A new smoke screen was thrown up this Saturday, November 4 by the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro. Even as it attempts, with the combined approvals of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) and its illegitimate Constituent National Assembly, to prosecute the Vice President of the National Assembly, Freddy Guevara, it also decided to free two political prisoners, Yon Goicoechea and Delson Guárate, both members of the political party known as Voluntad Popular (“Popular Will Party”).
The announcement was made by way of the Twitter account of Alfredo Romero, head of the Foro Penal Venezolano (FPV, “Venezuelan Penal Forum”), a non-governmental watchdog group.
— Alfredo Romero (@alfredoromero) November 4, 2017
The same organization also announced via Twitter that both members of the opposition were freed, although with certain conditions. Each is obliged to report regularly to authorities, and if they do not do so, they risk returning to prison.
The leader of Voluntad Popular, Yon Goicoechea, had been imprisoned for 14 months at the offices of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN). He was detained in August of 2016 after the mass protests known as the “Great March on Caracas.” He was accused of planning attacks against the Government of Venezuela. Even though the accusations were never substantiated, the regime accused him of supposedly possessing explosive devices with which he “intended” to mount a coup d’état.
For his part, Delson Guárate, mayor of the municipality of Mario Briceño Iragorry in the state of Aragua, and also a member of Voluntad Popular, was detained in September of 2016 for supposedly “financing terror,” contravening land management authorities, and unlawful disposal of dangerous solid waste materials.
— Foro Penal (@ForoPenal) November 4, 2017
— Foro Penal (@ForoPenal) November 4, 2017
The freeing of Guárate, as well as Goicoechea, who holds dual Spanish-Venezuelan citizenship, was celebrated yesterday by the ruling government of the Basque Country, an autonomous region of northern Spain. “We hope and wish that their freedom will be the first step of the long journey toward democracy that the Government of Maduro’s government must undertake,” stated the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) via Twitter.
— EAJ-PNV (@eajpnv) November 4, 2017
Both Goicoechea and Guárate have lost more than 20 kilograms during their time in jail, indicating that their health deteriorated over so many months of captivity.
Venezuela, todo pasa, todo se supera. Hoy con mi familia, mañana le hablo al país. Dios con nosotros. pic.twitter.com/JQJi5hA6gU
— Yon Goicoechea (@YonGoicoechea) November 4, 2017
The two leaders were among the 380 political prisoners held by the Venezuelan regime as recently as a 29 October report by the FPV watchdog group. They were freed only after formal accusations were made by family members in the state in which the dissidents were held.
A New Act of Repression against a Member of the Opposition
Other leaders of Voluntad Popular are also being targeted by the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro, and there continues to be talk that many more risk imprisonment.
Observers noted that the freeing of the two dissidents from Voluntad Popular is likely the regime’s way of distracting attention from new measures that they have taken against other opposition leaders, most recently moves against the Vice President of the National Assembly, Freddy Guevara. While Goicoechea and Guárate are free, the regime has begun seeking to have Guevara’s parliamentary immunity revoked in order to prosecute him, which would likely result in his arrest. All of this with the clear support of the TSJ and the Chavist-controlled Constituent National Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Voluntad Popular party, founded by Leopoldo López, who was imprisoned and is now under house arrest, has denounced “the continued persecution” of its organization. After what appears to be another attempt by the Venezuelan dictatorship to have the political opposition declared illegal, Voluntad Popular denounced that “yet again” the Maduro regime:
has reaffirmed that it is essentially a dictatorship and has redoubled its efforts to maintain its hegemony and control over the powers of the Venezuelan State by announcing the noxious decision of the TSJ to remove parliamentary immunity from our party’s national president and our first and current Vice President of the National Assembly, the legitimately elected deputy Freddy Guevara, for unsubstantiated crimes invented by the dictatorship.
In the official communication made by its Vice President, the party signaled that the TSJ’s decision is “a slap in the face of the popular will expressed by millions of Venezuelans in the elections of December of 2015.”
As hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have demonstrated, Voluntad Popular is not just a party, it has become a sense of struggle, hope, and liberty against a corrupt and criminal regime that violates human rights as well as those of our party leadership. They will not defeat the patriotic ideals of liberty.
Since 2010, parliamentary immunity has been denied to seven deputies, including Germán Ferrer, a deputy of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and one of the dictatorship’s own officials, who has distanced himself from the regime.