[News] Amnesty International Opposes Venezuelans Defending Their Human Rights

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 24 12:50:36 EDT 2014

  Amnesty International Opposes Venezuelans Defending Their Human Rights


By Tamara Pearson- Venezuelanalysis.com, March 23rd 2014

In a recent article Amnesty International accused the Venezuelan 
government of a "witch hunt" when opposition mayor, Daniel Ceballos was 
arrested. However, Amnesty has yet to use such strong language against 
the five weeks of human rights violations people in Venezuela have 
suffered at the hands of violent opposition sectors. The "witch hunt" 
term demonises the people's right to bring such criminals to justice.

Amnesty argues in its article, Venezuela: Arrest of local mayor signals 
potential "witch hunt 
dated 20 March 2014, that Ceballos, mayor of San Cristobal, capital of 
Tachira state, was arrested for his "alleged involvement in 
anti-government protests...authorities in Venezuela seem to be setting 
the scene for a witch hunt against opposition leaders".

It is important to counter the horrendous distortions contained in the 
article, because despite the fact that Amnesty is not expert on 
Venezuela, the private media and even some leftwing media will quote its 
positions as fact. Further, articles like this embolden the criminals 
and coup participants who make up a part of the opposition leadership, 
while making it harder for those of us here who have suffered from the 
violence to be able to demand arrests, and authorities to carry them out.

As I write (on Saturday afternoon), I can hear constant gunshots coming 
from down the road. Violent groups who have called for President Maduro 
to resign, are firing from the street and apartment buildings at people, 
buses, and cars on the main city intersection on Avenue Las Americas. 
They have set a bus on fire, and two people have been shot, including a 
youth from the barrio where I teach. The other is a Cantv worker 
--reports coming in now that he has died. Four police have been injured. 
The driver of that bus has now lost his living. Photo 
and video <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBEQcNX_Lis>.

That intersection has been like this, to different extents for weeks. 
Last week on my way to work I took photos of a burnt truck 
and rubbish 
there. Because of the violent opposition blockades, for weeks people 
haven't been able to exercise their basic human rights and get to work, 
school, university, shops, and hospitals. There are various such 
blockades around the country, mainly concentrated in cities with an 
opposition mayor, including Ceballos' city of San Cristobal. The 
blockaders verbally abuse, physically attack, and sometimes charge 
bribes to people who want to get through. Others have not been able to 
get through and have been stuck inside their house, or outside of it, 
for weeks. The blockaders have hung effigies of Chavistas in red shirts, 
and painted slogans in the road that involve anti-Cuban racism. 
Journalists, including myself, as well as various community, 
alternative, and private media journalists, have been physically 
attacked and threatened when trying to cover what Amnesty in its article 
refers to as "protests". If they were protests, the protestors would 
welcome the publicity. 31 people have been killed, the majority by 
blockaders, and the violent opposition sectors have also destroyed 
buses, stations, burnt houses and shops, attacked the buildings of 
public institutions and media outlets, and destroyed countless fences, 
traffic lights, signage, and billboards.

By leaving out all political, historical and economical context, and 
ignoring the opposition's proven history of backing the rich elites, 
Amnesty probably believes it is being "neutral". In fact, the 
organisation's limited and Eurocentric understanding of democracy and 
rights sees it in this article condemning a so called attack on an 
individual, whilst being blind to the (failing) attempt currently 
underway to overthrow a democratically elected government.

Ceballos meanwhile, has publically --through his Twitter 
<https://twitter.com/Daniel_Ceballos> account, the media, and his own 
actions -- supported that attempt. While his level of involvement- 
financial or not- in the violence is up to the courts to pronounce, that 
much is clear. Despite video 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctcpTWyhbmA> evidence proving the 
contrary, he blamed 
<https://twitter.com/Daniel_Ceballos/status/437972659461046272> the 
National Guard for the death of an opposition blockader, then paraded 
<https://twitter.com/Daniel_Ceballos/status/438694824502231040> the 
victim's coffin through the town to support his political cause. The 
Supreme Court later ordered Mayor Ceballos to remove blockades in the 
city so that people could exercise their right to free transit, and he 
ignored that order. The Tachira governor has also accused  Ceballos of 
allegedly having foreign bank accounts containing money he has allegedly 
made out of his support for drug smuggling and petrol contraband, as 
well as permitting the presence of Colombian paramilitaries, who have 
allegedly been supporting the far right's campaign to remove Maduro.

Minister for internal affairs, Miguel Rodriguez said, "A mayor is 
obliged to comply with the constitution and the law, and to not foment 
violence, anarchy, and civil rebellion".   Given that there is at least 
very solid evidence for his support for the violent barricades, is it 
not reasonable to take Ceballos to court? If a mayor in Australia or the 
US or Europe were to actively encourage destruction of public property, 
chaos, closing roads so that people can't get urgent medical care, and 
the overthrow of that nation's government, would it be a "witch hunt" if 
that mayor was taken to trial? Or is it only progressive governments who 
aren't allowed to arrest open criminals and put them on trial?

In the article, Amnesty's America's spokesperson Guadalupe Marengo 
concludes, "It is undeniable that authorities in Venezuela have a 
responsibility to maintain public order. However, unless they respect 
the human rights of all and exercise restraint, their actions will lead 
to even more violence." What Marengo fails to acknowledge, is the 
ridiculous levels of restraint the Venezuelan government has exercised.

No other government in the world would be this restrained in the face of 
such intense and long lasting violence and violations, as well as the 
threat to overthrow it. There have been a few exceptions, and no other 
government in the world would publically reject such exceptions, then 
arrest the perpetrators, as the one here has. 14 members of security 
forces have been arrested for alleged abuses and excessive use of force, 
while not one police responsible for racial killings in Australia for 
example, has ever been arrested -- rather they tend to be promoted. 
Further, despite putting up with constant verbal harassment, racism, 
injuries, and six deaths so far from opposition "protestors", the 
National Guard has mostly remained calm, here 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yONBN1fIYeM> for example, giving 
blockaders a workshop in human rights, then letting them go.

The Venezuelan people have also been incredibly patient and peaceful. In 
little Merida alone, thousands of government supporters have marched for 
peace four times in one month, despite not being able to get into the 
city because the violent opposition threatened the bus union if they 
didn't go on strike. There has been up to a hundred more marches around 
the country calling for peace, and in Merida, government supporters have 
organised daily cultural events in the main plaza. Further, the national 
government and state governments have repeatedly called for, and held, 
peace talks, which the opposition, including Ceballos, has refused to 

Ceballos is being charged with civil rebellion, Article 143 of the Penal 
Code, and criminal association, Article 258 of the Penal Code. According 
to Ultimas Noticias 
Ceballos was arrested because of denouncements made by citizens in his 
municipality who demanded "actions be taken because of the closing of 
roads and lack of rubbish collection". They also argued that he had been 
leading the attacks on public and private property, on people, and on 
free transit, and they lodged a petition in the Third Court of San 
Cristobal. The First Control Court in the city then put out the arrest 
warrant, which was carried out by the Sebin. Though national government 
authorities have commented on the arrest- as is their political right, 
do the citizens of Ceballos' municipality not have the right to lodge 
complaints? Does Amnesty have the right to argue that if myself and 
others in Merida, facing a similar situation with the opposition mayor 
here, were to lodge a petition to have him arrested, it would be a witch 
hunt? We don't have the right to defend ourselves, our human rights -- 
our right to education, to work, to get health care, to walk freely in 
the streets, to public transport, to safety, which is being infringed by 
these violent barricades?

Impunity feeds crime, and nobody, not even mayors, politicians, or 
police should have it.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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