By Venezuelan Voices
Photo: Federico Parra
On May 1st, the Attorney General of the Venezuelan regime, Tarek William Saab, announced that the Public Prosecutor’s Office had sent the day before its third report to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on the actions of the Venezuelan State regarding human rights. According to Saab, in the last three and a half years, 716 repressive agents have been charged for human rights violations and 40 civilians for complicity, resulting in 153 convictions. Among the actions vindicated by Saab were the change of the official position of the Public Prosecutor’s Office on the murders of dissidents Juan Pablo Pernalete, Fernando Alban and Rafael Arevalo Acosta, crimes perpetrated by repressive agents of chavismo between 2017 and 2019.
The announcement shatters years of conspiracy theories and cover-up maneuvers concocted by chavismo to evade its responsibility in those crimes. The ICC opened in November 2020 an investigation into crimes against humanity perpetrated by the chavista regime since February 2014. By taking a turn towards holding individual agents responsible for the repressive crimes of chavismo, an attempt is made to cover up the systematic nature of the repression and the responsibility of senior military and civilian commanders who designed and ordered the repression, and who subsequently covered it up.
Other cases mentioned by the regime’s prosecutor were the murder of five people in El Limón barrio of La Guaira, for which five policemen were accused, and the murder of two Guacamaya TV workers, also by chavista repressive agents. He also stated that the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) would be restructured. The police and military carry out thousands of executions every year under the protection of impunity and this does not change due to the announcements of the prosecutor. However, lies long held by the regime are shattered.
On October 10, 2018, Saab had assured that there were videos proving that councilman Fernando Alban, from the center-right party Primero Justicia, had committed suicide two days before, jumping from the tenth floor of a building of the political police, the Bolivarian Service of National Intelligence (SEBIN), where he had been detained and incommunicado for three days. The president of the Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello also assured that Alban had committed suicide. On April 26, student Juan Pernalete, 20 years old, was killed by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB). On April 29, Minister of Communications Ernesto Villegas, accompanied by Chancellor Delcy Rodríguez, assured that Juan Pablo Pernalete had been killed by his fellow protesters using a captive bolt pistol.
After the announcement of the prosecutor, which brings about a total change in the official narrative, the former Minister of Communications tried to justify himself by alleging that he had only reproduced journalistic versions that had previously appeared in Ultimas Noticias, a private chavista newspaper. At some point, the criminal cover-up operation of which Villegas was a part will have to be investigated.
In the case of Alban’s murder, his captors were originally charged with breach of custody rules. With the change of the official version of events, two SEBIN officers were charged with manslaughter, breach of custody, conspiring to commit a crime and favoring the escape of the detainee. The accusation continues to be inconsistent, as it does not take into account the torture and incommunicado detention of the detainee, nor does it explain how throwing a detainee from a tenth floor can constitute involuntary murder. In the case of Captain Rafael Acosta Arevalo, tortured to death in October 2020, two officials of the General Directorate of Military Intelligence (DGCIM) were charged with intentional homicide with malice aforethought and torture. In the case of Pernalete, twelve officers of the GNB were charged with premeditated homicide in degree of complicity. The attorney general at the time of the crime, Luisa Ortega, in May 2017 accused the GNB of murdering Pernalete. Chavista leaders and members of the bolibourgeoisie such as Caracas mayor Jorge Rodríguez responded accusing her of “treason” and getting paid by US imperialism, besides reiterating that Pernalete had been murdered by “his own people”. On August 5, Ortega Díaz, who had only recently started raising criticisms of the repression, was dismissed by the dictatorship and had to flee to Colombia to avoid imprisonment.
The three emblematic cases of Alban, Pernalete and Acosta, show in a crude way the efforts of the chavista bourgeoisie to remain in power by resorting to criminal methods. Many other cases remain buried under official lies, specially when the victims are leftist activists, such as Alcedo Mora, victim of forceful disappearance in 2015, the three Trotskyist union leaders Richard Gallardo, Luis Hernández and Carlos Requena, killed in 2008, or the worker and political prisoner Rodney Alvarez who has been in jail for nearly ten years without trial, as a hostage of the regime.
A historical irony is that many in the high ranks of the chavista military, which has direct responsibility in the repressive policies, were trained in the infamous School of the Americas, where US imperialism provided training in national security doctrines, torture techniques and psychological warfare to Latin American military officers during the second half of the twentieth century. This criminal education was received by members not only of the various US backed dictatorships that plagued the region, but also members of the repressive bourgeois democracies, such as the one in Venezuela, which continued to send its officers to courses up to 2004.
Between February 2014 and October 26, 2018, the director of SEBIN was Gustavo González López, who studied psychological operations at the School of the Americas in 1991. Nestor Reverol, who was Minister of Interior between August 2016 and October 25, 2020, received the resource management course. Both continue to hold high positions in the regime. Vladimir Padrino Lopez, who completed the psychological operations course in 1995, was Minister of Defense at the time of the killings of Alban, Pernalete and Acosta, a position he still holds.