Venezuela Weekly: Post-drone Attack Crack Down Underway

The crackdown following the August 4 drone attack on Maduro has dominated Venezuela news. Here is a summary of what is most essential.

  • The government says the assassination attempt was directly carried out by eleven people trained in Colombia, some of whom were involved in the attack on a military base in August 2017. They have detained eighteen people involved in the conspiracy and are seeking 19 more. The government claims it was financed by anti-Chavista figures in Bogotá and Florida, and facilitated by two opposition law-makers: Julio Borges, currently in exile in Colombia, and Juan Requesens.
  • The evidence they have made public includes an interview with a retired soldier named Juan Carlos Monasterio in which he states he was involved in the drone attack and says Juan Requesens helped him get across the border on Julio Borges’ request. In a videotaped statement, Juan Requesens also states that he was asked by Julio Borges to make phone calls to help Monasterio cross into Colombia. Borges roundly denied the accusations.
  • Note that the taped “confessions,” whatever their truth value, actually do not say Borges and Requesens were organizers of the plot. Miami-based, Peruvian journalist Jaime Bayly, who from the beginning has said he had knowledge of the plot and that it was organized by former military leaders, said that Requesens helped the people involved cross the border, because he had a contact among Colombian officials at the border, but that Requesens did not have knowledge of the plot. Bayly likewise said that Borges was not part of the plot.

However, all of this information is suspect given the vast irregularities in the case. Here are the primary abuses and violations.

  • The National Constituent Assembly (ANC) annulled the parliamentary immunity of Julio Borges and Juan Requesens. This is an attribution that is constitutionally restricted to the National Assembly.
  • Requesens was arrested without a warrant.
  • His declaration was taken without the presence of a lawyer.
  • There have been accusations of torture for two reasons. First, given that the declaration was taken without the presence of a lawyer, it is impossible to verify that it was not coerced. Second, a video was leaked showing Requesens in his underwear, apparently stained with feces, amounting to degrading psychological treatment. 35 human right groups released a statement denouncing the conditions of Requesens’ detention and declaration.
  • Requesens was not presented to a judge or accused within forty-eight hours and at this writing, still has not had access to his own lawyer.

International actors have responded as follows.

International Pressure and Engagement

Over the weekend, a kerfuffle arose from a supposed accusation by Julio Borges that “even Rodríguez Zapatero threatened me with jail” when he refused to sign the agreement with the government in the Santo Domingo negotiations. That statement was puzzling given that Rodriguez Zapatero held no public office at the time of the dialogue. The quote seems to have been a creative paraphrase on the part of El Tiempo because it does not actually appear in the interview (see video here). However, it was enough to generate two tweets from OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro saying these accusations should be the subject of an independent investigation, and “if this intimidating conduct is demonstrated, it should lead to deep self-criticism among those who supported his ‘mediation.’” The entire episode shows that it is not just the Venezuelan opposition that is divided regarding how to move forward; key international are divided as well.

  • Venezuela’s international finances continued to get more complicated as a U.S. court ruled that Canadian mining company Crystallex could seize shares of Citgo, Venezuela’s U.S. based oil refining operation and gasoline retailer. Crystallex is only one of the debtors vying for Citgo, which is Venezuela’s most important foreign asset. Loss of it would be a significant blow.

Venezuelan migration and humanitarian emergency

  • Brazil has criticized Venezuela for not providing epidemiological information on measles which is complicating Brazil’s efforts to confront an outbreak coming from Venezuelan migrants to that country. The Panamerican Health Organization has documented 2500 cases of measles in the Americas in 2018 with over half of them occurring in Venezuela and another 700 in neighboring Brazil.
  • This situation will likely get worse as the Venezuelan Public Health Society denounced the closing of the Venezuelan Center for the Classification of Disease, the government organization charged with providing epidemiological statistics and bulletins.
  • US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikky Haley visited the Venzuela-Colombia border at Cúcucta and pleged an additional $9 million of support for Venezuelan migrants. Colombia has said it will ask the United Nations for a “special envoy” to coordinate foreign aid for Venezuelan migrants.
  • Ecuador declared a state of emergency in three border states where they say 4500 Venezuelans are entering daily, overwhelming government institutions.
  • A piece by Diego Salazar documents the growth of anti-Venezuelan xenophobia in Peru.

Protest and Control

  • The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict said the month of July had the most protests this year, with an average of 72 per day. Most of these were labor protests with workers demanding increases in salaries diminished by hyperinflation. 14 people have died in protests in the first seven months of 2018.
  • Maduro suggested that military personnel should keep their distance from family members who do not support the government.

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news digest that is brief yet highlights concrete information. As such most of our links will be to local and regional Spanish-language press. English-language links will be highlighted in bold.

Did I miss something important or get something wrong? Let me know at [email protected]