A man held in a SEBIN prison since last year died overnight in an apparent suicide.
Rodolfo Gonzalez, nicknamed El Aviador [The Aviator], was arrested on April 26 of last year. At the time, protests erupted across the country’s major cities. Gonzales, who lived in the Baruta area of Caracas, was arrested by SEBIN agents at his home under suspicion of organizing the protests.
The last person to see Gonzalez alive was his wife, Josefa Alvarez. She visited Gonzales at the SEBIN headquarters in Caracas yesterday at around 3:00 PM, and she had a conversation with him. According to Alvarez, her husband was afraid because he had been informed by SEBIN officers that he was going to be transferred to the Yare prison today, a notorious jail near Caracas.
The Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace, Gustavo Gonzalez, said this afternoon that Gonzalez was not scheduled to be transferred to the Yare prison, and that the Public Ministry would release more details about the case soon.
His daughter, Ivette Gonzalez, spoke on her father’s plight, saying:
My father was desperate. The psychological pain he was suffering was really strong. He tried to kill himself a few times and we stopped him. His situation was very severe.
Once word that her father had died reached Ivette this morning, she went to the SEBIN headquarters to try to find details about the death, but she was denied access into the building. She received a called from the Public Ministry half an hour after trying to enter the SEBIN headquarters to officially inform her of her father’s death, although no details were provided.
Rodolfo was 64 years old.
Daughter Remembers Legal Ordeal
In October of last year, Lissette Gonzalez – Rodolfo’s other daughter – wrote a blog entry explaining the events leading up to her father’s arrest. The full text of the account can be read here, in Spanish.
According to Lissette, SEBIN agents arrived at their family home in Caracas on the evening of April 26, 2014. Lissette – who was not at home at the time – received a call from her mother, who told her that the SEBIN agents had arrived with an arrest warrant for her father, and were waiting for judicial permission to enter the home.
Lissette claims that the only reason the SEBIN took her father was that a “co-operative compatriot” had called in a tip to the agency implicating her father in the protests that were taking place in the country at the time.
The raid on the home lasted into the early morning hours of the following day, at which time Lissette’s mother, sister and brother-in-law went to El Helicoide, the SEBIN headquarters, to sign some documents.The family gathered some basic necessities to give Rodolfo, at which time SEBIN officers told Lissette’s wife, suddenly, that she was also under arrest.
The following day, Lissette’s sister house was raided. Computers and other electronics were seized.
On April 29, a travel agency owned by the family for the past thirty years in Chacao was also raided. Her seventy year old aunt, who was working at the agency at the time, was arrested, along with other employees. Her father’s preliminary hearing, which had been scheduled for the same day, was deferred.
Her father finally stood before a judge on April 29. He found out that a man Lissette claims was unknown to the family by the name of Douglas Morillo was being accused of associating with her father for the purposes of comitting a crime. Lissette claims that during a recess of the proceedings, Maduro went on television to announce that “El Aviador”, the alleged mastermind of the guarimbas, had finally been arrested.
After Maduro’s announcement, \he judge returned from the recess. Gonzalez and Morillo were given custodial sentences, and Josefa was released but ordered to appear before a judge every 30 days.
The family business lost its license to sell tickets, effectively forcing it to close.
U.S. Treasury Department Accuses PDVSA in Money-Laundering Scheme
This past Tuesday, the United States Department of Treasury announced that it was launching an investigation into Andorra’s Banca Privada d’Andorra, over fears that the organization was aiding Chinese, Russian and Venezuelan groups to launder money.
According to the Department of Treasury, a high-level manager of the bank accepted “exorbitant commissions to process transactions related to Venezuelan third-party money launderers”. More specifically, the bank is suspected of having helped corrupt PDVSA officials steal $2 billion from the company.
In response, the government of Andorra has dismissed the bank’s board of directors today.
Maduro Speaks on U.S. Relations
Maduro addressed the recent diplomatic tensions with the United States, and promised to “radicalise the revolution” in response:
The year 2015 will see an offensive against the imperialist aggression. I’m going to radicalise the revolution!
With our without gringo threats, Venezuela will continue down the path of development, peace and life (…) This is what we’re planting for eternity: peace with justice, peace with equality, peace with prosperity, peace with happiness. Not the ‘peace on our knees’ that the battered opposition wants.