Fleeing to the Empire

Photo: @SenRubioPress

After spending a decade as Hugo Chávez’s security chief, Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera led the State Secret Police (SEBIN) after his training in Cuba. He arrived this Monday in the United States with information about the darkest recesses of Nicolás’ regime: the illegal gold businesses, the money laundering, the cells of Hezbollah and other irregular groups operating in Venezuela with official authorization, and the reach of Cuban influence within the regime. In the interview with The Washington Post, Figuera said that he never saw “the government’s corruption so close” as he did in the last six months (an excess and a lie,) but he also said that Nicolás “is the boss of a criminal enterprise, with his own family involved in it” and reported the operations of “a dysfunctional government split among personal feuds.”

“Tell me something I don’t know“

It’s the phrase used by Figuera himself, and if you read the interview in depth, you’ll find a novelty in the name of César Omaña, a doctor and businessman with the perfect formula: more friends that César González (millennials, as your parents); without accusations or sanctions and in touch with American authorities, Leopoldo López and Figuera. Simultaneously, there was another group of conspirators: Raúl Gorrín, owner of Globovisión; chief justice Maikel Moreno and defense minister Vladimir Padrino López. The central piece was Moreno who, on May 1st, would issue a ruling restoring the National Assembly’s authority. Padrino López would support the ruling and force Nicolás to leave power. Moreno asked to remain as judge in a transition government, dozens of millions of dollars, and then floated the idea of becoming caretaker President instead of Juan Guaidó. Figuera claimed that he activated the plot early because he caught wind that paramilitaries groups (colectivos) were preparing a large-scale assault that could turn bloody. We know the rest.

Landing freedom

Commissioner Iván Simonovis talked in Washington with The Associated Press about his flight from the country, an amazing story involving rappelling down a wall at night, hiding in various homes, traveling on a boat with a malfunctioning engine to a Caribbean island and then flying, literally flying to the United States. “That Simonovis can laugh about his ordeal is as much a testament to his jailers’ incompetence as his own bravery,” says the interviewer Joshua Goodman. The commissioner claims that many who helped him leave the country are active regime members, but they work for Guaidó’s government in secret. Simonovis left on May 16th and it’d be weeks until a rented plane picked him up and while flying above the Bahamas, the pilot gave him the controls: “I landed my own freedom,” he says. He wants to use his experience to help American authorities investigate corruption, drug trafficking and the regime’s alleged ties with terrorists groups.

Once more

Regarding the commemoration of the 198th anniversary of the Battle of Carabobo and the Army’s Day, caretaker President Juan Guaidó (once more!) sent a message to the Armed Forces: “It’s time for the military family to shout: freedom and democracy for Venezuela,” saying that on Monday “we saw a dictator surrounded by Cuba bodyguards (…) a dictator who is isolated, alone, frightened of facing the Venezuelan people.” He went deeper on the matter of fear, saying that Nicolás broke the tradition of holding parades, and this time the troops were unarmed. Guaidó denounced the persecution against Armed Force officers and added that there are over 200 persecuted, imprisoned or tortured soldiers. When the Parliament session ended, a chavista colectivo attacked press workers and lawmakers as they left the Federal Legislative Palace; one of them broke the windows of lawmaker Fernando Orozco’s car with a helmet, and the National Guard just stood by. The same man hit a VPI TV cameraman and lawmaker Nora Bracho was wounded when defending press workers. After this, the National Guard intervened. Impunity is a powerful incentive for colectivos.

The non-country

VTV was bold enough to lie and claim that the most recent report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says that the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDH) reveals that the conditions Venezuelans are living in are better than those of 70% of Latin American countries. That compulsion to lie is the reason why, even with a 90% drop in the construction sector in the last five years, Aristóbulo Istúriz said yesterday that this week, the Housing Mission will deliver 3,631 housing units all over the country. Similarly, Jorge Arreaza claimed before the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, that the “financial, economic and commercial” blockade is to blame for the complex humanitarian emergency, saying that they’ve been unable to import seeds or fertilizers. Sadly, he didn’t explain why producers can’t buy or import their own supplies, or why seeds and fertilizers aren’t produced in the country. And while dozens of Venezuelans remain retained at Chile’s northern border, former prosecutor general Luisa Ortega Díaz met with Chilean prosecutor general Jorge Aboott, to talk about the Venezuelan crisis and the serious human rights violations that she herself helped commit.

Movements on the board

  • Colombia’s government showed concern for another violation of their territory by Venezuelan soldiers, which took place on Sunday in the jungle department of Guainía. Meanwhile, Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said that Venezuela is held by a dictatorial regime and explained that no dictatorship “falls overnight… for that to happen, the conditions must be created,” and that they’re working to create those conditions.
  • According to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the Russian air force plane landed in Venezuela to provide services to the Russian military personnel already in here: “From all points of view, this is a transparent cooperation,” said Ryabkov, adding that “it has no element that could destabilize the region.”
  • Elliott Abrams, U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, said this Tuesday that he hopes the arrival of general Cristopher Figuera will encourage other regime authorities to make the same decision: “He’s not under detention, he’s a free man. I would like to talk to him myself.  I assume other U.S. officials would like to. [He] has a lot of interesting things to say about the Maduro regime,” he said.
  • Abrams also said that President Donald Trump is committed with the campaign to pressure Nicolás to leave the presidency, and firmly rejected the possibility that Nicolás could be a part of a unity government: “So the notion that there is at the highest levels of the government a diminution of interest is just simply false,” said Abrams.

Since Latin America keeps experiencing the greatest forced migration in history, the impact of the Venezuelan exodus will be one of the main topics at the OAS General Assembly. In this forum that starts today in Medellín, the Lima Group will seek to legitimize Juan Guaidó as caretaker President.

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