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Venezuela: The paramilitary affair was a set-up of the government

By Gustavo Azocar Alcala, El Universal

A citizen named Julio Javier Jaimes Hernández, who for 15 years worked for Venezuela's National Identification and Immigration Office (Onidex) in San Antonio, Táchira state, said that the group of suspected paramilitary troopers arrested in Caracas on May 9 entered the country with a permit issued by the Venezuelan government.

Now hiding somewhere in the southwestern state, Jaimes explained that the paramilitary scandal was fabricated by the very government, whose officials have threatened to kill him. He has asked for protection to the Attorney General's regional office, but never got a serious answer.

"The (case of the) paramilitaries that were going to kill the president was all a set-up," he said. "It was all fake. All the Colombians that were detained near El Hatillo (Miranda state) were brought to Caracas in buses rented from a San Cristóbal (Táchira) company. I myself escorted them following orders of my superiors. I traveled four times with them, each time with a bit more than 30 Colombian citizens."

He added that all these trips to Caracas were authorized by Sergeant José Rafael Rojas, head of the Onidex office in San Antonio. "He personally gave me a signed and sealed collective permit with the names of all the Colombian citizens who would travel to the capital, supposedly to take part in a political event with President Hugo Chávez," Jaimes recalled.

A fabricated story

Jaimes said he first traveled with 29 Colombians on April 23, 2004. "That day (...) Rojas called me and ordered me to escort a group of Colombian nationals to Caracas," he said.

Jaimes said that Rojas ordered him to drive the group to Caracas and leave them in the gas station in front of Fuerte Tiuna, Caracas' major military base. Other officials would pick them up there and take them to the Brígido Iriarte stadium, in El Paraíso, to legalize their presence in Venezuela under the February 3, 2004 presidential decree," Jaimes said. Under this decree, a foreign citizen living in Venezuela needs no more than presenting a work certificate and two witnesses to obtain the Venezuelan nationality in about six months.

"I obeyed the order," he said. "We left San Antonio by night. The bus was parked outside the criminal investigation force's building. We drove from there to Caracas." In Jaimes' account, the bus had come from Ureña, also in Táchira state, where it had picked up the Colombian group. The bus was stopped at a National checkpoint, where an officer got irritated by the number of "buses full of Colombian people" he had seen that day.

"I thought that things were not all right," Jaimes added. "It was quite weird to take Colombians to Caracas to give them identification cards. But I was just an employee and simply obeyed the order. In front of the Fuerte Tiuna base, as expected, other officials were waiting for these men to take them to the stadium, Jaimes explained.

According to Jaimes, most of the people in the bus were young and poor men. "I talked to some of them and they told me they were going to get an ID card and work in a farm. They told me they would get paid in dollars and I noticed they were very excited," he said.

The big scam

Once he accomplished his mission in Caracas, Jaimes returned to Táchira two days later. "Days after that, the paramilitary scandal emerged, and I started wondering if the boys I had taken to Caracas were part of it all," he said.

Then, Jaimes' boss, together with an officer of the Military Intelligence Direction's (DIM) Táchira unit, visited Jaimes' house in San Cristóbal. He was not at home, but they told his wife he should go to the DIM headquarters in Caracas.

"I went to the DIM headquarters. They isolated me, questioned me and then put me in a basement," Jaimes commented.

According to Jaimes, the people in the bus knew nothing of a complot. "I talked to some of them and they told me they were going to get an ID card and work in a farm. They told me they would get paid in dollars and I noticed they were very excited," he said.

He now alleges to have said everything he knew. "I told them the only thing I did was to receive an order from Sergeant Rojas," he said. "I was under arrest for several hours, and one official told me that my statements would be sent to the Military Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Justice and event the president. And they wanted to leave me in prison, but my lawyer filed an appeal and they had to set me free."

Back to San Cristóbal, a DIM official visited him again and said everything had been an error. "But two days later, I noticed I was being followed, my telephone was tapped and police agents were surrounding my house.

"I made my own investigation and realized that the names and identification card numbers in the permit they gave me (in April) are the same as those of the people the government is accusing of being paramilitaries," he said.

"I deny that these people are paramilitaries," he added. "I say these were ordinary people of humble origins and living somewhere in Cúcuta (Colombia)." Guilty people are free

Question: Where is Sergeant Rojas?

Answer: He is in the San Antonio Onidex immigration office, just as if nothing had happened.

Q.: How can he be still there if he gave you that authorization to take the Colombians to Caracas?

A.: I am asking myself the same question. Why is not Sergeant Rojas being investigated? Q.: Was Rojas summoned to testify?

A.: I understand that he testified. But I do not know about the deal he could have made with the judge, as just hours later he was free.

Q.: Who do you think is the real guilty in this situation?

A.: The guilty one is in Caracas. There are powerful people in here. I think the true guilty ones are free, while the innocent ones are being persecuted by the government.

Q.: So you think the paramilitary case is a set-up.

A.: Yes. No doubt about that. Most of the names of the people detained were in the collective permit I got. Those young people were not paramilitaries, they were cheated with the promise of giving them a job and Venezuelan documents.

Q.: Who could have organized such a thing?

A.: A monster. The person who organized and planned this cannot be human being. It is a monster.

Q.: And where is this monster now?

A.: In Caracas. Where else can he be?

They want to kill me

It was too late when Julio Javier Jaimes Hernández understood he had been used. He is now receiving threatening phone calls and he fears for his life and his family's.

"I blame the president, the minister of Defense, the minister of Justice, the Military Prosecutor and the intelligence departments of the DIM and Disip for anything that could happen to me or my family," he said. "I do not know who is behind this harassment, but the real thing is that I fear for my family and for myself."

Translated by Edgardo Malaver

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