Photo: El País
At the Casa Amarilla, the Foreign Ministry’s headquarters, the government held its latest mockery against the first political prisoners who received different imprisonment conditions, with precautionary measures that deny any possibility of a full release. The event was presided by Delcy Rodríguez as representative of the ANC’s Truth Commission, accompanied by imposed prosecutor general Tarek William Saab; governors Laidy Gómez, Antonio Barreto, Ramón Guevara and Alfredo Díaz, and politicians Pedro Pablo Fernández and Javier Bertucci. Arrogance marked an event that should’ve expressed magnanimity, therefore Rodríguez and Saab gave improvised speeches, leaping from advice of good behavior, ratifications of the historic importance of the event, to the point of admitting that the “beneficiaries” were in fact political prisoners. Perhaps the fact that they had to improvise so much on their speeches forced the regime to interrupt live broadcast but, of course, such interruption is the message in itself.
Justice over Twitter
The PSUV militants that pass of VTV journalists tirelessly repeated that this is a “benefit” granted by Nicolás, as if the fact that holding such an event in the Casa Amarilla instead of a court, wasn’t enough evidence of the decision’s executive origin. In any case, Delcy Rodríguez said that Nicolás “requested this measure as broad as possible for citizens imprisoned for political reasons” and Tarek William Saab also said that Nicolás ordered the releases, making him personally responsible for the arbitrary detentions of several Venezuelans. It was later that chief justice Maikel Moreno came up on Twitter, breaking down the information about the “beneficiaries”, making sure to add pictures of him in every tweet, a crucial element to measure his self-esteem issues.
Omitting the precarious health condition exhibited by most political prisoners, Delcy asked for the imposition of respect, the imposition of dialogue. VTV’s anchor kept referring to the “beneficiaries” as criminals, while Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza decided to issue orders on how to interpret –both in Venezuela and abroad- Nicolás’s magnanimity. Time and again, they referred to political prisoners as transgressors of the Law without any sort of evidence or trial. Jorge Rodriguez summed up the “release” as a more robust proof of Venezuelan democracy, so robust that the government turns what should be the norm into something extraordinary, that freedom is a show, when they’re merely granting house arrest measures to citizens who weren’t declared criminals by any court.
Not all are political prisoners
They’re barred from leaving the country and mist report to court every 15 or 30 days. They can’t offer statements to media outlets nor use social networks, imposing censure over their stories (NGO Espacio Público explained this State censorship mechanism in their Report for 2017: “indefinite silence through precautionary measures”.) The real political prisoners of this group are:
- Carmen Alicia Gutiérrez: cosmetologist, wife of colonel José de Jesús Gámez Bustamante, another political prisoner. She’s accused of conspiring against the government. Arrested in January, 2015.
- Carmen Briones: arrested in March, 2015, for “disseminating rumors about kidnapped children,” an announcement made by then prosecutor general Luisa Ortega Díaz and broadcast by Nicolás.
- Daniel Ceballos Morales: former mayor of San Cristóbal, arrested in March, 2014.
- Diannet Milagros Blanco: teacher, with an unfinished thesis on Women Studies. Arrest in May 2017.
- Diego Gómez: arrested in January, 2018, for using social networks to encourage protests. He turned 18 years old while imprisoned in El Helicoide. He’d been issued a release warrant on February 28, 2018.
- Dylan Canache: minor. He’d been issued a release warrant on February 28. He wasn’t released after the riot at El Helicoide because his documents had been “misplaced,” so he was transferred to detention center for minors in Coche.
- Ender González: arrested in January, 2018, accused of “inciting hate” for encouraging protests on Facebook. He turned 18 years old in El Helicoide and he’d been issued a release warrant on February 28.
- Fermín Cocchioni: friend of Armando Cañizalez, a student killed during protests in Las Mercedes. He offered statements to several outlets about the circumstances of that murder and was arrested in May, 2017, without an arrest warrant.
- Geraldine Chacón: member of NGO Community Ambassadors. She’d been issued a release warrant in April.
- Gregory Hinds: member of NGO Community Ambassadors. He’s been issued a release warrant in April.
