Caracas, January 21, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has rejected allegations by Lilian Tintori that she was strip searched during a visit to her husband, jailed right-wing politician Leopoldo López at Ramo Verde prison.
Tintori took to Twitter on Tuesday claiming that in the course of entering the detention facility together with Lopez’s mother, Antonieta Mendoza, she was stripped “completely naked” by guards who requested that she “open [her] legs various times” and “even inspected [her] sanitary pads”.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, for her part, has denied the claims, calling Tintori a “professional liar” intent on “discrediting Venezuela and its institutions”.
The foreign minister cited as evidence a leaked audio recording reportedly attributed to Lopez and Tintori in which the two can be heard planning a smear campaign against the commanding officer at the facility, Col. Viloria Sosa, after the latter revoked some of the jailed politician’s privileges, including his ipod, cooking space, and his television.
In the alleged recording, Lopez instructs his wife to prepare a “communicational strategy”, accusing Sosa of “violating human rights and so on” and leaking the story to the right-wing newspapers El Nacional y La Patilla as well as Amnesty International and the OAS.
“If he [Sosa] doesn’t return us this [cooking] space, we’re going after him with everything,” Tintori purportedly stated.
“Demand the normal, as you were before, you were alright, you had your music, your ipod, we cooked together, we were watching television,” she added.
Tintori’s allegations sparked a slew of condemnations against the Bolivarian government by Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro as well as the governments of Costa Rica and Paraguay.
Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday, rejecting the declaration by the Paraguayan foreign minister, who called the incident a “violation of human rights”.
“It is an aggression to suggest that the Venezuelan authorities would consent to any denigrating act against women or violation of human rights without even confirming the existence or lack thereof of a [legal] denunciation before the appropriate institutions, much less the results of the related investigation,” the statement read.
Last September, Leopoldo López was convicted and sentenced to thirteen years in prison for his role in leading 2014’s violent opposition street mobilizations, known as “the exit”, which sought the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro and cost the lives of 43 people, most of whom were passerby, government supporters, and security personnel.
Tintori and others on the far-right of the Venezuelan opposition have been vocal in demanding that the new opposition-controlled National Assembly pass an amnesty law freeing López and others they deem political prisoners.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has, nonetheless, announced his attention to veto any such law which he has denounced as contrary to the constitution’s guarantee against impunity.
A “Commonplace” Practice
While it remains impossible to confirm or deny the allegations made by Tintori, it is well known that strip searches are routine procedure in Venezuela’s carceral facilities, rendering the opposition leader’s alleged treatment anything but exceptional.
“Unfortunately, strip searches are commonplace when visiting a loved one who is incarcerated in Venezuela,” says Cory Fischer-Hoffman, a University of Albany doctoral candidate writing her dissertation on Venezuelan prisons.
“For women, this process often involves entering a small room with a handful of other female visitors, removing all clothing and squatting in front of female prison staff,” she added.
Despite protests from prisoners and their families, Venezuelan prison authorities have, however, defended the practice as a necessary precaution in the fight against drug-trafficking.