Photo: Cristian Hernández

It’s been hard to sit and write about the disappearance of Gilber Caro, because he’s my friend, because we explored together his life as a gangster and his seven years in jail during the 90s. Because I know of the horrors he survived and I witnessed his transformation from a criminal to a social and political activist. Because I personally saw his work with kids on the streets of Caracas and his barrio in Guatire, with several NGOs like Liberados en Marcha, Techo and Santa Va a las Cárceles, that attends to the needs and rights of convicts, their families, and people living on the street.

Because we talked about the irony of surviving a monstrous system, becoming a human rights activist, a law student and a substitute deputy of the National Assembly, in 2016, only to be threatened with jail again.

In 2017, Caro was arrested after a concocted accusation of treason for which he endured a year and a half in jail, but at least then we knew where he was.

In 2017, he was arrested after a concocted accusation of treason for which he and his girlfriend endured a year and a half in jail, but at least then we, his friends and family, knew where he was.

Today, where’s Gilber Caro?

Gilber was taken (because we can’t even use the word “arrested”) on the night of April 26th, by SEBIN agents and nothing has been known about him since. While some versions say he’s at El Helicoide, his family and lawyers have no official information. Almost three weeks after the disappearance, Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab said that “he’s under investigation” for the events of April 30th.

Meaning, he’s being investigated after getting detained, for events that happened three days after the aforementioned “arrest”. This comes from a guy who prides himself on being a human rights expert.

The interview is a pathetic confession of state violence that should be viewed carefully, as Saab pauses, avoids questions, shifts his sight from the camera to his left, as if looking for instructions. He finally resorts to the classic victim card, complaining about “harassment” from reporters who are just asking about a citizen.

“That’s what you say,” is his retort, when asked if Caro has been “disappeared” and that goes down as a twin to Videla’s response in 1979, to a reporter’s insistence on the whereabouts of political dissidents: “He has disappeared, therefore he has no entity. He is neither dead nor alive, he’s disappeared.”

On October 2018, the military judge who passed sentence on Caro, in 2017, Luz Mariela Santafé, escaped to Colombia where she confessed that his arrest and judicial process was a sham. She also wrote a text message to Gilber apologizing to him and all of Venezuela for all the harm she caused. Gilber publicly accepted her apology, being a man who transformed his life through faith.

On 2018, the military judge who passed sentence on Caro, in 2017, escaped to Colombia where she confessed that his arrest and judicial process was a sham.

Chavismo seems obsessed with him, though. This is a regime that punishes the opposition from lower socioeconomic backgrounds harsher than others, the same way repression is tougher in places where chavismo was once strong. Maybe Gilber’s humble origins and his unflinching conviction of facing oppression without resorting to its perverted logic is what they find infuriating.

In any case, he hasn’t been officially presented in court. He, a National Assembly deputy, didn’t just disappear, he has been disappeared.

I didn’t want to write this. I’d rather scream.

Gilber’s plight speaks of very dark times.

I trust that he’ll stay strong.

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