EspañolThere were multiple panels during the fourth annual forum organized by the International Freedom Foundation (FIL) and Peru’s Citel Institute, on March 26 and 27 in Lima, Peru, but a common denominator stood out: the ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
Peruvian Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, sitting president of FIL, gave the opening keynote speech at the University of Lima, drawing world leaders and academics alike.
Saying that “freedom in Venezuela is under fierce attack” and “the situation there couldn’t be more dire,” Vargas Llosa claimed that for Venezuela’s president, “Nicolás Maduro, the only crime committed by the political prisoners is to love freedom.” He explained that the Venezuelan government “carries out Stalinist legal persecution against anyone who expresses opposition.”
The Nobel Laureate also expressed his indignation about the lack of solidarity shown by other governments — especially Latin-American ones — with the Venezuelan people’s “heroic” confrontation with a dictatorship.
“How is it acceptable that nations born out of democracy and constitutionality refuse to condemn the Venezuelan government?” he asked. Nevertheless, Vargas Llosa struck a hopeful note in conclusion, arguing that “Venezuela will soon become again the free country it once was.”
In another panel, Colombia’s former Security Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez and former President Andrés Pastrana took the opportunity to weigh in on the Venezuelan situation. Pastrana denounced the strong presence of drug cartels within Venezuela and told of his recent visit to the country:
Mario Vargas Llosa: “Venezuela will soon become again the free country it once was.”
“When we visited Venezuela, I stopped at a line outside a supermarket to talk with some children no older than eight. They told me they were sad because their parents had been there since 6 a.m. to to buy some food, and they still hadn’t found any chicken.”
Andres Pastrana recuerda q gob Maduro reconoce tener presos políticos pero Gob Santos apoya respaldo de Unasur a Madu pic.twitter.com/rl6Ilk0axz
— Marta Lucía Ramírez (@mluciaramirez) March 26, 2015
“Andrés Pastrana: the Maduro administration admits keeping political prisoners but Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos supports the UNASUR resolution backing Maduro.”
The former Colombian president argued that that democracy no longer exists in Venezuela, and freedom of speech and respect for human rights are similarly absent, wishing he were in office so he “could do something about it.”
Pastrana mentioned the icy relations between United States and Venezuela, but insisted that the sanctions ordered by US President Barack Obama do not affect the Venezuelan people, but are instead directed at violators of human rights, allegedly corrupt officials who “launder money through the US financial system.”
Freedom for Political Prisoners
Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma, wife of the mayor of Caracas who was violently detained by Venezuelan police in February, was one of the most compelling speakers during the first panel, titled “Venezuela and Freedom.”
In tears, she thanked Vargas Llosa for supporting Venezuela’s struggle for freedom from the beginning. The Peruvian writer had noted that she was sat in exactly the same seat as her husband had last year.
“Venezuela doesn’t need any more pats on the back, but rather a commitment to support its present and future”
Capriles de Ledezma said she was sure that, along with opposition leader Leopoldo López‘s wife, Lilian Tintori, they’re on the right side of history. She called on leaders from other countries to show their solidarity with her country’s democracy.
“Venezuela doesn’t need any more pats on the back, but rather a commitment to support its present and future,” she said.
Tintori, who has been fighting for the release of her husband for over a year, was similarly optimistic that “freedom will come very soon to all families that today are sad, outraged, whose relatives are in jail, tortured, threatened, dead, or exiled.”
Tintori recounted Venezuela’s recent history and economic woes, claiming that the country’s shortages are now reaching a tipping point. “Not only there is a lack of toilet paper or shampoo, but also of medicine and milk, while inflation keeps rising and the country is nearing a humanitarian crisis.”
As well as their visit to Peru, Tintori and Capriles de Ledezma spoke in Brazil and Buenos Aires, strengthening a growing coalition of politicians and activists who refuse to stay silent about the dire situation of human rights in Venezuela. These courageous women continue to represent those who cannot speak out — those who have been threatened, persecuted, detained, or even murdered by Venezuela’s repressive government.
Translated by Daniel Duarte. Edited by Laurie Blair.