Jailed Ex-Mayor Granted House Arrest amid Fracturing Opposition

Daniel Ceballos, a former mayor of the Venezuelan city of San Cristobal, was granted house arrest yesterday due to health issues. The announcement comes amid fresh schisms in the opposition electoral coalition. 

By Z.C. Dutka

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Hard right opposition leader Daniel Ceballos (archive)
Hard right opposition leader Daniel Ceballos (archive)
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Santa Elena, August 11th, 2015. (venezuelanalysis.com)- Daniel Ceballos, a former mayor of the Venezuelan city of San Cristobal, was granted house arrest yesterday due to health issues.

Arrested in March 2014 and sentenced to 12 months in prison by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the ex-mayor was accused of subversion, after permitting violent anti-government protestors to erect and maintain barricades throughout the Western city of San Cristobal.

According to a statement made by the Venezuelan public prosecutor’s office, Ceballos will be transferred to a Caracas family residence today, where he will continue to await trial. 

Ceballos’ wife Patricia Gutierrez, who was elected to mayor by a significant majority after her husband’s arrest, told reporters he still remains a “political prisoner,” though she insisted his release was “evidence of his innocence.”

The 2014 barricade protests, also known as the "guarimba", began in San Cristobal when a faction of opposition supporters took to the streets echoing hardline leader Leopoldo Lopez’s call for “the exit” of the Maduro administration. Setting up roadblocks and vandalizing public building, the guarimberos quickly lost popular support by favoring extreme and often violent tactics to draw attention to their cause. 43 Venezuelans were killed during the protests, the majority passersby and security personnel.

Lopez is currently in Ramo Verde military prison on charges of inciting violence, and is similarly upheld as a "political prisoner" by his supporters.

San Cristobal, aside from being the birthplace of the guarimba, was a stronghold for militant protest, with traffic in and out of the city stopped for days at a time over the course of four months.

Ceballos, a longtime opposition supporter, remains accused of refusing orders to clear out the protestors and their burning trash barricades.

According to his supporters, the former mayor is experiencing health problems related to a twenty-day hunger strike he carried out in June. 

Opposition Split

Fissures have appeared in the Venezuelan opposition as politicians gear up for this December’s parliamentarian elections. 

The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a catch-all electoral coalition of Venezuela’s right and center-right parties, saw two parties emphatically break from the alliance this week. 

JAVU (Active United Venezuelan Youth), the hardline youth party most associated with guarimba protest, released a statement this morning saying it cannot in good faith be part of a group that negotiates power with a “so-called government,” which they themselves classify as a tyrannical regime.

“We take up protest always as the vanguard,” the statement read, “And this has cost us repression, exile, jail, and even death. While we have done this, the opposition has for 16 years guided us along paths of failure and desperation; it has not known how to rise to the circumstances and it has wasted the opportunities we built in the streets with much effort.”

JAVU, whose slogan is “God, Fatherland and Glory,” went on to call out former opposition candidate Henrique Capriles for ultimately accepting the presidential election results after Nicolas Maduro’s 2013 victory. 

After four days of crying foul, which encouraged violent street action from opposition supporters, Capriles “sent us home to listen to salsa,” JAVU complained. 

In the interim before Capriles conceded electoral defeat, nine Venezuelans were killed including two young children who were run down by a truck that purposefully swerved into a celebratory Chavista march.

Rejecting mainstream opposition leaders for their supposed moderation, JAVU announced it will be presenting independent candidates for the Dec 6th elections, and is willing to seek alliances with like-minded parties.

The Movement to Socialism (MAS) party- a socialist party that, despite its name, has belonged to the opposition since Hugo Chavez arrived on the scene- also announced its separation from the MUD this morning, citing oppressive bureaucratic structures and a “minuscule cell of decision-makers.”