PROVEA and Government Continue to Spar

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Hugo Pérez Hernáiz

The Defensora del Pueblo, Gabriela Ramírez continued the critical exchange between the Maduro government and human rights NGO PROVEA over the latter’s contention that the Barrio Adentro health modules (CDIs) supposedly vandalized and burned down by opposition supporters showed no sign of such attacks.

In an April 20 press conference, Ramírez said that “PROVEA has devoted itself to disclaiming the denunciations of the attacks on health centers. By doing so they are acting against their own principles as a human rights organization.” Government news bureau Agencia Venezolana de Noticias suggested that the web page of the Defensoría would soon publish a chronology of the attacks with graphic proofs. Ramírez has sent links through Twitter to several pictures that she claims are of damaged CDIs. In a national cadena at noon on April 23, Ramírez’s declarations against PROVEA were repeated, accompanied by images of CDIs allegedly burned.  The images of the claimed attacks can be seen at the web page of the Defensoría del Pueblo.

After the Defensoría April 20 press conference, PROVEA´s General Coordinator Marino Alvarado tweeted: “The government is wrong if it thinks that we can be demoralized with its lies. Abuse of power does not intimidate us. We will continue to move forward.” In other tweets, PROVEA suggested the government was retaliating against them because of previous denunciations by the NGO: “We are being criminalized because we denounced the crisis of Misión Barrio Adentro that was later accepted by the government. We will continue to go forward.”

PROVEA could also be the object of scrutiny since it is one of the signatories of an open letter to Latin American NGOs, published by several local Human Rights NGOs (among others: the Human Rights Center from UCAB, COFAVIC, and Centro para la Paz from UCV), expressing their support for an audit of the April 14 vote. 

Yet another source of contention could be that since Saturday PROVEA has published two press notes likely to irritate the government. In one, PROVEA asserts that an image published by official media of a pro-government supporter supposedly killed during the violent protests following the elections, is in reality an opposition supporter who is alive and well.

And in its most recent note, PROVEA has republished a much-circulated video of Minister of Environment Ricardo Molina addressing his employees. In the video Molina claims that he does “not care at all about current labor laws, not in the least, at this moment, in this situation, I don´t care about them,” interrupted by cheers form the employees he adds that he warns staffers who might be from the opposition that he will not accept political belligerency and finally adds: “I will not accept militants from fascist parties, whoever wants to be a militant of Voluntad Popular, the fascist party of Leopoldo López has to quit, because if he doesn’t quit, I personally will throw him out.”

In its note, PROVEA asks the Defensoría del Pueblo for an “immediate, transparent, and expedited” investigation of the threats made by Molina. PROVEA has been arguing, together with other human rights NGOs, that there have been cases of political persecution in governmental institutions after the elections.

Today Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz also joined  the discussion. At a press conference she declared that post-electoral violence had been instigated “through direct and subliminal messages.” She added, apparently referring to PROVEA, that certain groups “want to erase and distract the seriousness of the events, however these groups, that call themselves human rights groups, say nothing about the right to life of these nine Venezuelans that lost their lives, and they have not condemned those that committed these crimes.”