Political persecution worsens in times of pandemic

Publicado por:
Publicado el: 22 de abril de 2020

Translation: Hearts on Venezuela

Original translation here

Since 2014 el Centro de Justicia y de Paz (Cepaz) has been consistent in documenting and denouncing the political persecution in Venezuela (See reports: “Political persecution in Venezuela. Systematization of patterns of persecution against Venezuelan political dissents”; “Political Persecution in Venezuela (Differentiated identification of patterns of persecution in dissident actors and monitoring of cases” and “New patterns and exacerbation of political persecution. Monitoring and updating of persecution chaos”), in this period we have presented the main Patterns of persecution that are exercised systematically and continuously by the de facto government, demonstrating that the harassment against Venezuelan dissents is pre-existing and intensifies, as well as the crisis.

Now, in a context aggravated by the complex humanitarian emergency that exists in Venezuela, due to the deterioration of health, economic and food supply conditions, we must add the accelerated spread of covid-19 that impacts Venezuelans differently. The de facto government, due to the global health emergency, has declared a state of national alarm and has used it as an excuse to violate the fundamental rights of Venezuelans; far from addressing the crisis, and giving priority to health care and living conditions of the population, it has continued and sharpened the systematic patterns of persecution against the democratic leaders of Venezuela in order to intimidate and exercise total control.

In this sense, the free exercise of civil and political rights, enshrined not only in the national constitution but in the international legal instruments signed by Venezuela, has been criminalized, and the increasement of violence and arbitrariness levels has been evidenced in this stage of persecution as a recurring pattern by the regime, violating rights such as due process, political participation, respect for physical integrity, freedom of opinion and manifestation, among others.

The foregoing denotes that the passage of time, and the deepening of the crisis that exists today in Venezuela, which is further accentuated with the spread of covid-19, has deepened the arbitrary practices of control and eradication of the Venezuelan dissident politics.

An example of this is media violence, through the use of mass media for harassment and threats, and the consent of the regime to create irregular groups to carry out violent acts against dissents. This is the case of Nicolás Maduro’s response after the United States launched the anti-drug operation in which several government officials are accused. Thus, public television was once again used to persecute dissidents. Maduro’s main ally, Diosdado Cabello, unveiled the plan “Bolivarian fury” in his T.V show “Con el mazo dando”, and threatened he would go against the opposition with “Bolivarian fury on the alert ”[1]. As of Sunday, March 29, at least thirteen parliamentarians and more than twenty opposition leaders have been intimidated with paintings on the facades of their residences with threats and expletives [2].

In this regard, the presidential commissioner for human rights and attention to victims, Humberto Prado stated that “we are seeing a situation as in the time of the Nazis where houses are vandalized and people are labeled for a determined situation” [3].

On the other hand, the illegitimate deprivations of liberty and the violation of the human right to access to justice and due process is another of the patterns that the de facto government has used in a systematic and continuous way to silence dissidents, thus, since the beginning of the quarantine (March 16th, 2020), at least 33 new cases of political prisoners have been registered [4], revealing an increase when compared to the months preceding the quarantine.

In this regard, in a week, at least five people from the working environment of the president in charge Juan Guaidó have been detained without court orders. These arrests have been made using State security forces such as the Special Actions Forces (FAES) or the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), who are suppossed to fulfill security functions in the maintenance of public order; they cannot in any way represent an arm of the executive branch to execute systematic persecution against dissidents.

Thus, on March 29th, Victor Silo and Rómulo García were arrested and accused of having weapons and marijuana in their vehicle. On March 30th, Rafael Rico’s girlfriend Andrea Bianchi, was arrested, and despite having been released on the same day, reported that she was attacked and threatened with rape. Finally, on April 2, Demóstenes Quijada and Maury Carrero were arrested and accused of terrorism, criminal association, concealment of weapons and explosives, and concealment of minor amounts of drugs [5]

In this regard, it is important to highlight that the deprivation of liberty has been carried out without court orders, and in some cases under the excuse of a check-up operation for suspected cases of coronavirus in the area. On the latter, on March 29th Guaidó alerted that an apparent health team had tried to enter his residence due to an alleged spread of coronavirus.

