CARACAS, Friday August 18, 2006 | Update
* Blockade of roads in central Miranda state, surveillance
of embassies and reinforced security in airports were the
early measures taken by the Ministry of the Interior, at the
request of the Attorney General Office, to prevent any request
for asylum or departure of Carlos Ortega, head of the Venezuelan
Workers' Confederation (CTV), Captain Rafael Faría and
Colonels Jesús and Darío Faría.
The trade union leader was condemned for conspiracy due to his involvement in the nationwide strike of 2002-2003, aimed at forcing the dismissal of President Hugo Chávez. Jesús Faría and his nephew Rafael Faría faced trial for military rebellion. Darío Faría had been detainee since April 2005, accused of having a rifle in his vehicle. All of them fled on August 13 from the Ramo Verde National Center of Military Defendants. The prison is located in Los Teques, the capital city of Miranda state.
Late August 13, Defense Minister Raúl Isaías Baduel confirmed the information. "We were aware of the escape at 13:30."
Local authorities started immediately an investigation into the individuals responsible for the evasion and in order to know the whereabouts of the inmates, Baduel said early August 14 during an interview with TV show "En Confianza."
Baduel suspected internal complicity in the absence of physical evidence, such as a tunnel or some protest inside the prison. "There was no physical violence, and no device allowing for the escape was found. Therefore, everything points to alleged internal complicity," he claimed.
For his part, Ramo Verde director, Colonel Gustavo Buznego, claimed that the prison is working as usual following a protest stage by inmates on August 13 evening.
The official did not make reference to alleged internal cooperation. "I cannot advance whether there was involvement or not of the officials responsible for custody. All of the staff concerned is available for the state security agencies."
* Colonels Jesús Faría and Darío Faría, as well as captain Rafael Faría, could see their jail terms increased by a fourth if they are recaptured, following their escape from prison, according to the Military Justice Organic Code.
Jesús Faría and Rafael Faría were convicted to 9 years in jail for rebellion, in connection with the case of Colombian paramilitary brought to Caracas supposedly to assassinate President Hugo Chávez. Darío Faría was convicted to 6 years and four months in jail, for allegedly carrying a rifle in his car's bumper, but his conviction was nullified four months ago.
14 military officers interrogated
Caracas higher military prosecutor captain Joel Febres said 14 officers (one senior officer, one junior officer, one noncommissioned officer, and 11 troops) who were "either directly or indirectly" responsible for the three military officers who escaped from jail and the president of the CTV Carlos Ortega -who also fled- were interrogated.
Unofficial sources said that at most three of such troops could be indicted for escape of inmates and prisoners, a crime punished with 2 to 8 eight years in jail.
Tight security measures at Maiquetía international airport
The authorities of Maiquetía international airport, central Vargas state, joined efforts with the Directorate for Military Intelligence (DIM) and the National Guard (GN) to tighten security measures in order to prevent the escape of Ortega, Captain Rafael Faría and Colonels Jesús and Darío Faría.
Mario Fernández Echandía, the airport director, claimed that every support will be given to the security bodies.
* Based on preliminary findings on the escape of Ortega, Captain Faría and Colonels Jesús and Darío Faría, the fugitives presumably came apart after fleeing the prison, Ministry of the Interior and Justice Jesse Chacón reported August 16.
While authorities fear that the fugitives left the country already, they think that somewhere in their plan they might face troubles preventing them from going overseas.
The minister noted that the fugitives cannot ask for political asylum due to their status of convict.
Military Attorney General Office to charge 14 army officers
* The Military Attorney General Office plans to charge 14 army officers with alleged involvement in the escape of Ortega, Captain Faría and Colonels Jesús and Darío Faría.
* Indicted officers include Major Arcadio Lima and Lieutenant Joseph Valera, both of the air force, as the officials responsible for night-time duty in the facilities.
The officers were entrusted with surveillance of the prison located in Los Teques, left by the fugitives early August 13.
Authorities think that the inmates paid for copies of the keys. They also suspect of internal complicity.
Attorney General Office announces inquiry
* An inquiry will be made into "everyone showing solidarity and support" to the escape of CTV's Ortega and army officers Faría, Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez announced on August 17.
"Article 285, Penal Code, labels generic or indirect solicitation as a crime. Based on this assumption, publicity is also a requirement. This behavior can be established in three ways -solicitation to disobey laws, hatred among citizens and apology of a crime or defense of people who put public peace in jeopardy."
According to the senior official, those who praised the incident could be involved in apology of crime. "We will initiate an investigation, substantiate it and find any responsibility."
Rodríguez does not view it as a threat of chase, but "a call, both the media and ordinary citizens, to be sensible concerning display of solidarity with the fugitives."
* Military Attorney General Ernesto Cedeño advised on five bench warrants for the staff responsible for the escape from Ramo Verde jail of CTV head Carlos Ortega and army officers Faría.
* Two of the measures fall to Colonel Gustavo Busnego Leal, the jail director who was dismissed, and Lieutenant Colonel Emil Irausquin, the prison under-director, due to gross negligence. They could face a sentence of five years and eight months.
* Remaining orders were requested against air force Major Arcadio Antonio Lima; Lieutenant José Eugenio Varela Díaz; and National Guard Jhonny Espinoza Aguilar, for the crimes of direct responsibility, as set forth in Article 556, Military Justice Organic Law.
Retaliations feared after escape from Ramo Verde jail
* Ana Mercedes Petett de Gebauer, the wife of army Captain Otto Adolfo Gebauer Morales, asked August 17 to observe the human rights of her husband retained in Ramo Verde jail.
Following the claims of torture to detainees in order to get information on the jailbreak of army officers Faría and CTV president Carlos Ortega, relatives fear authorities' abuse.
Ana Mercedes de Gebauer said that her husband has not been subject to mistreatment. "They have not touched him because steps were taken before all of this. Apparently, Captain Luis Figueroa was the only victim," she explained.
However, the lady reported on alleged warnings against taking her husband to the Directorate for Military Intelligence (DIM) in order to be interrogated.
With regard to reinforced security in Ramo Verde jail, located in Los Teques, the capital city of central Miranda state, Chief of Staff General Carlos Acosta Pérez explained that the vacancy left by outgoing officials will be filled.
Some of the officials responsible for the prison custody were fired and are subject to investigation.
"It is not reinforcement. It is completion of the appropriate number by virtue of the structure. At this current moment, a large amount of officials are out, because they are being investigated. What we will do is to complete this number."
02:57 PM. HEAVY RAINS. Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Elias Jaua reported that the government is designing plans to support farmers, cattlemen and peasants of the state of Mérida who have been hit by heavy rains that have caused crop losses.