There are no Political Prisoners in Venezuela, says Public Ombudsperson to US Congressmen

During a visit to Washington DC, Public Ombudsperson, German Mundarain, met with U.S. Congressmen, to talk about the current situation of Human Rights in Venezuela.

Public Ombudsperson, German Mundarain (right), during a meeting with U.S. Congressmen Cass Ballenger and William Delahunt.

Washington DC, Mar 11 ( Venezuela’s Public Ombudsperson, German Mundarain, met yesterday with U.S. Congressmen Cass Ballenger and William Delahunt, to talk about the current situation of Human Rights in Venezuela.

Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accuse the government of “massive Human Rights violations”, due to the way authorities dealt with violent demonstrations between February 27 and March 2nd. On February 24, opposition leaders called people to take the streets and engage in “civil resistance” to protest a decision by electoral authorities with regard to a possible recall referendum against President Chavez.

Mundarain is currently in Washington DC to hold meetings with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other institutions.

During his meeting with Ballenger and Delahunt, Mundarain said that the Office of the Public Ombudsperson has met with all the detainees who have been charged with committing crimes during the protests in which nine people resulted dead. “Those who remain under custody have been charged with illegal possession of fire arms, and in some cases military-type weapons,” said Mundarain.

“It is very difficult to determine how many people are currently under custody, because some of them were released after just a few tours or days, while others remain awaiting trial,” said Mundarain, who estimated that about 55 people remain detained by the Judicial Branch.

Opponents of the government label those detainees as “political prisoners”.

Mundarain said he would keep the Congressmen informed on these cases.

The Public Ombudsperson said that his office requested information in order to carry out their own investigation on the deaths of nine people during the violent demonstrations, to determine what type of weapons and ammunition were used. “Up to now, it has been proven that those who died during the demonstrations were not killed by weapons used by the National Guard,” said Mundarain, adding that some National Guard officers made improper use of plastic bullets but not of fire arms. Some of those attacked with plastic bullets required medical attention at local hospitals.

Mundarain condemned the opposition coalition Coordinadora Democratica for their call to not recognize the authorities of the National Electoral Council, and their call for “civil resistance” at the start of the Presidential Summit of the Group of the 15 (G-15).

On February 27, opposition forces clashed with National Guard troops when they tried to break the security perimeter and march into the building where presidents and delegations from 19 countries were meeting at the start of the G-15 Summit.

The Public Ombudsperson said that according to the Vienna Convention and the Venezuelan Constitution, Venezuela is obligated to preserve the safety of foreign delegations visiting the country. He mentioned the incident in which former U.S. President Richard Nixon was shot at during an official visit to Venezuela due to the lack of enough security.

Mundarain criticized local police forces under control of mayors who oppose President Chavez, for their refusal to help preserve and restore order during the protests. The mayor of the municipality of Chacao in Caracas, was photographed leading protestors towards the security perimeter that protected the foreign delegations at the G-15 Summit.

The Office of the Public Ombudsperson introduced a lawsuit against those police forces for not doing their job.

Today during a local political TV program, the president of Venezuelan Federation of Human Rights, Ignacio Ramirez Romero, criticized the opposition for seeking to overthrow the democratically-elected president by creating a current of opinion outside the country “to create the impression that Venezuela is ruled by a tyrant”. Ramirez accused opposition coalition leader Enrique Mendoza of inciting a civil war by calling people to not recognize the legitimacy of electoral authorities and making calls to “take the streets”.