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Opinion and Analysis: Politics

The Venezuelan “Disappeared” of the 21st Century

The term “disappeared” was created in the School of the Americas, a dependency of the U.S. military’s Southern Command and headquartered in Fort Gulick, Panama, until 1984. 45,000 Latin American officers were trained in counter-insurgency there. Along with anti-guerrilla tactics they learned how to torture and how to manage prisoners. As soon as the officers returned to their home countries, they applied what they had learned.

In the 60’s, in various countries simultaneously, leftist activists began to “disappear,” who were presumably or actually responsible for urban guerrilla activity. Following their capture, no one knew anything of them. Their families trekked to the prisons and police headquarters and received no answer whatsoever. They were tortured to death and their bodies were discarded.

In Venezuela this practice was begun during the government of Raul Leoni (1964-69). Alberto Lovera, who was in charge of military actions of the Venezuelan Communist Party’s clandestine wing, was one of these prisoners who officials denied having imprisoned. He “disappeared” in October 1965. The media barely registered the news. As his wife, Maria del Mar Lovera, says, it cost her very much to be heard. Until a fisher fund his body on the beach of Lecherías in Anzoategui state.

Many other Venezuelans were assassinated and nothing was ever known of what happened to their bodies. Donato Carmona, Alejandro Tejera, Felipe Malaver, Cesar Burguillos, the Pasquier brothers, are all on this long list.

Once again people speak of “disappeared” in Venezuela. Someone told an opposition politician that there were seven youths who, according to an anonymous accuser, had been detained and nothing is known as to what has become of them. The opposition coalition “Democratic Coordinator” appealed to the families of these boys that they file charges. These prisoners, though, bear few similarities with those of the 60’s. Those back then were revolutionary activists, their families denounced their capture, they were searched for without rest, and all possible information was offered about them while the media barely diffused it; those of today don’t seem to have any family members or other mourners.

In Caracas we know very well of the magnitude of the violent acts that took place between February 27 and March 5 in the eastern part of the city, the ferocity with which public and private property was destroyed, as well as the consequences of this destruction. 68 persons were arrested here, of which 31 remain imprisoned and 23 have restraining orders. This is very little in relation to the damage that was caused.

The investigations, according to officials, reveal that in seven of the nine deaths state security forces did not bear any responsibility for these. The investigations that are in progress must reveal the entire truth, particularly in the cases of the deaths of Evangelina Carrizo and Juan Carlos Zambrano, both from Zulia state.

With regard to the nine cases of torture that were denounced by the Democratic Coordinator, only one of the cases has been formalized with the human rights organization Red de Apoyo (Support Network). There even are advertisements that these accusations be concretized.

With such fragile cases, a systematic campaign about the violation of human rights has been launched against the government as never before. The opposition and the majority of the media and international agencies, including CNN, make it look like Venezuela is the Latin American country where human rights are violated the most and whose government is responsible for another genocide (the first was on April 11, 2002), so that it deserves the intervention of North American marines, just as they did in Haiti, or of the UN blue helmets. The UN’s Security Council should not be surprised, since merely two hours following the monstrous massacre in Madrid and barely after the investigation was begun, ETA was accused.