Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma has sent a letter from inside the Ramo Verde military prison, calling for the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica opposition bloc to continue to ask Maduro to resign.
According to the letter, signed on February 22, Ledezma says that asking for the president’s resignation “is the opposite of a military coup”. In the same letter, Ledezma also calls on the opposition to remain united in the face of increasing pressure from Maduro’s office:
I ask my peers in the Unidad to not allow the regime to divide us. That, along with repression, is a tool used by this group to try to avoid the defeat they so far (…) If you truly want to show your support for me, continue to strengthen the Unidad as a credible, coherent and honest [group], where all of the different leaderships that make up the MUD are recognized.
One of the problems the MUD has had in the past is maintaining unity in the near-constant state of crisis it faces. As a bloc of political parties, the MUD is joined by its desire to provide an alternative to the current government, although disagreements within the individual parties that make up the bloc exist.
Ledezma also called on Venezuelans to continue to take their struggle to the streets, saying:
We have to keep up the fight on the streets, in a civil manner, with the constitution in our hands and with reason at the forefront. They have weapons, but we have the ideas to unite Venezuelans. Violence represents a jump into a void that will take us nowhere.
Ledezma was arrested last week at his office in Caracas by approximately 80 heavily armed men. The Economist has pointed out that United States President Barack Obama “sent fewer soldiers to kill Osama bin Laden”.
Opposition Party Offices Raided
The offices of the COPEI party were raided early this morning by a mixed group of individuals, including SEBIN agents.
El Nacional reports that some 30 individuals entered the building in which the offices are located in Caracas during the overnight hours. The group claimed that they were homeless, and that they were planning to live in the building.
Mario Acosta, vice-president of the party’s Caracas chapter, said:
Within the group, 12 people were armed according to what our neighbours have told us, and they’re in the basement of the building. There was also a group of women and children, and they’re staying on the main floor. [The group] says that they’re homeless, and that all they’re looking for is a dignified place to stay.
Acosta also said that later on in the day, a group of SEBIN and National Guard officers entered the building, presumably to deal with the situation. Acosta explained:
Two officers went in, and when they came out they said that there was subversive materials in there, propaganda, and that the building could be used as the headquarters of a conspiracy.
Acosta explained that since COPEI had lost control of the building starting at around 3:00 AM when the homeless group broke in, the party is afraid that the “subversive materials” the officers refereed to actually belong to the homeless group.
Roberto Enriquez, the president of COPEI, also said that similar raids had taken place across 11 other party headquarters around the country in the past 24 hours.
Ledezma Case Relies on Torture Evidence
Spain’s ABC newspaper reported today that Omar Estacio, Antonio Ledezma’s lawyer, is planning to appeal a Caracas court’s decision to keep Ledezma in custody until the start of his trial. Estacio says that the main piece of evidence used to accuse Ledezma of conspiracy was obtained through torture.
According to Estacio, Ledezma was accused of being involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the government by retired Lieutenant Colonel Jose Gustavo Arocha Perez, himself arrested by SEBIN agents in May of last year. Perez had been in SEBIN custody for six months in the infamous tumba [tomb], a cell inside the SEBIN headquarters near Plaza Venezuela, Caracas. It was there after being tortured that Perez agreed to name Ledezma as a conspirator.
According to people who have stayed in the tumba, it is a cell (or possibly at least 3 cells in close proximity to one another) in the basement of the SEBIN building. The cell is 2 by 3 meters in size, cold, and has white walls and cement furniture.
Estacio stressed the severity of the punishment Ledezma faces:
Ledezma could spend 28 years in prison for committing alleged, unsubstantiated crimes.
Suspicious Student Deaths Raise Alarms
A number of suspicious deaths have given rise to concern among opposition supporters who fear the murders might have been politically motivated.
On February 17, the bodies of Jose Daniel Frias Pinto and Alejandro Garcia Adonis were found by the side of a road near Santa Cruz de Zulia, on the southern end of Zulia state. Both of the men were students at the Universidad de los Andes in Merida, and were from the town of El Vigia in neighbouring Merida state.
The mayor of Merida, Carlos Garcia , said that the students attended a protest that day, and were last seen being taken into custody by security officials.
Speaking on the case, Garcia said:
We’re asking for a speedy investigation into this so that we can find out who is responsible for these murders. Both of them were found with obvious signs of torture.
16 Coups in Two Years
Infobae has uploaded a chart outlining 16 different times Maduro or a high-ranking PSUV official have made claims of a coup going back to January 23, 2013. The chart can be see here.
Below is a list of some of the claims:
- May 30, 2013: Maduro claims Colombia “plans” to inject him with a poison that will kill him over a long period of time.
- August 18, 2013: Jose Vicente Rangel, long-time PSUV supporter, says the U.S. and Colombia plan to assassinate Maduro that December.
- February 15, 2014: Maduro says a Twitter user named “Power Kardashian” threatened to murder him.
- December 10, 1014: Maduro says assassins from Central America plan to murder him at at UNASUR meeting.
- February 12, 2015: Maduro says “Plan Blue” – a coup attempt orchestrated form the United States – would have used airplanes to bomb Caracas and kill him.
The coup claims have included Middle Eastern terrorist mercenaries, international assassins, and biological warfare. Maduro went as far as to claim on August 28, 2013 that a coup attempt “discovered” at the time had hoped to induce a civil war in the country.