Colombian newspaper El Tiempo published an interview with opposition leader Maria Corina Machado today. In it, Machado answers questions about the current political climate in Venezuela, including the possibility that she will be arrested sooner or later.
The interview, which can be read here in Spanish, is translated below:
Do you know if there is an arrest warrant against you?
Ever since Ledezma was arrested, I’ve received many kinds of notifications and warnings, but nothing official so far. The day he was arrested there was a strong rumour that my home was going to be raided, but that ended up not happening. In any case, whether or not an arrest warrant exists doesn’t mean anything, because they’ll go ahead without any kind of legal backing. The owners of food producing and pharmaceutical companies were invited to the Miraflores Palace and they arrested them at the end of the meeting, basically as they left through the door. [The government goes after] syndicalists in their offices, and students everywhere without saying a word. These kinds of formalities the law requires don’t mean anything here.
Are you afraid of being thrown in jail?
I’m not afraid of the regime. I am afraid that the destruction of the country continues, that impunity is almost at 100%, that life doesn’t mean anything, that there’s no food or medicine, and that this government with clear ties to drug trafficking remains in power.
President Maduro condemned the publication of the “Transitional Agreement”, which you signed along with Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez. This could prove to be the key the government needs to go after you. What’s the point of this document?
If you read the document properly, it’s easy to see that what we’re trying to do is plant the seeds for reconciliation between Venezuelans, and this is something the government fears since all they want to do is divide us.
In Venezuela, there has in fact been a coup: the one carried out by this government, a continuous coup from within the State. We have to call things by their name. That’s why I insisted on this transitional agreement. If you listen to the people, they say things like, “We have no idea how to find a way out of this crisis”, but that’s not true. We have more than an idea. What we’ve published is a path of essential steps that will take us on a way out of the crisis, and that also demonstrates the democratic nature of our proposal. We are obsessed with finding a peaceful transition to another system of government, because this one is a failure.
What does Ledezma’s arrest mean?
It’s the desperate throws of a dictatorship that is about to end, and it pretends to silence any dissident voice that dares to point out its flaws. We’re living through a time of unprecedented abuses because we dared to say that this government was very clearly tied to drug traffickers, that it has looted the country’s riches and turned us into slaves of long lines, scarcity, of an inflation rate that eats into our salaries and that, on top of all that, has been ineffective in keeping us safe. In Venezuela, crime rules. The reaction of some governments and some multilateral organizations that appear to be more alert. That’s why we’re calling for an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States so that they can take a serious look at the Democratic Charter.
What do you think of the reaction by President Juan Manuel Santos?
I haven’t heard all of it (this interview was conducted just minutes after his speech on Friday), but I think it’s important that it happened at all. Also, because of the precedent set by the Foreign Affairs office when it called for the release of Leopoldo Lopez. However, what I would like for the government of President Santos and that of all Latin America is for them to get really in touch with the situation, and that they take the situation in Venezuela with the seriousness it deserves.
Political Repression the Norm for 2015
According to figures by the Foro Penal Venezolano, an NGO that tracks arrest data, 160 people have been arrested so far in 2015 for protesting. Antonio Ledezma’s arrest on Thursday makes only the latest and highest profile arrest for political dissenters so far this year.
According to to Ligia Bolivar, the coordinator a the Centre for Human Rights at the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, part of the problem comes from the fact that the judicial branch is an extension of Maduro’s office. According to Bolivar:
The president has become police, prosecutor and judge, and he decides who goes to jail.
She also pointed out a fact that is often brought up when discussing human rights abuses in Venezuela: Maduro’s penchant for going on live television and accusing defendants of pending trials of crimes, or outright declaring them guilty. Bolivar continued:
As defenders of human rights, we are worried that the president gives opinions about people who are detained. That’s a custom that began with Hugo Chavez with the case of judge Maria Afiuni, and Maduro has continued it. He did so for the first time with the owners of Farmatodo, and he has done it with other cases. He decides go goes to jail; “Bien preso” [roughly, “You’re really going to jail”] as he likes to say, using Chavez’s language. This demonstrates the absence of a separation of powers.
Equally disturbing is the fact that according to the Association of Venezuelan Mayors, 33 out of the 77 opposition mayors in all of Venezuela have legal proceedings open against them at the moment. Out of that number, most are currently awaiting decisions in their respective cases, while only one is currently in jail: Daniel Ceballos, the former mayor of San Cristobal, Tachira.
Mario Silva Returns
Outspoken PSUV militant Mario Silva returned suddenly to Venezuelan airwaves last night. Silva, a well-known PSUV and television personality, was forced off the air approximately 2 years ago after an audio recording surfaced which appeared to show him speaking in intimate detail about Venezuelan politics with agents of Cuba’s intelligence agency, the G2.
In the tape, a man reported to be Silva speaks candidly about a military conspiracy against Maduro, as well as a network of corruption headed by Diosdado Cabello.
Silva resumed his post as the anchor of La Hojilla [the razor blade] last night, a show in which Silva discusses current events and attacks enemies of the government. During the show, Maduro called Silva to congratulate him on his return, saying:
Congratulations, my dear comrade! Cilia and I are here watching your show. Congratulations, Mario. Really. I’m very excited to see you, you know… I think that I speak for the vast majority of patriots, revolutionaries, chavistas and people from the opposition who are for sure glued to their televisions right now watching you.
You represent a time, Mario, you represent the time of Chavez, Mario. The loyalty to Commander Chavez… he used to say to me, let me tell you. I’ve never said this in public; I don’t know if I should say it. He always used to tell me that when it came time to defend him, you were always the first one to do so. You went out with your nails, your knees, your forehead, with whatever you needed to defend him and you defended Chavez and our homeland.
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