electoral process and also makes a special mention to the case of lawmaker Gilber Caro. The IPU approved sending an observation mission to the country. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico and MUD clarified that the offer made by this nation is not meant to facilitate dialogue with the government but with friendly nations that wish to cooperate for the recovery of democracy.

Abroad

  • U.S. State Department official Kevin Sullivan said that the American delegation in the Summit of the Americas will be large, adding that Venezuela’s situation will be a central matter and that the rest of their agent includes the fight against corruption and expanding commercial relations with the region. By the way, the new Peruvian president Martín Vizcarra confirmed that Nicolás is still banned.
  • The Kremlin confirmed president Vladimir Putin’s willingness to meet with Donald Trump, despite tensions caused by the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skirapl and his daughter. Russia restated that they will retaliate for the expulsion of over a hundred of their diplomats from U.S. soil, and that the retaliation will come at the right time.
  • Italian Foreign minister Angelino Alfano said that his country will donate 500,000 euros to the UN Refugee Agency to attend Venezuelans crossing the borders to Brazil and Colombia. Yesterday, the UN Refugee Agency and the Brazilian government opened a new shelter for Venezuelan families who migrated to Brazilian territory, calling it “a safe and dignified space.”
  • Canadian Foreign minister Chrystia Freeland and Employment minister Patty Hajdu released a statement backing the decision of ILO’s Administration Council to create a committee to investigate the violation of workplace regulations in Venezuela, urging the government to fulfill its obligations and saying that they’ll continue to work “to apply pressure on the anti-democratic Maduro regime and restore the rights of the Venezuelan people,” remarking that “Canadians will not stand by as the Maduro regime robs its people of their fundamental democratic and human rights, and denies them assistance to meet basic humanitarian needs.”
  • The Chilean justice found Sebastián Dávalos, son of former Chilean president Bachelet, guilty of tax fraud.

A year ago, the TSJ issued a couple of rulings against the National Assembly that sparked mass opposition protests and with them, the disproportionate repression that left us a sad count of citizens dead, wounded and arrested, defining a new stage for the dictatorship. Yesterday, with an unanswered prison massacre, Nicolás decided to prioritize the message for the Holy Week, declaring his love for llanero music and rock, proving once again that he keeps his sense of opportunity in the same pocket where he keeps his decency, if he ever had any.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.