Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04CARACAS975
2004-03-23 14:59:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS CLOSE-UP: DETENTIONS

Tags:  PHUM PGOV PINS VE 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 000975 

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CBARTON
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD
USAID DCHA/OTI FOR RPORTER
DRL/PHD FOR JDAVIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/03/2013
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PINS VE
SUBJECT: HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS CLOSE-UP: DETENTIONS


Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ABELARDO A. ARIAS FOR REASONS 1.4 (B
) AND (D)

-------
SUMMARY
-------

C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 000975

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CBARTON
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD
USAID DCHA/OTI FOR RPORTER
DRL/PHD FOR JDAVIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/03/2013
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PINS VE
SUBJECT: HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS CLOSE-UP: DETENTIONS


Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ABELARDO A. ARIAS FOR REASONS 1.4 (B
) AND (D)

--------------
SUMMARY
--------------


1. (U) The GOV has detained hundreds of individuals since
February 27 on charges ranging from "violent behavior" to
civil rebellion. The detentions share certain
characteristics, including little concern with the detainee's
relation to the alleged charges, beatings and torture while
in National Guard (GN) custody, denial of medical attention,
denial of due process, and forcing detainees to sign
statements absolving the GN of allegations of mistreatment,
all of which violate rights guaranteed in the Venezuelan
Constitution. In spite of the number of violations confirmed
by human rights NGOs, the GOV maintains that it has not
committed human rights violations. Examples of specific
violations are at paragraph 9. End Summary.

--------------
Article 44: Personal Freedom is inviolable.
--------------


2. (C) According to statistics from the Democratic
Coordinator (CD),security forces detained nationwide 410
people associated with the opposition during the February
27-March 5 period. Of those 410, approximately 195 were
still being held as of March 17, according to composite lists
drawn from the CD, the media, and NGOs. According to the
human rights NGO PROVEA, many of the detentions share certain
characteristics, including little concern with the detainee's
relation to the alleged charges, beatings and torture while
in National Guard (GN) custody, denial of medical attention,
denial of due process, and forcing detainees to sign
statements absolving the GN of allegations of mistreatment,
all of which violate rights guaranteed in the Venezuelan
Constitution. (Note: We believe that PROVEA, which initially
supported the Chavez Government but which over time has
distanced itself from the GOV, has shown itself to be an
independent minded, principled organization. Like other
serious human rights groups, it laboriously documents cases
through interviews, collection of any physical evidence, and
cross-checking data with other human rights NGOs. It also

assists victims in filing an official complaint of the
alleged abuse.)

-------------- --
The Real Charge? Presumed Opposition to Chavez
-------------- --


3. (U) A variety of sources, including NGOs, the media, and
anecdotal accounts circulating via internet, suggest that the
link between the detainee and the charge on which the
detention is based is usually tenuous at best. Detainees
have been demonstrators, spectators, and individuals
unrelated to any opposition event. Opposition sources admit
that some demonstrators are armed, but NGO records show no
general trend of arresting demonstrators for illegal use of a
weapon. According to PROVEA, charges range from engaging in
violent behavior to civil rebellion, and some detainees have
been held and released without charges.

-------------- --------------
Article 46: Entitlement to respect for physical, mental, and
moral integrity.
-------------- --------------


4. (U) In a majority of detentions, Venezuelan authorities,
principally the GN, allegedly beat and tortured persons in
custody. While human rights NGOs are documenting the alleged
abuses, PROVEA has confirmed 103 cases of torture and/or use
of excessive force as of March 12. Specific alleged actions
include punching, kicking, beating with helmets and weapons,
electric shock torture, burning, forced inhalation of tear
gas, humiliation, and death threats. On March 17, the Forum
for Life, an umbrella group for human rights NGOs, publicly
condemned alleged abuses by the security forces, and strongly
criticized President Chavez for praising the work of the GN.
Congratulating such behavior while failing to denounce human
rights violations, the group said, will only increase future
violations and cement the GOV's culpability for them. Human

rights organizations also note that in addition to
allegations of torture and mistreatment, injured detainees
were at times denied medical attention.

--------------
Article 49: Right to due process.
--------------


5. (U) Detainees and their representatives have consistently
accused the GOV of failing to ensure that due process rights
are observed. They allege that the authorities do not ensure
the right to notify others of the detention, nor the right to
legal counsel. They also charge that special protections for
minors were disregarded in some cases. Authorities also
frequently demanded that detainees sign statements absolving
the GN of allegations of mistreatment. By doing so, the
detainee cedes his right to a fair hearing of his case.
According to PROVEA, this occurred at the time of release and
even as the detention continues.

