Photo: Daniel Lara

On Monday, Juan Requesens gave a fiery speech at the Venezuelan parliament: “Is Nicolás Maduro going to come and tell me, that I cannot speak up? That I cannot protest? That I cannot talk straight? That I cannot blame him? That I cannot say that they are a bunch of corrupt murderers linked to the worse crimes that this Republic has seen? Of course I’m going to keep saying it! And I will say it every time I can! And I will point at you! Because the only weapon us politicians have is words, it’s strength, it’s our voices and our will to change things.”

Requesens was scolding the government after his colleague, José Manuel Olivares —who also holds a seat in the Venezuelan parliament, was driven to exile when he got news that an order apprehension for his wife had been issued.

The only weapon us politicians have is words, it’s strength, it’s our voices and our will to change things.

The day after his speech at the National Assembly, Juan Requesens and his sister were snatched from their parents home by government security forces. This happened while Nicolás Maduro was rambling on TV about the plan to murder him and the two drones with explosives that were supposed to pull the job. “He’s one of the craziest, a psychopath,” said Maduro as he incriminated the young deputy in the plot to assassinate him.

The following day (Wednesday), the Supreme Tribunal was swift to inform that they had authorized his arrest, and the Constituent Assembly (the infamous ANC) revoked his parliamentary immunity. The order of the factors doesn’t really matter when all of them violate the Constitution.     

People who have worked with him describe Requesens as a well grounded man. Humble, irreverent, and always willing to roll up his sleeves to do the scut work when necessary.

He was President of the UCV Student Centers Federation from 2011 (leaning heavily towards Acción Democrática), and gained notoriety during the 2014 protest cycle as one of the leaders of the student movement. His large frame made him hard to miss in the protests frontline, and his ease with words made him a media favorite. Even when 2014 was a tough, disappointing year for the opposition Requesens thrived politically.

Come 2015. The opposition wins the majority of the National Assembly by a landslide, and Requesens who had joined ranks with Primero Justicia got himself a well deserved seat at the parliament.

We interviewed* Juan Requesens for our young politicians series, since he’s part of a generation that have found themselves politically orphaned. With their mentors and leaders jailed, exiled, barred from politics, and persecuted by the government, suddenly it seemed as if these young guns were left with all the burden of doing most of the day-to-day political work —while standing up against a dictatorship.

Juan Requesens during the 2014 protests. Photo: Raúl Stolk

Going over the interview, and considering what has happened in the past week, some of his answers have a whole new meaning.

Wearing a light blue t-shirt, a slim Requesens reflects on the role politicians must have in the Venezuelan crisis: we must be the vanguard.

“Our role is to civilize, articulate, organize, agitate, and…” Requesens pauses, as if he were choosing carefully his next words, “our role is to assume risks that people aren’t willing to assume. But if we decided to go into politics in this country, it is because we decided to assume the risks that go with it. Or at least this is something we must understand as politicians. Some don’t, it happens. And it’s understandable. Fear is real.”

Our role is to assume risks that people aren’t willing to assume.

It’s chilling to read this statement knowing that just a couple of days later he was being dragged through a corridor by a dozen SEBIN agents.

Juan Requesens believes his greatest political achievement has been putting together his team, and when asked what is politics to him he simply says: The art of serving.

He cites Chile and Spain and the pacto de punto fijo as successful examples of tough negotiations, but doubts that Venezuela is in THAT place.

“A negotiation could work,” he says, “but a negotiation —a real negotiation— won’t come by itself. I believe we have to get to an inflection point in order to get them to sit down for a REAL negotiation. I think that the discordia with the negotiation alternative has more to do with the government’s narrative than with anything else. But you need the will of both sides to have this option work, and when there’s no good will you need to create a necessity through pressure to make them sit.”

“Me niego a que esto se lo lleve quien lo trajo”.

Although the crisis is producing terrible sequels already, Requesens doesn’t think we’ve reached rock bottom yet. In his view, if the country doesn’t correct course we are headed towards an even more violent scenario. He envisions uncontrollable social conflict and death as a product of repression and government violence. “That could start tomorrow,” he says, “social upheaval is not decreed, it just happens.”

