By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The number of political prisoners in Venezuela has jumped to 231. The government of Nicolas Maduro is now even harassing a female newspaper editor in a hunger-besieged small town. Meanwhile, government and opposition in the Dominican Republic negotiate conditions for fair Presidential elections in April.
Local human rights NGO “Foro Penal” reported on Tuesday that the number of political prisoners in Venezuela rose from 224 in mid-January to 231 by January 30th, an increase explained by the aftermath of a violent shooting between police and the military against an anti-Maduro gang led by rogue cop Oscar Perez on January 15th. The police keep rounding up alleged suspects of involvement with the Perez group, but Foro Penal says it cannot account for the whereabouts of all the arrested.“THE COMMUNISTS WARN YOU!”
Yindira Lugo, a short, spectacled woman journalist, was interrogated for two hours by elements of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence, or DGCIM, a military unit that should not handle civilian cases, according to civilian law. Maduro in 2017 tried hundreds of demonstrators in military courts, part of an effort to crush protests against his government, according to critics. The complaint against the journalist was lodged by an entity known as “Circulo de Lucha Popular”, or “Circle for Popular Struggle”, a pro-Maduro organization.
SNTP, the main media workers union in Venezuela, said the woman was being subjected to “an arbitrary, intimidating process”, just for doing her job. She was not interrogated in the presence of a district attorney, as law mandates, but was assisted by private counsel and accompanied by the newspapper’s owner, Luis Marcano Barrios.
Lugo was denounced under the new “Law against Hate” decreed by the illegitimate Constituent Assembly, a legislative body not recognized by the United States, the European Union or the Venezuelan opposition for an article she ran on January 11th Titled: “The communists warn you!” (“Los comunistas lo advierten!”). The piece is a lengthy interview with Perfecto Abreu, a member of the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) politburo, in which the seasoned politician warns Maduro about not ignoring discontent in the country.
The article is, more than a warning, a severe condemnation from a former close ally, as PCV was one of the few mainstream parties that supported Maduro’s mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez, in the 1998 Presidential elections.
Also this week, major Caracas pro-government newspaper “El Universal” (which was independent until it was purchased by a friend of the Maduro Regime in 2014) passed a memo forbidding the posting of political information on its social media, a move SNTP has said triggered the an unspecified number of resignations from journalists there.
The present situation constitutes “an escalation in censorship” according to SNTP.