Archive for May 11th, 2004

A new wave of repression?

May 11, 2004

I cant’ help but be extremely worried. A new wave of repression and intimidation seems to have started today, as the Government attempts to leverage the paramilitary charade into a full scale witch hunt:


-Baruta Mayor Capriles Radonsky is jailed, despite the fact that the Penal Hall of the Venezuela Supreme Court had already ruled that Mayors have to be tried while they are free, as they represent no escape risk.


 


-Not only was Deputy Rafael Marin’s house raided without a warrant, but from well-informed sources I understand he was held at gunpoint with a machine gun. Moreover, the Head of the intelligence police told the media that “It is very clear that (Marin) is involved, so he should stop complaining”. Well, if it is so clear, why doesn’t he go to the assembly and has the Deputy’s immunity removed? Marin later called him a “bandit”


 


-The Head of the intelligence police says they have an eight page “Counter revolutionary plan”, warns of further searches and announces “surprises”. He says “Don’t say names, but you will see”. Eight pages!! Wow! How elaborate!


 


-The farm of media tycoon Gustavo Cisneros is also searched, his only sin apparently that it was close to (miles!) where the paramilitary were captured last Sunday.  President Chavez had accused Cisneros of plotting against him, but nothing was found in the raid.


 


-Reporters from El Universal covering the home raids around Caracas were stopped by a military intelligence Colonel named Manuitt, abused and threatened. My translation of one of the reporters’ articles follows.


 


-A Judge ordered both active and retired military; most of them low rank and not well-known, captured.


 


-The People’s Defender says that he is suspicious of US participation in the paramilitary charade due to “historical evidence”


 


 


-The Minister of Defense warns that people should be on alert because they have “suspicions” that there will be attacks on both opposition and Government leaders by paid assassins. If he knows so much, how come he does not stop it? I thought that is part of his job.


 


The whole charade is getting to be suspiciously blown out of proportion by the Government. I am now leaning toward the belief that the paramilitary force was indeed a Government plan to justify arbitrary detentions in the name of national security. They were discovered and had to advance the plan, making it look really bad. Reportedly, the owner of the farm where the paramilitary were supposedly kept said that his farm would be about the worst possible location for something like that, as it has a church and a Bolivarian circle less than half a mile away.


 


This is the first time that I have felt the Government was stepping over the legal line in very clear fashion, without shame. People are being jailed right and left, in violation of rulings and with little or no evidence. The raids on homes are not even legally supported. A deputy had his immunity violated. Reporters are once again abused, but this time threatened with death by the military police!.


 


Hopefully, this is not a sign of worse things to come, but it looks very bad and bleak to me.

A report of direct media intimidation and threats

May 11, 2004

Reporter Felix Carmona of El Universal on what happened to him


 


I am going to do the opposite of what “Commander Manuitt” told me last night, when he threatened us, at gunpoint, dressed in black and with a ski mask covering his face: “Listen well: not one word, not one letter, not one denunciation because we are going to kill you and all your family, we will erase you, Are you listening?”


 


Given that threat and the bitterest five minutes lived by me and my fellow reporters, Jorge Santos, photographer and the driver of El Universal’s car, Andres Perez Cova, we covered the nightly task of the raid on the residence of former President Carlos Andres Perez. When we were done we went to the house of Rafael Marin, which we heard on the radio had also been raided. We took the El Hatillo route and in a turn we met the Military intelligence unit which attacked us, abused us and threatened us with death. They took away our identification tape recorder and camera.

The charade with the captured paramilitary

May 11, 2004

Theories abound about the paramilitary squad captured Sunday morning in the outskirts of Caracas. The whole story certainly sounds fishy: almost a hundred Colombian men, dressed in brand new military fatigues, riding buses thru the suburbs of Caracas well past midnight. They carry no weapons and are going towards a camp that is clean and is not guarded. The neighbors claim they had heard no shots, they had sensed no unusual movement.


The government has cameramen from its TV station on hand for the operation. The intelligence police not only treat the prisoners well (In one TV scene one of them is seen loosening the handcuffs of a prisoner), but they are open to the reporters, in contrast to their usual militaristic and barbaric style. Intelligence police actions tend to be secretive, the way is blocked, and nobody is allowed nearby. Meanwhile, the fact that the municipal police stumbled on the soldiers is denied, but there are videos to prove it.


 


Immediately, Chavez, the Vice-President, the Head of the intelligence police, Deputies and a variety of leaders from all sides of Chávez’ MVR come out saying exactly the same thing, talking about these terrorists, as if the Carapiacas urban terrorists that roam the 23 de Enero area were any different in style or nature. But I have never heard the Government criticize them or call them terrorists.


 


Chavez truly overdoes it, says the Governor of Zulia state wants to have him killed, Diosdado Cabello, blames his opponent in the Miranda Gubernatorial race Enrique Mendoza and Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel calls for the world to condemn the presence of this unarmed terrorists. Amazing for a Government that has yet to condemn the assassination of Chechen leader Kadyrov.


 


But where it gets to be a farce is when the intelligence police search the house of Carlos Andres Perez’ former wife. What could they ever expect to find there, the house of a former wife of a former President that has not been in Venezuela in five years, the last three months under medical care? Tonight they attempt to search the house of a National Assembly deputy who has parliamentary immunity.


 


Nobody has yet advanced an explanation on how close to one hundred men managed to travel by bus from the border to Caracas undetected. This in a country where the Government routinely blocks roads, searches cars and stops people on the highway. I have never been able to drive from Merida to Caracas without being stopped at least twice.


 


I advance two possible related theories for the charade of the last two days:


 


1)      This was an operation by opposition fringe groups to create havoc and blame it on the Government later in May. The Government infiltrated the operation, but when the Municipal police of El Hatillo stumbled upon the paramilitary force, the Government how to act ahead of schedule, inducing the amateurish charade we have seen in the last two days.


 


2)      This was a Government operation to create a scandal against the opposition later in the month, near the date when the ratification process of the signatures is supposed to take place. The charade had to be advanced for the same reasons as 1).


 


I favor 2), but the fact that the men were heading towards the farm of a well known fringe opposition member who advocates the violent overthrow of the Government does not allow me to rule out 1).


 


This is all guessing, unfortunately like so many things in this wonderful revolution, we will never figure out what really happened in this new charade.

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