He believes contradictions within the government must be peaking. “We’re not the only ones living the crisis,” he emphasizes. But he doesn’t think the opposition is in a good moment for a frontal confrontation:

“The government has the guns, the military, the paramilitary, the security forces, they have the control over violence, the resources, and the control over communications. And we have the public opinion —not necessarily in our favor, I know that, but against the government for sure. And we also have the backing of the international community. What can we do to bring balance to the game? Increasing international pressure and increasing contradictions within the government.”

By contradictions within the government he means finding common ground with hard to swallow characters disappointed with chavismo, “this is what the Frente Amplio is good for.”

“I would like to be President, but there’s a long road ahead,” he says in between chuckles when asked about his future in politics. “But in the meantime, I would like to remain a legislator, and work on the re-institutionalization of the country. We have to end corruption and reform the state. We need virtuous people in public institutions. Institutions don’t make themselves, they are made by people. We need people who understand this.”

Today, I can speak here, I don’t know about tomorrow.

During his Monday speech Requesens spoke for his friend, José Manuel Olivares. Although he knew he was exposed –a risk he decided to take, it’s probable he didn’t imagine that his words would apply to him so quickly.  

“Today, I can speak here, I don’t know about tomorrow (…) the only strategy the dictatorship has here is crushing dissidents, within their own ranks and outside of them.”

It’s been three days since he was taken and there is no information of his whereabouts.

UPDATE 1:54 p.m. —Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez showed a video of Juan Requesens saying Julio Borges had asked him several weeks ago to help Juan Monasterios cross the border from San Antonio to Cúcuta, Colombia. Rodríguez called this a “confession,” such gall. 

*Fabiana Papaianni in Caracas conducted the interview for the Young Politicians Series.

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31 COMMENTS

  1. Having watched what used to be this hugely talented kid grow up in public, protesting the regime, and doing it brilliantly, it is particularly disturbing news to hear that they’ve now taken him.

  2. “Is Nicolás Maduro going to come and tell me, that I cannot speak up? That I cannot protest? That I cannot talk straight? That I cannot blame him? That I cannot say that they are a bunch of corrupt murderers linked to the worse crimes that this Republic has seen? Of course I’m going to keep saying it! And I will say it every time I can! And I will point at you! Because the only weapon us politicians have is words, it’s strength, it’s our voices and our will to change things.”

    Pretty ballsy thing for a politician to say. I would say that he is less politician and more leader, because politicians say only stuff that they think those who can get them elected want to hear.

    The problem (or solution, depending upon your prospective) is that the people he represents don’t feel the same way. If they did, they would be paying a price too.

    • They certainly feel that way, the thing is, that they don’t say it in public because they are risking to be forgotten in the regime’s dungeons.

      • Hence the risk.

        The salient point being El Pueblo doesn’t want to “do” anything. El Pueblo is content to let people like Juan Requesens take all the risk, then El Pueblo points at Requesens as he languishes in jail, and El Pueblo says, “See what happens when you speak out against tyranny?”

        That is what sheeple say. Citizens don’t say that. Citizens make the tyrants fear arresting people like Juan Requesens.

        Bravo, Juan Requesens.

        Shame on you, El Pueblo. Shame.

        • The sooner everybody understands that the caracazo’s “pueblo arrecho” fallacy is just a myth made by the communists to cover their actions in that coup against CAP, the sooner the people in Venezuela will understand that any social mvement against a regime must have leaders, and that said leaders must know that they’re facing a regime hundreds of times worse than MPJ’s and Gómez’s regimes together.

          As I said before, Requesens got caught because he underestimated the regime.

    • Outside powers supporting him, death squads that kidnap, imprison or outright kill anyone that dares to protest, and a tailor-made fake opposition that made people waste two decades from one useless tactic to another.

