Following his arrest by agents from the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN) agents in Carabobo state yesterday, National Assembly deputy Gilber Caro was transported to the agency’s Caracas headquarters today where he will be detained pending his trial on accusations that he was involved in a terrorist plot to destabilize the country.
While Caro has yet to appear before a judge, vice-president Tarek El Aissami spoke on his arrest yesterday on television, calling Caro a “dangerous” criminal who would be punished “by the full weight of the law”.
Today, the head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba, said that Caro’s arrest followed the modus operandi of the SEBIN in previous arrest of opposition politicians, including Yon Goicoechea and Carlos Melo. In all three cases, the men were arrested by SEBIN agents who them claimed to have found weapons, written “terrorist plans”, and/or explosives on the individuals.
Speaking on Caro’s arrest yesterday, El Aissami turned to the party to which he belongs – Voluntad Popular – which has often been the target of accusations and angry tirades by PSUV officials. El Aissami said:
We want to denounce before the world that we are facing a fascist opposition. This anti-democratic organization – because calling them a party would be too much – called Voluntad Popular is responsible for the violence that they are trying to spread throughout the country today. Its leaders and members are irresponsible. Moreover, they go lobby other countries and sell themselves as democrats, but underneath they are the cruelest terrorists. They don’t care about human life.
Voluntad Popular is one of the largest opposition parties in the country, and likely pose the largest to the PSUV and the Maduro regime. The party’s leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has been imprisoned in since February 2014, and is currently serving a nearly 14 year sentence. His arrest. trial and sentence have been widely condemned by human rights organizations including Amnesty International, which called his sentence evidence of the “utter lack of judicial independence” in Venezuela.
Borges: Caro to Appear Before Military Court
National Assembly President Julio Borges told reporters today that Caro will be tried by a military court, a move which if true would have serious implications for an already battered Venezuelan judicial system. Borges said:
[Military Tribunals] don’t exist to judge civilians or [National Assembly] deputies.
Article 261 of the Constitution clearly states that military courts are reserved only for active-duty members of the military who commit “crimes of a military nature”, which means crimes specific only to the conduct of military duties. Such is the narrow scope of the definition of “crimes of a military nature” the same article makes clear that:
… ordinary crimes, violations of human rights and crimes against humanity will be judged by ordinary [civilian] courts…
Borges also said that the National Assembly would send out a team of deputies to international organizations such as the Organization of American States, Parlasur and the United Nations to denounce Caro’s arrest as part of an ongoing campaign on behalf of the Maduro regime to intimidate, persecute and undermine political opposition in Venezuela.
Who could imagine that it would be possible [for someone] to drive around the country with a rifle, explosives, and that they [the authorities] caught on – surprise! – just after the National Assembly declared [Maduro’s] position to have been abandoned?
SEBIN Continues VP Crackdown
El Nacional reported today that Roniel Farias, a city councilor in Heres, Bolivar state and member of the Voluntad Popular party, was arrested by SEBIN agents earlier today.
The news was broken by National Assembly deputy Gaby Arellano, who said that Farias’ whereabouts were currently unknown.
SEBIN Agents Congregate Outside Lilian Tintori’s Home
El Nacional reported in the mid-afternoon that SEBIN agents congregated outside the home of Lilian Tintori, allegedly in search for her bodyguard whom the regime claims has ties to Gilber Caro. El Nacional reporters on the scene said that they did not see the agents enter Tintori’s home.
Tintori is a human rights activist and the wife of imprisoned Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Reverol Accuses Tintori, Caro of Conspiracy
In a press conference this afternoon, Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace Nestor Reverol accused Lilian Tintoriy and Gilber Caro of conspiring to launch an attack using “shock troops” on the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas in order to create a distraction in order to assault the Ramo Verde military prison south of Caracas and free Leopoldo Lopez.
Reverol introduced his explanation of the plan by saying:
We have revealed over these past few days a destabilizing terrorist plan (…) by members from the ultra-right wing.
As evidence, Reverol played approximately two minutes and thirty seconds of a wiretapped conversation in which Caro and Tintori spoke in the broadest, most general terms of anti-government protests that took place in Caracas in December of last year. The conversation no mention – either explicit or implied – of an attack on Miraflores and/or the Ramo Verde prison.
It is not clear at this time if Tintori will be charged in connection with these allegations.
Capriles Under Investigation by Comptroller General
Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles’s office is under investigation from the Comptroller General of the Republic over a host of administrative “irregularities”. The existence of the investigation was confirmed today by Comptroller General Manuel Galindo.
Capriles reacted to the news today by qualifying the investigation as another facet of the Maduro regime’s political-persecution machinery, saying that he already knew the outcome. Capriles said:
I already know what their decision will be. That’s why I’m saying that we have to fight. No matter where I am, I will continue to fight because I am a democrat. I have faith and confidence in the Venezuelan people.
They are using the Comptroller to try to get me out of the way. They won’t do it through the courts or the Public Ministry by putting me in jail. I dare them to do that because I have nothing to hide.
Later in the afternoon, Capriles confirmed that he had been fined an undisclosed amount of money by the Comptroller General in connection with the case, and that he asserted that the move was part of a plan to “neutralize me politically” by banning him from running for office in future elections.
Baduel Back at Ramo Verde
General (ret.) Raul Isaias Baduel – the former Minister of Defense who headed the operation to reinstate Chavez as president during the 2002 coup – has been placed behind bars once again after having been released from the Ramo Verde prison two and a half years ago.
Once one of Chavez’s closest allies, Baduel became critical of the leader over time. Baduel was charged with corruption 2009 and sentenced to eight years in prison. He served five years at the Ramo Verde military prison, receiving a conditional release in August of 2015.
Details of Baduel’s arrest are scarce. Baduel’s lawyer, Perez de La Rosa, said that his client was arrested when he presented himself at a court in Aragua state as per the conditions of his release.
People’s Defender Tarek William Saab confirmed Baduel’s arrest at a press conference this afternoon, saying:
Citizen General Isaias Baduel’s [conditional release] has been revoked because he did not present himself at court on schedule… he is being transported from Aragua state to an initial holding location in Ramo Verde [military prison].
Below, a video of the convoy that took Baduel out of the courthouse in Aragua to the Ramo Verde military prison:
TSJ Refuses to Budge, Rules NA Continues to be in Contempt
The Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), the country’s top court, issued a statement yesterday in which it cemented its position that the National Assembly is in contempt of its authority and is therefore operating illegally, therefore nullifying every action that it takes. The ruling cements the position taken by the TSJ in early September of 2016, and effectively means that Venezuela does not have a legislative branch.
In the same statement, the TSJ gave Maduro permission to present his yearly memoria y cuenta [akin to the State of the Union address in the United States] to the Court instead of to the National Assembly as is dictated by the Constitution. Maduro is expected to make that address on Sunday.
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