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A Mass for Venezuela’s Political Prisoners

Yesterday El Nuevo Herald published an article about an evening mass held in Key Biscayne, Florida by the Venezuelan expatriate to draw attention to the plight of political prisoners in the country.  Below is a flyer from the event followed by our own exclusive translation.  Today Robert Amsterdam’s Washington Post article comparing Russia and Venezuela was published in Spanish in the leading Caracas daily, El Nacional.

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Today Venezuelans Celebrate “Mass for Freedom”

By Casto Ocando, El Nuevo Herald

23 de enero 2009

Dozens of relatives of political prisoners in Venezuela and exileswho reside in the United States congregated today in Key Biscayne tocelebrate a “Mass for Freedom,” to commemorate the 51 years since theend of the dictatorship of the general Marcos Pérez Jiménez and callattention to the growing persecution against the opponents of PresidentHugo Chávez.

“It is a way of shining a light on the persecution that exists inVenezuela for the mere fact of opposing oneself to the government,”said Juan Fernández, a former oil board executive who left the countryin 2004 after receiving threats, and who now resides in Miami sincelast year.

Among those present was Alberto Díaz, father of the young man RaúlDíaz, who has been imprisoned since 2003 in the headquarters of thepolitical police, DISIP, in Caracas.

According to Díaz, the case against his son “has been a vulgar show from the beginning.”

During a visit to the Nuevo Herald yesterday, Díaz recounted thatafter 38 hearings, the prosecutors were unable to demonstrate hisguilt. The case now finds itself in “judicial limbo,” explains Díaz.

Another case is that of the retired colonel Gustavo Díaz, who haslived in Alabama since 2004 after his car was blown to pieces inCaracas and he started receiving threats against himself and his family.

Díaz was among the military officers who opposed the use of militaryforce against civilians during the events of April 2001 [Clarification:I believe the reporter means 2002. -trans.] which culminated with thetemporary unseating of Chávez from power, and showed his dissidencepublicly during the military uprisings in the Plaza Altamira in 2003.”I am one of the persecuted by Chávez,” Díaz said.

Another of the cases is that of businessman Eligio Cedeño, who inFebruary will have spent two years in prison and whose case wasrecently suspended for lack of evidence.
The case of Cedeño has been subjected to a long series of delayingmeasures on behalf of the prosecutor’s office, with the goal ofillegally keeping him in prison, denounced his wife, Eliana Quero.

The trial of Cedeño was suspended on the same day it was supposed toconclude, because of a measure exercised by the Supreme JusticeTribunal. At the same time, the prosecutors solicited a new extensionto present arguments in the case, “as though two years of trial weren’tenough,” said Quero.

“It is shameless and outrageous to see the way that they violate thelaw,” said 21-year-old Nimar Cedeño, daughter of the business.

The Venezuela government “uses the justice system to persecute andimpose fear upon the opposition,” said Gonzalo Himiob, lawyer of theorganizations VIVE and Foro Penal Venezolano, who represents politicalprisoners and has documented political persecution in the country.

Himiob said that there are tens of thousands of cases of Venezuelans who have been victims of political persecution.

Fernández said that various relatives of those imprisoned forpolitical reasons in Venezuela will present symbolic offerings, andthat there will be representatives of political exiles in the UnitedStates from the oil and military sectors, in addition to Cuban groupssuch as Las Damas de Blanco, and the Cuban intellectual Carlos AlbertoMontaner.

The mass will be held at 7:00 P.M. in the Catholic church of St.Agnes, of Key Biscayne, and will be held by the Venezuelan priestIsrael Mago.