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Venezuela: Dangerous Times

By Miguel Octavio

28.11.04 | In my post right after the Anderson murder, I was asking for balance, for some degree of caution in what both the Government and the opposition said or did. I said the government had a higher responsibility and should be careful. After one week, things are not going well. The government seems to be taking advantage of Anderson’s death to initiate a new wave of persecution and repression in the name of security and using Anderson’s death as the excuse.

When even the Vice President recognizes that the police mistreated the parents of Antonio Lopez Castillo. When Lopez Castillo is killed with fifteen bullets and witnesses say he did not even fire a shot. When the Heads of the intelligence police and investigative police are not leading the investigations, supplanted by the Minister of Justice. When day after day charges are brought against opposition figures for one case or the other (none against any pro-Chavez figures). When a sentence by the Supreme Court which declared the military innocent of rebellion in April 2002 is going to be appealed and the case reopened, in clear violation of the law. When the police shoot first and ask questions second. When a suspect that was turned in safely to the police arrives at the Court beaten up. When ministers lie about what really happened. When every chance for peace is bypassed and ignored. It is then that you recognize that there is no chance for democracy and dissent. No chance for open discussion. No chance for a fair trial. There may not even be a space for this blog anymore.

This is what we have come to. As Carlos Blanco says in today’s El Universal, for the Chavez Government there are first class and second class deaths. Danilo was first class, opposition deaths are second class. After six years of murders with impunity the Government suddenly grabs the flag of the anti-terrorism fight. This from the government presided by the man, who as President, wrote a letter of admiration and solidarity to Carlos the Jackal, the biggest terrorist of the pre-Bin Laden era. Who are they trying to fool?

The Government is now going after the former Mayor of Caracas, elected under the Chávez platform. A man that I truly disliked before, during and after his support of Chávez, but that you can not accuse of not being a democrat. It is going after the only political party that received more votes in this election than in the previous one: Primero Justicia. It is going after close to four hundred people that went to the presidential palace on April 2002. Whether they signed Carmona’s declaration or not. It is simply an easy way to get rid of hundreds of opponents.

It is becoming a dangerous time for all of us. For the first time, I am being careful of what I say. I need to be careful of what I say. Most of what I write could be construed as trying to destabilize the Government. If they want to, the case against anyone can be easily be built in an instant. The media is clearly using self-censorship. Cases and deaths are forgotten or simply ignored. Meanwhile, the Vice-President issues a declaration against the media, accusing it of manipulating the Anderson case and the deaths that have followed it. But we hear no declaration against the illegal procedures followed in all of those cases. Or the inhuman ones in the case of the Lopez Castillo family who were told of their son’s deaths and immediately were placed in a room, while the authorities searched the premises, finding an arsenal of weapons, with the elderly couple then handcuffed and taken to jail for two days. (The Vice-President only referred to the bad treatment, not the the illegalities)

Unfortunately, after the regional elections there was a chance for some peace as the Chávez administration had no real opponents. Anderson’s death even gave an opening for a truce when the murder was unanimously condemned by everyone. However, this chance was wasted and the Government’s aggressive behavior of the last few days bodes badly for our future.

What a difference from the way the real coupsters of 1992 were treated. The now Minister of Justice led the attack against the Government’s TV station where a dozen civilians were killed by the military forces. Chavez was pardoned. Hundreds of deaths from those coups were forgotten in the name of peace and coexistence.

In contrast this Government is persecuting opponents where cases do not even exist. Where cases are fabricated overnight. Reopening cases forgetting about double jeopardy. Finding bodies and weapons everywhere, but in the meantime the real evidence, like that from Anderson’s blown up car, his autopsy and the connection between those killed by the police and the murder has yet to turn up.

These are dangerous times. For now, I will continue blogging using public information, but will try not to use any information that I receive privately, which may get me into problems.

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