Friday, March 30, 2007

Human Rights in Venezuela: the jail hell

The OAS bureau that deals with human rights in the hemisphere has released its report:
Venezuela, in addition to Colombia, Cuba and Haiti, should be paid "special attention" in terms of human rights, said the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Venezuela as it has become usual makes it to the top of states with routine violations, along Cuba, and Colombia. Among the violations to Human Rights made by Venezuela we find plenty of freedom of expression violations, but we also find an accusation as to the inconceivable conditions of Venezuelan jails which make, among other things, the death penalty a sure thing even if it is banned in the 1999 constitution. Who knows, for the sake of coherence Chavez might want to include death penalty in the "reform" secretly discussed these days...

Sure enough, to confirm these serious accusations that the Chavez cynical government tries to minimize, we had yesterday yet another prison riot. This time close to home, in San Felipe. I was barred access to part of the town where I had business to do; a large section was cordoned off while the police dealt with a grenade thrown in the prison courtyard. A cop I talked to told me there were 8 people killed by a grenade thrown in jail. How did a grenade found its way inside a jail? Is the director and the Interior and Justice Minister going to explain to us how come grenades reach cell mates? I also saw from afar the smoke billowing above the prison. I am pretty sure that no TV crew will be allowed inside to film the damage.

But the government is announcing officially only 4 deaths. Who is lying or misinformed? The cop close to the site or the government? The reader can speculate freely.

The big question was whether the internal attack had been sponsored in order to kill "accidentally" the most famous political prisoner in Venezuela these days, ex Governor Lapi jailed by current governor cum slime bucket Gimenez. He is safe but more than ever rumors of chavismo wanting to kill Lapi will be rife. Why do not they judge him for his alleged crimes? The guy has been in jail for a year now and no trial is in sight while all his right are violated in the procedure. Or is it that they have no good evidence but the judicial power, ever so compliant, allows for Gimenez to keep Lapi in jail so he has no strong leader in Yaracuy streets to call him into accounting his dismal and corrupt administration?

But the worst parts of the show were the scenes at the door of the jail where inmates family where fighting the cops to try to get inside the prison to see if their relatives were alive. It was an impressive scene from hell, of all that is wrong with Venezuela today. Scary big time, the total mistrust of the people toward the cops, the willingness of the women to battle armed cops with their bare hands .... A Dante moment.

Oh! and the report also complains that since 2002 the chavista government has refused to receive its inspectors and commissions. Of course, how convenient for Chavez, he refuses to be inspected and screams that the OAS lies. In a way it is true since they could not visit...

But as usual there is also the anecdote with it. Why Chavez should worry about OAS condemnations when he has defenders such as Chesa Boudin? This nice young man happens to be the Rhodes Scholar son of a couple of famous US terrorists before Osama became THE terrorist. Well, during his childhood he visited his parents in jail and he became very young a passionate advocate of prisoners rights. Fine and dandy except that we cannot detect in his work much compassion for the victims of these people that are in jail. That would be fine if it were not because that Boudin is also an ardent defender of Chavez and his fake revolution. I have looked hard but I could not find a single instance where Boudin worried about jail conditions in Venezuela. You can find an example of his lame propaganda prose here, kind of disappointing writing for some one who was a Rhodes Scholar from Yale. Of course, I have no stomach to check his books, and even less to pay for them but if someone can prove me wrong I will be delighted to add a correction at the end of this post.

Now, this Chesa is small fry in the big scene, even if the government sponsors him to write books to justify the Venezuelan regime and pays for his trips to visit locales such as Berkeley (imagine that! as if they needed to promote chavismo there! why not send Chesa to, say, Auburn?). If I mention him it is just to give a clear example on how Chavez manages to corrupt the brain of folks that support him, specially outside Venezuela (the famously infamous PSF). Here we have that guy who made a name, and got one of the most prestigious awards of the Anglo Saxon world, on detention conditions and yet, he comes to Venezuela and magically his "jail condition survey switch" tuns off for his entire stay.

Meanwhile the poor who are the overwhelming bulk of the jail population in Venezuela, and San Felipe, remain rotting in subhuman conditions. They also have children, these inmates, children that Chesa could interview. The government finds money to buy votes but cannot find money to build at least better jails where the inmates would not be piled above each other. But the Chesa of the world have nothing to say about that. Only mean spirited opposition folks, and few of them by the way, find time and passion to write on this scandal (such as here and here; or in Tal Cual pages under Teodoro Petkoff, the lone constant promoter of decent detention conditions in Venezuela as even the main stream media is only worried occasionally, and forget about the chavista media!).

Enough said!

-The end-

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