- Juan Pablo Giraldo: with an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science, arrested in September, 2014, for “financing terrorism.”
- Juan Pedro Lares: son of Omar Lares, former mayor of Campo Elías Municipality. He was arrested without an arrest or search warrant. There was never a judicial warrant against him, he was not accused of any crime, nor was he presented before a court.
- Marianyelis Sánchez: she joined the hunger strike of the women held at El Helicoide on May 19.
- Melanye Álvarez: dancer arrested in January, 2018. Member of NGO Jóvenes Venezolanos. She joined the hunger strike of May 19.
- Ninoska Josefina Bolívar: she joined the hunger strike of May 19.
- Stefanny Salazar: arrested in May, 2017. She’s been the victim of numerous tortures and human rights violations.
- Virgen Quintanillo: arrested in July, 2017, for her alleged involvement in the fire of a PSUV office.
They were already free
Four women mentioned in this first list were already under house arrest: Brigitte Herrada, teacher graduated of Special Education (UPEL, Maracay); under house arrest since November, 2017; Erika Palacios Alfonzo, arrested in January, 2018, was the first woman prosecuted for crimes established in the Hate Law; María Elena Uzcátegui, arrested in September, 2014, for sheltering students who were protesting; and Nazareth Vásquez, audiovisual producer, arrested in July, 2017, for allegedly being linked with inspector Óscar Pérez.
The common prisoners
Angelis Quiroz, shareholder and director of authorized dealer La Venezolana, imprisoned on April 29, 2015, for her alleged involvement in a scam affecting over 6,000 people, was released in this group and she was bold enough to express her joy last night. 16 people who attacked Henri Falcón’s campaign event on April 2, 2018, were also released. In this event, lawmaker Teodoro Campos was injured. They are: Alexis Alcalá Duque, Diego Medrano, Edisson Pichardo (with a trial for homicide,) Gabriel Vega Gutiérrez, Gregori Pulido, Hoffman Díaz, Jairo Peñuela, Jorge Galán, José Alexis De Los Santos, José González León, Junior Pérez Montilla, Luis Acosta Herrera, Luis Orozco, Ramón Ruiz González, Yancer Soto and Yessica Cordero López. Lastly, I couldn’t find any reference on María Angelina Salcedo Torres. Yesterday’s exercise was enough to declare the huge disparity in the available information about the political prisoners: dealing with official opacity was enough. It’s crucial that NGOs cross-check their information and share it with the public!
Many more remain
My respects to the political prisoners present in the Casa Amarilla. They demonstrated such temperance and sobriety during the speeches of their captors, while they condemned them to silence, with the country as a bigger, less dark prison. Corporality always says a lot and yesterday was no exception, with Saab’s being the worst presentation. Nicolás is light years from any kind of democratic recognition. He should’ve remained silent yesterday, but once again his hubris got the best of him. This Friday kept us at the edge, to reach the brief videos of the releases, with the solvency of innocence, with the promise of a freedom to build.
I only think of the metropolitan policemen imprisoned for the past 16 years.
-Many more still remain-
Nicolás spoke yesterday Afternoon about the release of 39 prisoners by the ANC’s Truth Committee. “Release all those who must be released,” was how he summed up his good will while in a meeting with his version of a broad front, an absurdity made up of the same old faces as always. Nicolás lied. He said that opposition militants and leaders who had committed crimes of political violence had been released, but he also claimed that all those who are plotting now will be punished, because he has the right to administer justice. “I don’t want a coup or a counter-coup, even when we’re ready to triumph over whatever comes and actively neutralize any golpista sector in this country,” he said in his lousy magnanimity, right before appointing Aristóbulo Istúriz to negotiate with MUD, before claiming that he wants dialogue even with his own shadow and suggesting that only Diosdado Cabello knows whom he’s met with. But he also wants the opposition to give him concrete ideas to “overcome the economic blockade,” so the millions of frozen dollars can be “released”, his best recent argument to justify the shortages of medicine and food.