On the other hand, the workers of the legitimate National Assembly continue to be victims of intimidation by the de facto government through removals from office and dismissal, but not only the deputies, on this occasion, one of the two workers’ unions of the National Assembly, Sinfucan, denounced that on March 28th Luis Parra fired more than 650 officials, workers and contractors of the institution in the midst of confinement. [6]

However, political persecution through the opening of judicial processes without warrants, dismissals for political reasons, threats and intimidation using public media, irregular groups consented to by the regime, and even the nation’s security force, are not the only control patterns used by the regime during the period of social isolation as a consequence of the pandemic.

Thus, there are patterns that are linked to the direct state intervention in the sphere of the Venezuelan civil society. The de facto government has continually threatened autonomy, independence and the free exercise of association by individuals and organizations, through controls and threats, at times when their participation is essential to address the health emergency. People who are accused of not complying with compulsory social isolation or health care and protection are arbitrarily detained, without correct application of the law. Exemplary punishments that are made public and that undermine human dignity are applied to them, raising fears that the pre-existing social control is exacerbated. Likewise, they have criminalized the defense of rights, the transmission of information and even the concern over health services, human rights defenders and organizations, doctors and journalists have been directly attacked. We are facing an intensified pattern of censorship and total control that will be addressed in depth in an upcoming installment.

Finally, from el Centro de justicia y Paz (Cepaz):

-We clarify that the cases presented do not represent the totality of dissident leaders who have been victims of violation of their human rights in the context of the pandemic.
-We denounce and alert the sharpening of the patterns of political persecution against Venezuelan dissent, the opening of judicial processes and arbitrary arrests, the use of the media for harassment and threats, the consent of the regime to the use of irregular groups for acts of violence against opposition political leaders, the removal from offices, the persecution of family members, among others.
-We demand respect in the exercise of civil and political rights as human rights of Venezuelans, in a health crisis that requires the participation and consensus of democratic leaders and specialists.

[1] EL NACIONAL. Cabello advierte aplicar la «furia bolivariana» en contra de los que piden invasión de EE UU. Disponible en: https://www.elnacional.com/venezuela/cabello-advierte-aplicar-la-furia-bolivariana-en-contra-de-los-que-piden-invasion-de-ee-uu/

[2] EFECTO COCUYO. Denuncian amenazas y persecución contra 33 políticos opositores, incluidos 13 diputados. Disponible en: https://efectococuyo.com/politica/denuncian-amenazas-y-persecucion-contra-33-politicos-opositores-incluidos-13 diputados/?utm_source=mailpoet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=mailpoet

[3] DIARIO LAS AMERICAS. Gobierno de Guaidó denuncia ante organismos internacionales persecución del régimen. Disponible en: https://www.diariolasamericas.com/america-latina/gobierno-guaido-denuncia-organismos-internacionales-persecucion-del-regimen-n4195970

[4] DIARIO LAS AMERICAS. Guaidó exige liberar a presos políticos tras excarcelación de reos comunes. Disponible en: https://www.diariolasamericas.com/america-latina/guaido-exige-liberar-presos-politicos-excarcelacion-reos-comunes-n4196582

[5]RUN RUN. Sin procedimientos ni pruebas siguen quebrando el entorno de Guaidó. Disponible en: https://runrun.es/rr-es-plus/403594/sin-procedimientos-ni-pruebas-siguen-quebrando-el-entorno-de-guaido/

[6] RUN RUN. Sindicato de la AN ratifica que Luis Parra despidió a 650 trabajadores. Disponible en: https://runrun.es/noticias/403076/sindicato-de-la-an-ratifica-que-luis-parra-despidio-a-650-trabajadores/


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