CARACAS, Saturday December 01, 2012 | Update

Carlos Blanco's A Time to Talk, released on November 25

Pardoning political prisoners after a while, when things had calmed, used to be a tradition in Venezuela

Saturday December 01, 2012  12:00 AM

The effort to understand how old fighters for human rights are today violating them so brutally could prove to be fruitless. Pardoning political prisoners after a while, when things had calmed, used to be a tradition in Venezuela. The left, including those that are ruling today, has always taken up this standard as part of its heritage. Of course, you can say that political prisoners are those on our side, whereas for the government, they are nothing but ordinary criminals varnished with a patina of ideology; but it was not always like that. There were generous times, even amidst the armed struggles of the sixties; no democratic government has ever demanded prisoners to change their ideas. Human rights were undoubtedly violated, but soon democracy, in a joint effort by government and opposition, insurrectionists included, found ways to overcome differences. Some terrible events happened later, like Jorge Rodríguez' assassination, but his assassins were tried and sentenced. Some people definitively abandoned the armed struggles and joined the democratic fight, but there were also people who continued to profess their faith on a violent, revolutionary road and comfortably lived without being persecuted; even those who inspired and were the ideologists of Chávez' coup in 1992, albeit some were briefly jailed by the government, were soon released in response to the clamor of "The Notable," a remarkable caste of those times.

Perhaps, the political vision is not the same, but there is a common ground on which differences can be settled. Chávez himself, guilty of dozens of deaths with his coup, was turned into a hero by the elites and was also a beneficiary of the presidential grace. I do not belong to the group of those who blame (former President) Caldera for pardoning Chávez; the most prominent figures of this "Captaincy General" clamored for it. Nobody demanded Chávez to think differently, and the same happened with those who were with him in his coup; moreover, they were incorporated into the government by Caldera. Even several military heads of the armed forces that had defeated the coup were oddly compelled to flirt with those who supported the coup and were defeated.

Chávez has just obtained a victory that, in spite of its being suspicious, is robust. One could assume that given the election outcome and Chávez' bad health condition, this could be an opportune time for generosity. But at the time of writing these lines, nothing has happened in this regard. It should happen; without asking for anything in return; without giving anything to negotiators, but the release of prisoners and the return of the exiles. This is an act of grace by the Prince; not barter.

GIORDANI'S PRISONERS. Jorge Giordani has his own prisoners: the four directors of Econoinvest who have been more than 930 days illegally jailed, so far. Giordani does not want to release them for two reasons: immerse in his regular sobbing for Chávez, Giordani is an individual who has turned his hatred into his everyday trade. And secondly, that would be like admitting that his entire thesis on the dollar price increase in a market that was wary before, then grey and now jet black, is false.

If you observe the economy, you can see that the exchange crisis has intensified; reserves are equivalent to just two months' worth of imports plus some remaining gold. Giordani's disastrous decision to finish off the securities market, and even worse, stigmatize the purchase of securities by citizens, has had serious consequences: the Republic's financing cost has enormously increased and the little industry that is left is on the brink of collapse. Nelson Merentes, the king of structured notes, along with Giordani, is still illegally retaining 10 citizens falsely accused by Giordani. Now, they have their hands tied in the sense that they cannot provide the exchange market with flexibility and try to find a way out to the crisis: prisoners of their hatred and resentment, they have brought the national economy into a comma.

Dollars that used to be on the market came from the private sector; they did not affect international reserves, and in a controlled, transparent market, in which the State intervened, the gap between official and alternative exchange rate could be better controlled. Now there is a black market where some government entities move in the most absolute darkness, and people are on the fringes of the law, while the gates are opened for sophisticated criminal practices.

Giordani's prisoners are the evidence of his failure and hatred.

CHÁVEZ' PRISONER. Justice Afiuni is a personal victim of Chávez. For personal reasons, Chávez wanted to keep Eligio Cedeño in jail for ever; the judge dared make a decision based on the law; Cedeño was released and Chávez cried for revenge against the judge; 30 years! He yelled. The "Luisas" (Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz and Luisa Estella Morales, president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice) pleased him; it could not have been different. Mercilessness has been such that the society has reacted with horror after learning of some details on her imprisonment. The acts of horror will be precisely known from the judge herself, when the book authored by Francisco Olivares "Afiuni, the Commander's prisoner," is available.

Sometimes one wonders how a human being can be subjected to this kind of grievance by Chávez. I think over and over again how a man that has known success, fame, who lives like an ultramillionaire sheik, who does not know any limits but those imposed by his own body, can feel such a resentment toward a woman who only fulfilled her duties. Would Chávez have the courage to face his own misery and release María Afiuni now, today, without further delay?

IVÁN SIMONOVIS' DAUGHTER. Excerpts of Ivana Simonovis' letter: "Today, November 22 of 2012, is the 8th anniversary of a torture that appears to be endless. Since I was 7, my relation to my dad has been different from that of other kids; I see him once a week, from 11 o'clock in the morning to 5 o'clock in the evening. My brother and I have always known that my dad is a hero; a hero called a "political prisoner." Now I'm almost 16; that means that more than the half of my life I have seen my dad in those conditions." (...) "In this situation, my dad is not the only prisoner; everybody in my family is a prisoner; all our plans should be organized so that we are free to see him the only day we may visit him, because he depends on us; we take him food, clothing, medicines, and most importantly, our love and support. This would be our ninth December separated... I, Ivana Simonovis, want Venezuela to have a better December in 2012; that is why I want to specifically ask politicians on both sides, government and opposition, to please reach an agreement once and for all; to leave conflicts aside and, above all, I ask them from the bottom of my heart, that there no longer are political prisoners, neither this Christmas nor the ones that are to come."

Freedom! Freedom!
Twitter @carlosblancog

Translated by Álix Hernández

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