  3. Sonará muy mierda esto, pero Requesens es otro que ha caído en las garras del régimen por no haberlo sabido caracterizar.

    Cuando se trata de una dictadura, ningún derecho humano te protegerá de que vengan a joderte cuando a ellos les salga del culo, y cuando se trata de comunistas, ya está demostrado también que son capaces de agarrarla con la familia para fregarte, así que lamentablemente Requesens tuvo que hacer lo primero que debe hacer todo el que se posiciona en un lugar relevante en contra de una tiranía: Sacar a su familia del país.

    Luego de haber hecho eso, habría tenido la posibilidad de irse a la clandestinidad una vez que el régimen lo marcara, el error que cometió Requesens fué que él siguió pensando que el chabizmo “no es una dictadura” y por lo tanto que le respetarían algún derecho.

    Su “fama”, de hecho, es lo que lo ha mantenido con vida, dado que los chabiztas directamente asesinan a aquellos que no son tan conocidos porque saben que no tendrá repercusiones fuera de Venezuela, ya que es muy difícil seguir blandiendo la excusa ridícula de que “hez ke zon teggrogriztaz” cuando mandas grupos de exterminio paramilitares a asesinar opositores desarmados.

      • Parece que toqué el nervio de un pobre creyón mudero.
        ¿Vas a decirnos ahora que esto es una “democracia con falencias”, Manrique?
        ¿O es acaso mentira algo de lo que dije, que estas basuras rojas iban a usar CUALQUIER excusa (Y que si no la hay se la inventan) para joder a Requesens?
        ¿O tanto te molesta que te digan que los venezolanos NO PASARÁN AGACHADOS con la diarrea roja?
        Ah, cierto, ya lo sé, dirás que todo esto es “porque Requesens andaba hablando paja contra el buen gobierno chabizta” y que “hay que esperarse a las elecciones”

  4. “…el error que cometió Requesens fué que él siguió pensando que el chabizmo “no es una dictadura” y por lo tanto que le respetarían algún derecho.”

    I won’t bother with my butchery of the Spanish language, but I will respond.

    I think he does know what he is dealing with, and he is paying the price he knew that was coming. It was no error. But you are very correct in that his notarization is keeping him alive. Chavismo doesn’t want to make this guy a martyr. But they are dumb enough to allow it happen.

    • I don’t think martyrs are possible in VZ. The people don’t care.

      If Oscar Peres didn’t do it…nor the treatment of Leopoldo…nothing will.

      • Years of continued dissappointments and being deceived by the fake opposition hired by the regime have made the people of Venezuela incredibly cynical and distrustful, thus making them almost reflexively thinking that anything that happens in the country is a “g2 hoax”, but also paradoxically claiming that “it’s impossible that cubans have invaded Venezuela”.

        Many people in Venezuela simply don’t want to accept that they’re living under a crushing tyranny that’s controlled by an invading force, because that would mean that they would have to get out of their comfort zone and stop trying to live their lives pretending that nothing’s happening.

        So as a self-defense mechanism, lots of people will quickly dismiss anything that ever happens in Venezuela as a “hoax” because they try to mentally protect themselves from the frustration that comes from a dashed hope that someone finally goes and offs the regime’s high honchos.

        • What can I do? Instead of just watching, what can I do? You are mad, I’m mad, everyone is fed up and frustrated now tell me: what can I do?

          • If you can’t do anything from your current position, you can at least stop spreading the fallacy of “everything is a g2 hoax”, a thing that even this site fell for when they claimed that OP was a “peine”.

            Also, at least one thing can be done from a very weak and unimportant position: Fill the other people’s minds with hatred against the regime (Just as commies did with democracy as a whole during the 4th), because for now, the fear against them surpases greatly any contempt the people can feel.

      • The OP movement’s impact was diminished by the self-defense mechanism I explained before, while LL’s political capital loss could be explained in a series of abysmal errors made by both him and his wife, among which there are:

        1- Surrendering himself to the regime, be it because either he thought he would be treated fairly (Wrong), or because his ignorance about the “Mandela” thing, and I find quite absurd that a guy that should have read a thousand books more than me wouldn’t know that Mandela wasn’t exactly a saint, and that there was a reason that the guy sucked his 27 years in a cell without complaints.

