Venezuelan Court Grants Provisional Release to Radical Opposition Figure

On Wednesday Venezuela’s courts granted a provisional release to Alejandro Peña Esclusa, the radical opposition figure charged with hiding explosives in his home as part of plans to destabilize the country before last year’s parliamentary elections.

By Franklin Rosales - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Right-wing opposition spokesperson Alejandro Peña Esclusa on his release from prison 20 July 2011 (entornointeligente).
Right-wing opposition spokesperson Alejandro Peña Esclusa on his release from prison 20 July 2011 (entornointeligente).

Caracas, July 21st 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Wednesday Venezuela’s courts granted a provisional release to Alejandro Peña Esclusa, the radical opposition figure charged with hiding explosives in his home as part of plans to destabilize the country before last year’s parliamentary elections. His release comes less than a week after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez asked the courts to consider conditional releases for all prisoners suffering serious health problems. Esclusa, who is said to have prostate cancer, was arrested last year after Venezuelan authorities launched a series of raids based on information obtained from confessed Salvadorian terrorist Francisco Chavez Abarca.

According to YVKE Mundial, Caracas-based judge Dorothy Aviles released Esclusa on “humanitarian grounds” following recent discussions between the country’s Attorney General and the courts regarding the health conditions of certain prisoners. On Tuesday, Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz met with members of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to review the cases of 54 prisoners living with serious illnesses, including the opposition’s Esclusa.

Diaz’s meeting with the courts came after Venezuela’s Chavez “urged” the courts to consider probation for sick inmates. Chavez made the request on Saturday before traveling to Cuba for cancer treatment he began in June.

“I’m no a dictator who goes around giving orders to the other branches of government,” said Chavez before “urging” the courts to reflect on the fact that “any and all inmates should receive humanitarian medical treatment, whatever their illness might be.”

Chavez explained that Venezuelan Bishop Mario Moronta had asked him to help secure the release of “certain citizens that are currently in prison and who need (magnetic) resonance.” The President affirmed that while “some people refer to these prisoners as ‘political prisoners’ Venezuela in reality does not have political prisoners. What we have here are some politicians who are imprisoned, which is entirely different.”

Alejandro Peña Esclusa, leader of the opposition’s Fuerza Solidaria or Solidarity Force, was detained on 12 July 2010 after authorities found 900 grams of military-grade C4 explosives, 100 heat-activated and two electronically-activated detonators in his home.

Esclusa’s Fuerza Solidaria is a small political grouping that claims the Venezuelan President seeks to implement “Castro-Communism” in the country. To prevent Chavez from doing so, Esclusa’s organization has made repeated calls for “amplifying and organizing the resistance to the Cubanization of Venezuela.” 

The released Peña is also President of UnoAmerica, the right-wing Union of Democratic Organizations of the Americas, which called his detention last year “part of a Cuban operation that looks to link opposition leaders with violent acts.”

Esclusa caught national attention back in 2007 after he was filmed calling on members of the Venezuelan opposition to reject the results of a constitutional reform proposed by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). In the video, Esclusa explained that outright rejection of the results “is a more efficient mechanism that generates a political crisis and a crisis of instability that forces the regime to withdraw the reform." The reform was defeated electorally, and his plans never materialized.     

Speaking to reporters in 2009 about the military coup that overthrew democratically-elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, Esclusa told reporters that, “only a process similar to that of Honduras can rescue democracy and freedom in Venezuela.” Later that year, then Honduran dictator Roberto Micheletti presented Esclusa with the order “José Cecilio del Valle” at a ceremony in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

On his release from prison yesterday, Esclusa said he was “deeply grateful to the many people who helped secure” his release, including “high-ranking members of the Catholic church and Latin American members of parliament.” He also called on the Venezuelan government to release all “political prisoners” and said that he was “proud, at peace” with himself “for having spent a year in prison to demonstrate love of country.”

Pending his trial, Esclusa must present himself to the courts once every 30 days, is prohibited from speaking to the press about the case, and is barred from leaving the country.

Venezuela’s public prosecutors accuse Esclusa of involvement in a foiled plot to destabilize the country in the run-up to last September’s parliamentary elections. The plot, which was to be coordinated by confessed Salvadorian terrorist Francisco Chavez Abarca, was uncovered after Abarca was caught trying to enter Venezuela’s Maiquetia International Airport using false documents.

The Salvadorian terrorist later admitted that he landed in Venezuela with plans to assassinate the Venezuelan President and members of the Venezuelan opposition, thus provoking “street disturbances and attacks on one political party so that it blamed the other.”

Abarca was later extradited to Cuba where he was wanted on terrorism charges. Cuba’s Popular Supreme Tribunal sentenced him to 30 years in prison for “recruiting, training, organizing, and financing” a group of terrorists who implemented a bombing campaign against the Cuban tourist industry in the 1990’s. Fabio da Celmo, an Italian tourist, was killed during one of the bomb attacks.