Philadelphia, December 18, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced Saturday his office is opening an investigation into a Lima-based NGO accused of attempting to transport Venezuelan children to Peru without proper authorization.
Known as the Venezuelan Union in Peru Organization, the NGO had planned to bring up to 130 children to Lima aboard a charter flight Friday reportedly with the aim of reuniting them with their Venezuelan parents currently residing in the Andean nation.
The campaign was widely publicized in Peruvian and international media under the name “A light of hope” and had the support of Peruvian TV personality Andres Hurtado, who urged the public to fund the initiative by way of direct donations and contributions via GoFundMe.
According to local press reports, the organization planned to eventually relocate nearly 400 Venezuelan children under the age of 18 to Peru and provide them with education, healthcare, among other services. The funders of the campaign, including the reportedly US$70,000 charter flight with Colombian airline Avior, have not been made public.
However, Venezuela’s attorney general has reported that the NGO is not registered in Venezuela and that a number of the parental consent forms were “fraudulent”.
“Yesterday we were informed of a previously unheard of action – without precedent in our republican history –of an undocumented alleged NGO chartering a flight to Peru with 120 children onboard with false powers and travel permits,” he stated via Twitter.
1) El día de ayer fuimos informados de la inédita acción: sin precedentes en nuestra historia republicana; de fletar con destino a Perú y a través de una presunta e indocumentada Ong: un vuelo charter a bordo de 120 niños con poderes y permisos de viaje fraudulentos #DDHH
— Tarek William Saab (@TarekWiliamSaab) December 16, 2017
Saab said that at least a dozen of the travel permits and parental authorization documents were falsified, raising concerns about possible child trafficking.
The suspicions moved Venezuelan authorities to order the cancellation of the flight until further investigations could be carried out. Saab said that all children had been returned to their Venezuelan family members as of Friday evening.
The Venezuelan Union in Peru Organization is headed by fugitive Venezuelan opposition politician Oscar Perez Torres, alias “Motor Head”, a former Miranda state lawmaker for the Alianza Bravo Pueblo party. Torres fled to Peru in 2009 after he was indicted on charges of incitement and criminal association for his role in leading violent protests against the Organic Education Law in Caracas that same year.
According to the organization’s official Facebook page, the NGO has the mission of providing “comprehensive support to Venezuelan citizens displaced to Peru as a result of the grave humanitarian crisis Venezuela is experiencing.”
On Saturday, Perez denounced the arrest of his wife Marta Molina and his daughter Georgina Perez as well as two volunteers from the organization at Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport.
“Following orders via Whatsapp, prosecutors charge my wife, daughter, and two volunteers from the NGO with crimes of human trafficking, criminal association, and false use of documents. Lies and malice can’t reach that level,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
Nonetheless, as of Sunday, Perez revealed that all four had been provisionally released.
Hurtado, who was in Venezuela to film the event, was also briefly detained Friday before returning to Peru the following day.
Perez has received support from a number of prominent Venezuelan opposition figures, including hard-right Vente Venezuela party leader Maria Corina Machado.
“Cuban communism pure and simple. Children made hostages of tyranny. They have no limits. They aren’t going to turn over power; we must wrench it from them,” she said in a Tweet.
Comunismo cubano puro y duro. Niños hechos rehenes de la tiranía.
No tienen límite. No van a entregar el poder; hay que arrancárselo. https://t.co/CVktkO0OKO
— María Corina Machado (@MariaCorinaYA) December 16, 2017
Machado leads the radical right-wing of Venezuela’s opposition, which has vocally opposed participating in elections as well as dialogue with the government and has called for ousting President Nicolas Maduro by force.
The “Light of Hope” campaign has been compared by some Venezuelan media outlets to the US Central Intelligence Agency’s infamous “Operation Peter Pan”, which saw Washington partner with Catholic Church authorities to airlift 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors to Miami in the early 1960s.
The operation was launched on the basis of false rumors that the Castro government was planning to take middle class Cuban children from their families in order to indoctrinate them and is widely considered part of the US’ destabilization campaign against Havana.
For his part, Saab warned that the cause of children’s rights should not be manipulated as part of a television spectacle.
“The defense and protection of the human rights of children and adolescents in the world should never be done on the basis of transnational media and television coverage where they are presented as hunting trophies or worse, as subjects of a farcical circus,” he tweeted.
Vargas state’s superior prosecutor has been dispatched to investigate the case, alongside the 5th child protection attorney and the 1st auxiliary prosecutor for common crimes.