--------------
Violations? What Violations?
--------------


6. (U) Despite NGO documentation of serious human rights
abuses since February 27, Vice President Rangel asserted that
"there are no human rights violations, there are no
disappearances, no torture cases," during a March 16 press
conference. Rangel recognized only nine deaths in political
disturbances (the opposition claims 14) and insisted that
none of the nine died at the hands of the National Guard.
(Note: VP Rangel may be correct about Guard involvement. The
fact is, however, that military and political police (DISIP)
forces, as well as armed civilians loyal to President Chavez,
confronted demonstrators.) He also maintained that no one
had made an official complaint regarding any of the
detentions.

--------------
Oh, THOSE Violations
--------------


7. (U) Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez announced the
opening of 11 abuse complaint investigations (nine in
Caracas, two in Zulia State) March 9 and denied accusations
that his office was not addressing the complaints seriously.
He said that some alleged victims had not yet formulated and
filed their complaints.


8. (C) Diego Urdaneta told poloff March 17 that he filed an
abuse complaint with the Attorney General's Office March 4,
alleging that he was beaten by the National Guard. During
the process, he made an official statement and reported to
the state police (CICPC) forensics specialist for a medical
examination. The physician examined him and took notes but
did not photograph his injuries nor ask what caused them.
The employee who took Urdaneta's statement urged him to admit
uncertainty about the identity of his attackers, even though
he had seen clearly the GN logo on their vehicle and
uniforms. Urdaneta's case was assigned to prosecutor
Gilberto Venere. Venere's secretary told Urdaneta that his
complaint was the 12th received so far, but that no further
complaints were to be accepted. A few days later, the
secretary told Urdaneta that some prosecutors had been fired

SIPDIS
because they had accepted complaints after the cut-off date.


--------------
Examples of Alleged Violations
--------------


9. (U) Carlos Eduardo Izcaray, cellist and conductor with the
Venezuela Symphony Orchestra, was arrested March 1 while
observing demonstrations in the Altamira neighborhood of
Caracas. Izcaray said the GN beat and tortured him with
electricity, then threatened to kill him.

- Reverend Dorindo Burgo was swept up with other
demonstrators in Altamira February 29, even though his most
provocative behavior appears to have been reading from the
constitution to the National Guard. He was beaten, then
asked to sign a statement absolving the GN of responsibility
for beating him as the condition for his release. Burgo

claims he initially refused to sign, then changed his mind
due to the "lack of value for signatures" in Venezuela.

- David Rubio, an opposition spokesperson, was intercepted by
state police in San Cristobal, Tachira State the evening of
February 29 while driving home with companions. He was kept
incommunicado throughout the night. He was permitted to
contact his lawyers the next morning, but authorities did not
inform the lawyers of the charges against him until the
following day. He is charged with civil rebellion and
obstructing a public thoroughfare, though he was uninvolved
in any opposition event at the time of his detention.

- Diego Urdaneta, son of a US citizen, told poloff that on
March 1, the GN kicked and beat him with batons and other
weapons and also threatened to kill him, then let him go.

- Pedro Martin claims the GN shot him with a plastic bullet
February 27, then waited four hours before sending him to a
hospital.

- National Guardsmen in Carabobo State shot demonstrator
Pedro Jose Sanchez March 4, then took him to the local GN
headquarters, rather than to a hospital. Sanchez died from
lack of medical attention.

- Alejandro Valera was beaten and shot by the GN on February
27, then placed in a "cage" for four hours.

- On March 1, 17 demonstrators were detained in Yaracuy
State, including five minors. The state children's rights
officer filed a negligence complaint against the case
prosecutor for failing to order medical exams for the minors
who were allegedly tortured by the GN.

- In Zulia State, demonstrator Pedro Rodriguez was detained
and beaten by the GN, then required to sign a statement that
negated the beating.

--------------
COMMENT
--------------


9. (C) Brutality at the hands of the National Guard and other
security forces is not new in Venezuela. The Chavez
Government will likely continue playing down the alleged
abuses, even while claiming to be the most democratic regime
in Venezuelan history. Human rights organizations, however,
are keeping track. Probably one of the most difficult tasks
they face -- beyond even getting the government to
acknowledge the cases -- is helping the victims document
their cases. They are making some headway, but impediments
such as the limitations placed by the Attorney General's
Office will continue to make things difficult.
SHAPIRO


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2004CARACA00975 - CONFIDENTIAL