This Friday, a Summit for Venezuela was held with the attendance of lawmakers from Venezuela, Colombia and other Latin American countries. They agreed to disregard the results of May 20 elections and announced a legislative agenda to facilitate migration operations for Venezuelans with expired documents. Rodrigo Lara, head of Colombia’s Chamber of Representatives, said that the National Assembly (AN) is the only institution that can legitimately speak for the country. Omar Barboza restated that “the only legitimate power that’s left is the National Assembly and we have the dignity to represent the people,” emphasizing that the origin of this unprecedented humanitarian crisis is political. Northern Santander governor William Villamizar spoke about the four million Venezuelans who have arrived to Colombia, explaining the relevance of migration flows and the impact they’ve had for his region.
With the declaration, the parliamentarians agreed to: call on the international community to join efforts to restore the principle of branch autonomy and independence; condemn the Venezuelan government for seeking to silence complaints about systematic human rights violations taking place in the country; recognize the serious humanitarian crisis that we’re going through; reject human rights violations and recognize the international community’s “responsibility of protection.” For this, the lawmakers promised to develop a common agenda to respond to the current crisis, including granting political asylum to democratically elected officials and leaders; facilitate the stay and transit of Venezuelans with expired passports and documents; make stay and residence requisites for Venezuelans as well as the criteria to certify the migrant’s academic degrees. Also, the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs will be called to coordinate regional assistance for Venezuelan migrants and urge the creation of an International Cooperation Fund to guarantee humanitarian attention and labor insertion for them.
Briefs and Serious
- It’s been a year since the transplant program was suspended in Venezuela. Civil society organizations dedicated to the health matter have demanded that the Health Ministry reactivate the transplants, without omitting the tremendous vulnerability of transplant patients who haven’t received anti-rejection medication for months.
- In Carabobo, the CICPC arrested doctors Diego Zerpa and Wolman Granado, first year residents of postgraduate studies in surgery at the Dr. Enrique Tejera Hospital City for “allegedly stealing supplies.” They were taken to the detention center located in Plaza de Toros.
- Gilber Caro was taken from the Fénix Penitentiary Center in Barquisimeto to the 6th Military Control Court of Carabobo state for the preliminary hearing that has been postponed 12 times. It’s not clear if the lawmaker will be a beneficiary of coming releases.
- The secretary of Zulia’s Governor’s Office made up an absurd explanation for the collapse of the electrical system: “We have a phenomenon called… equinoichi (sic), where we stand too close, too close to the sun and of course…,” said the genius. Meanwhile, Corpoelec employees are planning a strike for next Monday.
- All the lawyers of political prisoners agreed on the need for them to be fully released without any precautionary measures.
- Argentina’s Federal Chamber confirmed that the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman in January, 2015, four days after accusing the then president Cristina Fernández of sheltering alleged terrorists, was a homicide and not a suicide.
- Spanish president Mariano Rajoy was removed from office by a motion of no confidence in Parliament and was replaced by Pedro Sánchez. The motion received the support of a majority of lower chamber lawmakers, 180 out of 350 and was promoted after judicial institutions accused the People’s Party for a serious corruption case.
- Monedero made history with his attitude against Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, holding her by the shoulders while he criticized her thirst for revenge. That’s how miserable chavismo’s friends are, while in here, officials celebrated Rajoy’s departure for a case of co-rrup-tion.
- Donald Trump confirmed the summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for June 12 in Singapore. Remarking that the agreement with North Korea will be a process, he claimed to think that it’ll be successful.
- At least four American countries would be willing to denounce Nicolás before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, according to OAS secretary general Luis Almagro.
- The official explanation given by Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo about the massacre of the march on Mother’s Day breaks the records of cynicism and lies. Ignoring the accounts of hundreds of people, the pictures and the videos, the duo tried to deny what had happened in Nicaragua.
- This Monday, U.S. vice-president Mike Pence will request the countries participating in the OAS General Assembly to take the opportunity to suspend Venezuela from the organization, an action that requires 24 votes out of the 35 member countries. Mike Pompeo will speak this Monday before the General Assembly and Venezuela’s expected to be a relevant matter in his agenda.
Expectations for new releases today are quite high. We go on.