Newsletter N°127, Political Prisoners in Venezuela

Venezuelan’s Opposition Calls For a Strike to Oppose Plans to Rewrite the Constitution

July 17, 2017

Opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Monday pledged to defy the government with escalating protest tactics, a day after showing their strength in an unofficial referendum that they said drew more than 7 million votes condemning his rule.

Leaders of the Democratic Unity coalition say they will bring the country to a halt with a 24-hour general strike Thursday, urging workers to stay home and businesses to shut their doors to protest Maduro’s controversial plan to overhaul Venezuela’s constitution.

They also invited Venezuelans who remain loyal to Hugo Chávez but dislike Maduro, his hand-picked successor, to join them in a unified front to stop the government from moving forward with a July 30 vote to elect delegates for a “constituent assembly” empowered to rewrite the 1999 constitution. Critics see the maneuver as a naked power grab that would amount to a death sentence for democratic rule. Read more

In Venezuela, a Latin American Throwback: Political Prisoners

July 14, 2017

To young Venezuelan activists imprisoned by the government, Lisbeth Añez was a saint, delivering food, clothing and medicine while they were detained at a notorious prison run by the spy agency.

Now, the 51-year-old known as “Mamá Lis” is also jailed there, charged in May by a military court with treason and rebellion, say her lawyers and relatives.

“I’m not alone,” Ms. Añez wrote in a letter she recently released to relatives and supporters. “The love of Venezuela, together with God, accompany me.”

While the recent transfer of opposition leader Leopoldo López from a military stockade to house arrest has received world-wide attention, Venezuela’s jails now hold more political prisoners than at any time in 18 years of rule by the self-declared leftist Bolivarian Revolution, say human rights groups. Read more

The world’s first planned drive-thru mall is now a prison — take a look at its history

July 16, 2017

Among the small houses on a hill in Caracas, Venezuela, the massive Helicoide looks otherworldly — or, at the very least, out of place.

The spaceship-like building was planned as a drive-thru mall. Instead of walking, shoppers would have been able to drive right into the complex and park in front of the shops they wanted to visit — though the shops wouldn’t have drive-thru windows.

Construction started in 1956, but the project was abandoned a few years later because of funding woes. Read more

Fotografía Urbana/Project Helicoide

Venezuelan Political Prisoner Looks to Spain’s National Court for Help with Release

July 17, 2017

Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Yon Goicoechea, an activist in Venezuela with the Popular Will political party. At the time of his detainment, authorities claimed they found him with “explosive materials,” and yet no criminal charges have been formally brought against him.

Faced with the unlikelihood of Goicoechea’s release, his wife Rosaura Giorgina Valentini decided to take an unorthodox approach to advocating his freedom.

First, she filed an appeal with the Spanish National Court, as Goicoechea has had Spanish nationality since 2016. At first, the courts wouldn’t hear her complaint to investigate the Venezuelan government because there was no precedent to do so in the entire history of Spanish law. Read more

Venezuelan Regime Takes another Political Prisoner from Opposition Party

July 14, 2017

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has taken a new political prisoner: Carlos Graffe, a youth leader of the opposition party Popular Will. This week, state security forces arbitrarily arrested him without warrant.

“Help me, it’s a kidnapping!” Graffe shouted while being forced from his vehicle. The military officials responsible had an emblem from Valencia, in the state of Carabobo.

They have just kidnapped our brother @CarlosGraffe in #Valencia #Carabobo. We demand to know where he is being taken. #WhereIsCarlosGraffe #LibertyNOW

Graffe has been fighting for democracy in Venezuela for over 10 years, serving most recently as a leader of the opposition movement Popular Will, the party founded by former political prisoner Leopoldo López. Read more

Venezuela Prosecutor Urges U.S. Detainee’s Conditional Freedom

July 14, 2017

The Venezuelan state prosecutor’s office on Friday called for the conditional release of a U.S. citizen held on weapons charges for more than a year, citing delays in his trial.

The family of Joshua Holt, 25, a Mormon missionary from Utah, says he is in precarious health, was framed after traveling to Venezuela to marry, and should be allowed home.

The Holt case has had a low profile, despite tense diplomatic relations between Washington and Venezuela’s leftist government.

A statement from the prosecutor’s office recommended that both Holt and his Venezuelan wife Thamara Caleno, also 25, be allowed out of jail, but prohibited from leaving Venezuela. Read more

Green Cross Volunteer Medics, on the Frontline of Venezuela’s Protests

July 13, 2017

A teenage boy lay on the ground after a clash with the police.

“Médico, médico!” a young man screamed through the thick fog of tear gas at a protest in Caracas, Venezuela.

The medics he was calling for, known as the Cruz Verde or Green Cross, have become a regular fixture at violent clashes between opposition protesters and government forces. At least 90 people have died since the demonstrations began in April, and the volunteer medics have found themselves treating a range of injuries, from major head wounds to minor scrapes. Read more

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