Photo: quepasa.com.ve

“We’re not going to respect the human rights of any criminal.” The phrase doesn’t come from the commander of some mercenary group, it came from Zulia government secretary Lisandro Cabello. “Some demand respect for human rights, and that’s good, human rights are important, but what about the victims’ human rights?” He then adds: “THis is how they end, and how they’ll end.

“We’re not going to respect the human rights of any criminal.”

He said it on a Monday during one of his press conferences focused on “citizen security,” after regional police officers massacred a group of men who recorded themselves shooting a woman to death in front of her daughter at Maracaibo Lake’s Eastern Shore.

Cabello has made a habit of starting the week with these reports. He seems proud of carrying out operations where alleged criminals are “neutralized” while he claims that governor Omar Prieto’s promise to turn Zulia into the “safest” state in Venezuela will soon be a reality.

The most radical citizens might believe this to be an appropriate security policy and that the men who killed the Zulian mother had it coming, but this just makes me think of that brilliant headline published by El Chigüire Bipolar a year ago: “Man says the OLP should kill everyone forgetting that this might include him.

The official version of reported cases of police violence during Prieto’s administration, and even before him, tend to lack credibility for one simple reason: they’re all the same.

The “criminal” always resists. He always dies in a “confrontation”. He was always trying to flee. He always has a “suspicious attitude.” And he was always guilty, even though no judged had determined it yet.

But the truth is that no “criminal” behaves the same.

But the truth is that no “criminal” behaves the same.

In May, a 27-year-old man called Luis Losada was murdered inside his home and in front of his daughters in the Cerros de Marín community in northern Maracaibo, allegedly because he stole some TV sets. The police issued a statement talking about “crossfire” and the local press called him a “bandit”. However, witnesses said they only heard one shot: the one that ended his life.

Losada’s wife —who was present during the incident and was beaten out of her home— said to Radio Fe y Alegría that municipal police officers told her they knew her husband hadn’t stolen anything but that, according to them, he knew the culprits and they just wanted to “scare” him into confessing.

After they took him out of the house all bloodied and put him in a truck, the woman cautioned them that she’d written down the plates of the vehicles they were using and that she’d denounce them if something happened to her husband. The officers reacted by threatening her, telling her that if she did that, they’d find her in the same vehicle —with the same plates— and kill her the same way.

More than two months after the incident, Luis Losada’s relatives are still waiting for the culprits to meet justice.

Lisandro Cabello was in charge of Cabimas’s prison, he was an ANC member and became famous for his outlandish excuses regarding the blackouts Zulians suffer every day, like that time when he claimed that the cause of the outages was that the state was too close to the sun.

More than two months after the incident, Luis Losada’s relatives are still waiting for the culprits to meet justice.

But he doesn’t seem to be the one behind this policy of terror. However, Prieto said, upon being questioned about Losada’s case: “You already know how Cerros de Marín works.”

This governor was previously the mayor of San Francisco municipality and he used to give the same treatment to alleged criminals in that entity. His policy went beyond politics: during the protests in 2014 and 2017, there were no demonstrations in that municipality because they were “banned” and nobody dared to break the “rules” because they knew the authorities would behave roughly on them.

“Liberated territory,” said some people in San Francisco as a mockery, when Prieto was mayor.

The complete opposite to the administration of Francisco Arias Cárdenas, who was very careful not to show that he and his people abused human rights, at least in his speeches, perhaps trying to prevent an eventual trial against him.

But it seems Lisandro and Omar have no fear of The Hague.

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