CARACAS – Members of the Venezuelan opposition denounced Saturday the attempt to “criminalize social protest,” while rejecting the announcement by the Attorney General’s Office that it will put on trial all who “for whatever purpose march” to supposedly “destabilize the government.”
Attorney General Luisa Ortega said Friday that some people are “looking for any reason to march … to create chaos,” and that “such conduct corresponds perfectly to the crime of civil rebellion,” for which local law establishes penalties of 12 to 24 years in jail.
Ortega made the statement in referring to the “violent incidents that occurred in the opposition march last weekend to protest the Organic Education Law,” as expressed in a communique from the AG office released Friday.
The secretary general of the traditional social democratic party Democratic Action (AD), Henry Ramos, on Saturday described as “abominable” and “strange” the position of Venezuela’s attorney general.
For Ramos, Ortega’s manner is part of a “synchronized reaction by the government and representatives of the armed forces and the AG office” towards the supposed growing popular discontent.
In the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, “they’re scared, worried, because most people are peacefully exercising their constitutional right to protest without previous examinations or conditions,” the social democratic leader said.
“We want to tell the attorney general to get the photocopier ready to send us all to jail, because now every time we go to take part in a demonstration, all the political leaders and representatives of civil society are going to apply for permission so that you’ll have to have a mass trial.”
At the same time, the general coordinator of the Justice First party (PJ-liberal), Julio Borges, scorned Attorney General Ortega for “considering” it a crime that Venezuelans demonstrate “peacefully” as, he said, they do “every day, for many reasons, against the inefficient institutions of the government.”
In Borges’ opinion, “the attorney general definitely wants to become an instrument of repression and darkness for Venezuelans who within the framework of the Constitution protest and will continue protesting as often as we consider it necessary to defend our rights.”
The leader said that “the only rebellion in which the opposition is actively participating is in the rebellion of the majority, of the masses, who day by day are growing and whom sooner or later this government and the institutions that support it will have to respect and listen to.”
Eleven workers from the Caracas municipal government, in the hands of the opposition, have been in jail since last Wednesday, when they were arrested by police for demonstrating together with 200 other people against a new Special Law that takes away executive powers from that city hall.
Those municipal government workers, led by mayor and opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, are accused by the AG office of “obstructing public throroughfares,” among other crimes.
At the same time, Caracas prefect and opposition leader Richard Blanco was arrested this week and accused by the AG office of “instigating to commit crime and injuring” a police officer during the opposition march against the new Education Law, held last Saturday in Caracas.