        2- Accepting the bastard Zapatero was a mediator in the negociation tables when everybody knew how crooked and biased he is in favor of the regime, when he should have banned the guy from his home.

        3- His wife Lilian speaking about “defending Chávez’s legacy” all while she even took a photo with rotten chabizta garbage like Juan Barreto, a douchebag that’s know for being one of the most hardcore and cynical chabiztas in recent history, not counting the amount of hatred he’s earned by his stupid mockery of the exiles.

        Those three things, lack of understanding and characterization of the regime (Surrendering to a dictatorship believing there was a trace of actual justice to rely on), accepting Zapatero as a mediator and “building bridges” towards clearly GUILTY high figures of chabizmo ignoring the claims and messages that came from the opposition’s bases are the things that ended undermining most of his political capital.

  5. I was sincerely moved by all his heart-out speech in the National Assembly. You must have balls to speak up like that. Completely fearless. Absolutely coherent and showing credibility, truthfulness.

    Comparing with Leo Lopez is 100% unfair. Have you seen the life quality of the Lillian Tintori? In a report of Ms. Poleo, her display of the great life she carries in Caracas just shows and reinforces the ”problem” of Venezuela. That kind of showing-up people like her, her meticulously calculated words of Venezuela’s problem shows she is simply one more ”enchufada”. Then she is playing with her children in a garden of dreams that only a few can pay by themselves. Now that the ROE will be freed up, she won’t need xxxATM to obscure ways to transfer hundreds of thousands of greenbacks. Has anyone explained how she funded her intense travel campaign to defend her husband while he was in jail?

    Requesens plays in another league. Too bad Venezuelan take it so lightly and don’t go to his rescue.

    Finally, did he caused the ”failed” Maduro’s killing attempt? Did he instigate it, planned for it, etc? there is this showman Bayly in Mega TV than in his attempt to tell everyone that he knew about this ”killing attempt” well before everybody else, he has made unsolicited defenses of Requesen. As if Requesen was not guilty, which I believe he is not. The issue is why Bayly had to go to that length to defend him, with a friend like that I don’t need enemies.

    Go Requesens!!!

    (If those living in Miami could hire a good honest lawyer in Miami itself, whom will do the defense pro-bono and all of us contributing to her/his travel and filing expenses, I’m would help from my chair in Texas. He deserves something especially because he’s unique)

    • The kid is in prison in Venezuela not in the US. Alan Dershowitz himself could go there to defend him and it would not make a difference. Venezuela is a totalitarian government not a democracy where people are innocent until proven guilty.

    • Leopoldo and his family have always had money.

      Calling them out as enchufados is ridiculous. You sound more like a Chavista:

      Anyone with an education, money and success has to be corrupt and evil.

      You’re a reflection of the problem in VZ. Not the solution.

  6. “If those living in Miami could hire a good honest lawyer in Miami … whom will do the defense pro-bono”

    You had me going up to “honest”

    Also “pro bono” … good luck with that.

  7. There must be a Venezuelan lawyer living in Miami that’s friendly enough to take this heads on.

    I’ve heard of two, they only need to seize stuff like houses, bank accounts, yachts, of one or two enchufados.

    Make their life in the USA miserable but not too much, enough to advocate for him in their regular trips to Venezuela.

    Most Venezuelan here have a “straw tail”.

    First step target the guy, second identify potential violations to Ofac or other, send a confidential declaration to FL general attorney, you can imagine the next steps.

    These offenders are generally very arrogant and want everyone to know their riches.

    I can’t believe that after all that has been written no one offers a way out.

    Let’s surrender, it’s easier.

    • Right. And you do not think that the Venezuelan government will dig up the dirt on the lawyer and the ones being blackmailed by the him/her? All that will be used against the defender. Do not quit your day job because as a strategist you suck!

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