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Venezuela: the missing persons can not be ignored or spinned away

By Miguel Octavio

The spin doctors are active, very active. After yesterday’s accusations that the dead are the responsibility of the opposition, today Minister of Information and Communications Jesse Chacon accused the media of promoting violence, saying that local media even carried instructions on how to make a Molotov cocktail this weekend. Chacon also denied there were any political prisoners in Venezuela and said that the injured were an order of magnitude less than what the opposition was charging.

Thus, we entered a third day of spinning, as the Chavez Government continues to try to deflect international criticism of the Government induced repression and violence of the week that followed the march of February 27th. Amazing isn’t it, that ever since President Hugo Chávez gave his cynical defense of his Government in front of the diplomatic corps last Friday, there has been nobody injured, nobody killed, nobody disappeared? In fact, that first attempt at spinning went so badly, that those that Chavez claimed did not exist, or were dead, have been coming out of the woods to say they are who they claim to be, they signed to recall Hugo Chavez and they would do it again.

Then there is the outrageous case of the Minister of the Interior and Justice, infamous General Lucas Rincon, who has yet to explain why he said Chavez had resigned on April 12th. 2002, or why he rejoined the Chavez Government. But there he was, suggesting all the deaths of the repressive week were simply caused by the opposition, saying the military carried none of the weapons that are shown in dozens, if not hundreds of pictures in the media, including this blog.

But as Daniel explains in his blog, to suggest that someone was killed by a marble fired by a shotgun and that the marble actually went through the person’s body, as in the case of Jose Vila, is so incredibly outrageous that it could only come from this cynical Government. Maybe the Venezuelan military should get rid of all the FALs they buy and get these more dangerous shotguns, cleverly designed by the opposition. They should be cheaper than and as deadly as the feared emblematic weapon of the Venezuelan military. Meanwhile, Jose Vila’s family mourns and the witnesses have yet to be interviewed by the police.

But you see, the Government is losing this fight. I am not sure what they expected to gain from the repression or the violence. Maybe they thought the few remaining officers of the Venezuelan armed forces that are not loyal to Chavez would come out openly and be purged. Or maybe they thought that they could justify declaring a state of emergency, with Lula and Kirchner as witnesses of the violence of the opposition. Instead, the two Presidents friendly to the “process” were outraged by what they saw, telling Chavez what they thought and leaving early.

Then, came the condemnation by many countries. All of a sudden the friendly countries of the European Union began leading the charges and the pressure against the Chavez repression. Last but not least, a public poll today says fewer than 15% of those polled said the Armed Forces did a good job during that week of repression, with close to 60% rejecting it strongly.

But the spin Doctors have a problem. You can try to spin away deaths, you can try to spin away injured, you can blame someone for the violence, and you can say nobody was tortured. But see, you can not spin away those that have disappeared. Yes, eight Venezuelans disappeared amidst the violence and the repression. Amnesty International knows it and the list of names is right there and here staring at and challenging the Chavez administration. The Coordinadora Democrática has provided names and ID numbers and they are nowhere to be found. You can accuse somebody else of a murder. You can manipulate the numbers. But you can not magically make somebody turn up alive, particularly if they are dead and you likely know about it.

Thus, the Chavez administration is trapped in its own lie. Curiously, none of these Government officials, from Lucas Rincon, to Jesse Chacon. to Chávez himself, has addressed this issue or said anything, anything at all, about the missing. They simply are ignoring them. Sadly, there is a long history of desaparecidos in Latin America’s bloody history of state repression. Even more sadly, the Chavez Government has just joined this list of the cruel and barbaric regimes. As the issue takes center stage in the next few days, it will open new cracks in the façade of the regime. It will continue to show the world the true face of this outlaw regime. In contrast with those that Chavez said did not exist but are alive, the desaparecidos of the Chavez regime are likely to be dead and can not be ignored or spinned away.

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