The Organization of American States held its second session today exploring the possibility that Maduro regime officials have committed crimes against humanity, a process that might result in the Venezuelan case being forwarded to the International Criminal Court (ICC). While yesterday’s heard legal experts and victims of torture by regime officials, today’s session featured the testimony of former Venezuelan army officers who spoke on the military’s role in human rights violations in the country.
One of the men who testified today was Major General Hebert Garcia Plaza, who served as a high-ranking member of the Ministry of Defense under Chavez in 2012, and later as the Minister of Nutrition under Maduro. Garcia Plaza lost favour with the regime and became a wanted man in 2015, which resulted in his escape from the country.
Garcia Plaza explained the reason why he believes he became a target of regime persecution:
One of the reasons why I handed over my resignation to the government is that they wanted to modify the way in which they handed out food. Since I didn’t agree with this, the government [National Assembly] deputies claimed that I had ordered an end to open-air markets. I resigned from my position in August 2015, and by December three ministers were advising me to leave the country because Maduro was going to open up a [legal] process against me.
Explaining why he left the country for Panama in January 2016, Garcia Plaza said:
I knew from experience–and this is a secret to no one–that the Venezuelan justice system only obeys the government.
Garcia Plaza: Cilia Flores OKs All Supreme Court Decisions
During his testimony before the OAS today, Garcia Plaza said that every single decision that comes out of the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), Venezuela’s top court, first passes through the hands of Cilia Flores, Maduro’s wife. He clarified for the audience that Flores is a personal friend of Maikel Moreno, the chief magistrate of the TSJ.
Garcia Plaza also said that the Flores connection means that the executive branch “orders the closing… of cases”, meaning that criminal prosecutions in the country happen at the whim of Maduro’s office.
Igor Nieto Speaks on Electoral Fraud, Military Tribunals for Civilians
Captain Igor Nieto began his testimony before the OAS today by detailing some of the ways in which chavismo has manipulated the electoral process to its benefit. Nieto told the session:
Between 2003 and 2005, I worked for the National Armed Forces Unified Command, where I expressed my discontent to its commander, Julio Quintero Viloria, for engaging in conversations with Consejo Nacional Electoral [the body in charge of elections] (CNE) rectors Francisco Carrasquero and Jorge Rodriguez to manipulate electoral processes through the Republic Plan.
Nieto explained that Venezuelan Armed Forces conspired with the CNE to interfere with the opening and closing of voting centres in areas that were likely to be won by opposition candidates, while at the same time keeping voting centres in areas likely to result in chavista victories open beyond the regular closing hours. Nieto said that the decision of which voting centres to open and close and when came directly from Hugo Chavez.
Nieto was eventually forced out of the military for expressing his disapproval of the electoral fraud.
Turning to the topic of civilian offenders being tried by military tribunals–a tactic that became particularly common during the protests of this year–Nieto said:
The biggest issue is that 95% of those detained [during protests] are being accused of treason against the fatherland and attacking soldiers. They use those accusations to bring them to military tribunals. These are very generic crimes–specially the latter one–because attacking a soldier can mean anything from a punch to a bad word.
Jose Arocha Details Torture, Political Persection
Lieutenant Colonel Jose Arocha escaped Venezuela in 2014 after becoming the victim of persecution by the Maduro regime. Arocha claims that he was framed by the authorities for crimes that he did not commit, resulting in his imprisonment. He explained some of his time in jail in the following way:
I remember that they said to me, “A dead man has entered La Tumba [“The Tomb”, the nickname for an underground regime prison in Caracas]”. The place is cold. I was naked and alone. I thought that I would never again see my family (…) no one communicated with me. I ate with my hands because I was afraid that I would kill myself [with eating utensils]. I didn’t have a watch, and I didn’t feel the days pass. Still, I was able to send out a coded message to someone outside of the country so that I could escape.
Maduro Claims Dialogue Will Re-Start September 27
Speaking during a televised speech this evening, Maduro announced that the dialogue between the ruling PSUV party and the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), the opposition bloc, would begin on September 27. The surprise announcement has yet to be confirmed by the MUD, and comes after just three days of exploratory talks between the two sides.
According to Maduro, the MUD agreed to begin a new round of dialogue with the PSUV in the Dominican Republic starting on September 27. A few short hours before Maduro’s announcement, Luis Florido–one of the MUD negotiators–said that the opposition had not agreed to a dialogue, and that it would not do so until the PSUV met a set of stringent demands.
Later in the evening, the MUD announced through its Twitter account that it would make an announcement regarding the state of the talks tomorrow at 9:00 AM Caracas time.
Trump Refuses to Meet With Venezuelan Delegation at UN General Assembly Meeting
The White House announced today that President Donald Trump will not meet with the Venezuelan delegation attending next week’s United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City. The announcement came via National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who said that Trump would be willing to talk to Maduro regime officials “in the future”, and only when “they have restored rights for Venezuelans”.
McMaster also said that instead of meeting with Venezuelan officials, Trump would attend a “working dinner” on Monday with the leaders of five unnamed Latin American countries to discuss the crisis in the country.
Regime Begins Publishing Oil Figures in Yuan
Following an announcement by Maduro last week that Venezuela would move “beyond the dollar”, the Ministry of Oil published its weekly production figures in Chinese yuan today for the first time. The announcement was heavily criticized at the time by economists for being nonsensical and impractical.
The price for a barrel of Venezuelan crude oil ended the week at ¥306,26.
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