March 16, 2004


By the book
By Elizabeth Araujo, who's never shot anyone.
From today's TalCual Editorial, translated by me.

It shouldn't surprise us that Hugo Chavez traveled to the Burro Island (the site of a notorious 50s-60s eras political prison) to repeat exactly what Perez Jimenez (50s dictator) or Romulo Betancourt (60s elected president) said in similar situations: there are no political prisoners here, only common criminals. It's the classic rhetoric that blossoms when false justicialista revolutions start to hit rock bottom. In this case, their absence of scruples is associated with a lack of imagination; their sensibility crumbles under the weight of their cruelty.

This government has captured - whether through money or terror - all the institutions that are legally mandated to enforce the constitution. On top of that it lies insolently when it ignores the pleas of the mothers who were granted an audience with the Prosecutor General Isaias Rodriguez because their children, jailed at the recent protests, share a dangerous confinement with people pushed by penal idleness and resentment to act like brutal killing machines.

As they deny any knowledge that on the week between February 27th and March 4th there were political protests, insisting instead that all detainees have been jailed for common crimes, Hugo Chavez together with Jose Vicente Rangel, Dario Vivas and Aristobulo Isturiz (to mention only three conspicuous citizen rights activists) do nothing but stomp on the memories of the twelve Venezuelans who were murdered, and they mock the 467 people wounded by bullets shot by the National Guard, DISIP political police but also by armed pro-Chavez civilian groups decked out in military uniforms. Evidence for this has been documented in testimonies that now sit in the human rights organizations, but also in the images obtained by domestic and international television, which show disproportionate aggression, and which will remind some of the represion that made a "celebrity"out of Argentina's General Videla.

Obviously, in order to for this play book to be put into action, leading to the hair-raising scenes we all witnessed, you need the complicity or a certain amount of moral cowardice from officials such as the Human Rights Ombudsman, the Prosecutor General, some Supreme Tribunal magistrates and the generals of who knows how many suns. Thanks to them, these disproportionate attacks on a peaceful demonstration come suggest a state of total impunity, and escalates the use of this method for directing a country.