Between October 10th and 15th, 2020, the Presidential Commission for Human Rights and Attention to Victims of the Interim Government received news of harassment, threats, and raids that have been directed against at least five officials of the Interim Government. These persecutions and raids have been orchestrated by police officers known as “SEBIN”, and have been initially motivated by the creation of the National Council for Judicial Defense, which was established by the President in charge, Juan Guaidó, on October 10th of this year. This administrative body has the mission of guaranteeing an efficient and transparent process in the contracting and legal processes carried out by the Interim Government.
It should be noted that since Congressman Juan Guaidó assumed the position of Interim President in January 2019, more than ten attacks have been registered against his close circle, including assistants, security personnel and advisors. Of particular notoriety are the cases of the former secretary of the National Assembly and head of his office, Roberto Marrero, who was detained for more than 420 days incommunicado and in a delicate state of health at the headquarters of SEBIN; and his uncle, Juan José Márquez, detained and incommunicado at the headquarters of the DGCIM, after his return from the international tour in which he accompanied the President (E) on February 11th, and on March 29 there occurred the arbitrary detention and subsequent release of the sentimental couple of Mr. Rafael Rico, Andrea Bianchi and two employees – Romulo Garcia and Victor Silio, a member of President (E) Juan Guaidó team. This as an attempt to retaliate for not having found Rafael Rico at his home for his arbitrary detention. Thus, it is not surprising the modus operandi employed in relation to the arbitrary detention of wife and children.
All of these detentions occurred in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected Venezuela in a virulent and differentiated manner. Contrary to the recommendations of the IACHR and the UNHCHR, the usurpation has not been rational and measured with the use of police detentions by Extermination Groups. It is well known that it is not consistent with the international health emergency to increase the number of detainees. This becomes an even more serious variable if one takes into account that there is a pattern of persecution that the factual power is using.
The Presidential Commission for Human Rights and Attention to Victims is convinced that this new detention responds to this same pattern of persecution. Therefore, we warn the public of the need to evaluate these events, taking into account the detentions of people who were in a similar situation to Vicente Borjas and his family a few months ago. In this particular case, the facts denounced occurred as follows:
Regarding Gabriel Gallo and his family: On October 12th, 2020, at approximately 3:00 PM, two vehicles belonging to the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) entered a housing development located in the city of San Felipe, Yaracuy State. This is the place of residence of Gabriel Gallo, who is currently out of the country. The SEBIN officials presented themselves with a search warrant in the name of the former owner of the house, since the name of the person to be searched on the document was absolutely empty. A real estate representative and the lawyer for the condominium rebuked the officials, who argued that regardless of whether the house was rented and Attorney Gallo was no longer there, they should proceed with the search, claiming that there had been financial complicity in acts of terrorism. At this point, the previously mentioned administrator and attorney were taken as witnesses for long hours, they being elderly people. In the past, specifically in 2008, his father, Gabriel Vicente Gallo, was kidnapped. On August 18th, 2016, his brother, José Enrique Gallo, was murdered. More recently, in 2019, his mother, Laura Beatriz Gallo, was charged with crimes of up to 25 years in prison for participating in peaceful protests.
Regarding David Natera and his relatives: he did not suffer a direct attack on his person, but his father (who bears his same name), and he serves as director of the (newspaper) ‘Correo del Caroní’ in Venezuela. The latter was detained by SEBIN troops, after his house was raided for more than two hours when he was mistaken for his son. The raid was led by SEBIN official César Chávez, and during the process there was never a prosecutor present, which forces to question whether the Public Ministry is really acting as director of the criminal processes (as mandated by the Constitution and Venezuelan laws) or whether the administrative police agencies, which should be subordinated to the law, are acting beside the law and under their own free will. During the interrogation, Dr. Natera was shown photographs of his close relatives, all with the aim of threatening him.
Regarding Jonathan López and his relatives: Despite the fact that Atty. López is in the United States, on the morning of October 12th, a search and seizure was made of the property that is his mother’s main residence in the state of Nueva Esparta. A commission of the (SEBIN) directed by Commissioner Jean Carlos Garcia presented a search warrant on the address of the house. The officers entered the property, taking with them several goods from the property. Later, the officers went to another property owned by López. Regardless of this circumstance, the officers searched the property, and took the tenants with them for the purpose of taking statements. These persons are currently under threat of eviction, although they have not executed the action. On October 13th, the de facto authorities raided an apartment in the city of Caracas which belongs to the mother-in-law of Mr. López. On October 14th was raided the house of the father of a person with whom Mr. López maintained a mercantile society in the past, and which has been dissolved for many years. Finally, on October 15th, the offices of the law firm “GlobalJuris” were raided, where the Abg. López worked while he lived in Venezuela.
Regarding Freddy Orlado and his family: Mr. Orlando denounced direct attacks by security bodies of the regime and reported that the Bolivarian Service of National Intelligence (SEBIN), raided his apartment without a warrant, and took a desktop computer, a laptop, folders with documents of ownership of a vehicle and the apartment, paintings by Venezuelan painters and blocked his bank account and that of his wife.
Regarding Arghemar Perez: Mr. Perez has been out of Venezuela for six years, however, a building he owns in the city of Caracas was raided by SEBIN officers, who entered his house without a warrant and proceeded with searches for approximately three hours.
Regarding Romer Rubio and family members: Later, in the state of Zulia, Romer Rubio also made a similar denunciation. He assured that his parents’ residence was raided by members of the regime, and that fortunately his parents were well. He does not live there.
Regarding Rafael Domínguez: Mr. Domínguez is not a member of the Council, but he is the Director of International Relations of the National Assembly and has recently been appointed Ambassador to the Bahamas. He denounced on the night of this Monday, October 12th, 2020, that police officers of Nicolás Maduro’s regime raided his residence in Caracas, which occurred almost at the same time as the raid to the residences of the Director of ‘Correo del Caroní’, David Natera, and the regional coordinator of Voluntad Popular Party in Yaracuy, Gabriel Gallo.
As it is possible to extract from all these factual accounts, the common phenomenon shared by the victims and their relatives is the fact that they were recently appointed to certain responsibilities within the Interim Government, something perfectly legitimate and for which the National Assembly is constitutionally empowered. Therefore, the criminalization of these acts responds to an arbitrary purpose characteristic of totalitarian states, and it is even more despicable to extend these reprisals to family members and even tenants who have nothing to do with these events.
Therefore, for the Presidential Commission, it is unacceptable that in the midst of a pandemic and in frank violation of recommendations made by international protection bodies, the factual power of Mr. Nicolás Maduro Moros insists on raiding homes, harassing and threatening dissidents and members of the Interim Government without any procedural guarantees.
The Presidential Commission for Human Rights and Victims Care reiterates its concern about this situation, especially because of the risk involved in a complex humanitarian emergency and health crisis resulting from the pandemic. It must be strongly condemned that this type of event be extended to family members.
It is for this reason that the Presidential Commission has decided to bring this unfortunate circumstance to the attention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In this way, the country reports that the IACHR is developing after its in situ visit in February of this year, as well as the monitoring function of the OHCHR and the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission, are being fed.
In this way, to the extent that the usurpation continues to incur in despicable and atrocious practices of human rights violations, the Presidential Commission for Human Rights will continue to denounce and inform international protection organizations so that they act accordingly. The defense of democratic institutions and the control of public funds, far from being a crime, is a moral imperative and a citizen duty. None of those affected, therefore, is responsible for any crime.
Humberto Prado Presidential Commissioner for Human Rights and Victims Assistance