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How a dictatorship uses political prisoners to stay in power

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Quem são os presos políticos na Venezuela e como a ditadura os usa para manter-se no poder

Photo courtesy of the press this Thursday by the Penitentiary Forum at which Lt. Col. Ruperto Sanchez (right) hugs his daughter in Caracas, Venezuela today.| Photo: Criminal Disclosure Court / EFE Agency

Former Venezuelan Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Ruperto Sanchez, considered a political prisoner by several human rights organizations, was finally released on Thursday (17) after spending seven years in prison on charges of military mutiny. The release was announced by Foro Penal, a Venezuelan non-governmental organization that has been helping people arbitrarily detained by the Chávez dictatorship for nearly 20 years.

The release of a soldier who also holds Spanish citizenship must: according to the organization, which happened in July last year, but only materialized after pressure and accusations. When he was released, he was finally able to hug his wife and daughter.

Stories like that of Sanchez have sadly become commonplace in Venezuela by Nicolas Maduro. According to the NGO Foro Penal, there are currently 301 political prisoners in the country. However, since 2014, the dictatorship has arbitrarily detained 15,743 people for political reasons. Alfredo Romero, director of the NGO, explained People’s Bulletin that these arrests need to be constantly monitored and updated due to the revolving door effect of political prisons in the country.

let one go, hold the other

“The number of political prisoners in a week may be the same as a week earlier, but other people are arrested and released,” Romero said. These comings and goings are intended to intimidate the population and also allow the regime to always use political prisoners as a bargaining chip for negotiating with the opposition and international actors.

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“Arrests always happen, almost weekly, to keep this intimidation flowing smoothly. But as some are released, others are arrested. For example, last week was released Carlos Roja, who was in prison for almost four years, but other people were arrested for various reasons, ”he said.

According to Romero, part of the opposition is also using the position of political prisoners to gain an advantage in the same game as Nicolas Maduro. For example, last year his opponent, Enrique Capriles, announced the release of more than 100 political prisoners, whom Romero said were actually 50, after negotiations with the dictator ahead of the parliamentary elections.

“Specific moments are used to show that they release political prisoners and thus receive certain political benefits – either from the government or from the opposition. The government is arresting people to use them later as a bargaining chip to ease international pressure that would be in place today, or to ease national pressure. And on the side of the opposition, they sit down to negotiate [com o regime] and they include political prisoners who do not know and even make mistakes in the lists, just to gain political gain and to be able to participate in negotiations or dialogues with the government. ”

Who are political prisoners in Venezuela

According to Romero, two opposition political leaders are currently being detained: journalist Roland Carreño, associated with the Voluntad Popular party, and Gilberto Sojo, also the leader of the party. The overwhelming majority of political prisoners in Venezuela are citizens who do not belong to any party, but who at some point criticized the Venezuelan dictatorship: indigenous people are in prisons, unions in the oil industry and education, soldiers accused of the uprising, residents who participated in protests against the regime. The goal of the Chávez government in arresting these people, who are mostly not affiliated with opposition political parties, is to intimidate the population in order to avoid protests, reducing the chances of opposition backlash.

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There are also people who are being arrested so you can find the information you need or force people to surrender. “There is a case of a woman named Maria Auxiliadora Delgado Taboski, who is the sister of Osman Delgado Taboski, who is wanted on charges of participating in the assassination attempt on President Nicolas Maduro. They detained her and her husband, they have been in prison for almost three years, without trial, without trial, ”Romero said.

Precarious conditions and the right to protection

He also said that of the more than 15,000 people arbitrarily arrested in Venezuela over the past seven years, less than 1% have never been convicted. Many of them have been imprisoned for lengthy terms, up to seven years, without trial, and when they are released, no procedures take place in the same way, because their release is nothing more than a political decision.

“There is, for example, the case of Antonio Garbi, who was detained in 2014 for participating in a protest rally and accused of murder, which allegedly took place during the protest rallies. He did not commit murders, he has been in prison for seven years, and the trial has not even begun, ”the director of the criminal court said, adding that when the courts do not initiate a case, political prisoners have no right to defense. …

“A little more than 10% of the current 301 political prisoners have been convicted. All the rest were not convicted, and the overwhelming majority did not even go to court, ”he said.

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The situation got worse during the pandemic as the health crisis was used as an excuse to deny lawyers access to prisoners. Reception of lawyers and family members in detention centers was closed, which delayed the possibility of granting the right to defense.

Prison conditions are also a major concern of human rights organizations. According to Romero, they do not correspond to the basic conditions of keeping people in seclusion. “Many are sick, in serious condition without medical assistance.”

IN Interview with Spanish newspaper ABCCurling Rodriguez, wife of Ruperto Sánchez, a soldier released this week, said her husband was sent to a “punishment cell” at the Ramo Verde Correctional Facility with 20 other inmates, where they spent 17 days in appalling conditions.

“It was inhuman. There was a restroom for everyone. The feces are full. They had to wash in this cell, and I think they even had to eat there (…) Currently, in Ramo Verde, inmates sleep on the floor, and sanitary conditions have deteriorated in recent years, ”said the wife in early June. …

Finally, Romero warned that arrests were ongoing and that international pressure was important to free political prisoners, as was the case with Sanchez’s release.

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Is the device being revived?

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Is the device being revived?

The absolute majority dreamed of by António Costa and (I suspect) Marcelo Rebelo de Souza sold as an achievable dream does not exist and never has. The contraption, as a formula of power, has never ceased to be the most viable solution for António Costa. Well, the country could wake up next week with the feeling that nothing has changed, even if the winner of the election changes. The political crisis resulting from the collapse of the budget, the fate of which can be traced from the moment when the President of the Republic decided that it is necessary to “reset” political chess, will not add stability to the Parliament. Judging by all the polls, in none of the possible scenarios will the situation be better than it was, and this is only the first of Marcelo’s problems.

With the majority remaining on the left and António Costa’s demonization of the PSD, in an attempt to win the center and a useful vote from the left, the PS abandoned the demand for an absolute majority and fierce criticism. PKP and Blok. Katarina Martins has already begun drawing red lines for future revisions of the budget and government program. PCP is still wasting a few bullets to cancel a useful vote, but she will eventually choose rapprochement. With the victory of the socialists, Costa already realized that there was no other way. The eco-geingonça, a kind of reworked dream, for the majority, formed with PAN and Livre, also seems more impossible, and a reign like Guterres lasts a year.

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If the victory eventually goes to the side of the SDP, but the majority remains on the side of the left, this will mean a departure from António Costa and a more than predictable internal victory for Pedro Nuno Santos, the only socialist able to use the potential of the left parliamentary majority. He will have to make the SDP government viable, approve the budgets for 2022 and 2023, and demand new elections next year. It makes sense that in a scenario that repeats 2015, the socialists with new leadership and the majority left want to govern, but it would be political suicide if the new leader did not submit to the vote of the Portuguese. Pedro Nuno Santos has already made it clear that this is exactly what he will do.

This is also a bad scenario for the President of the Republic, even though the SDP’s victory is held hostage by the right-wing majority and Ventura’s party acts as a third force. If Chega is the main party, the instability will be even greater, Rio cannot agree and is forced to wait for the moment when the president can call elections again. That is why it is important that Rui Rio make it clear without hesitation that he will not accept conversations with Chega, only in this way will it be possible to win a victory that can grow in the next elections.

A useful vote is not just played out left and right, the political field of each of the parties capable of leading a government project is growing towards the center in order to prevent the radicalization of the alternative. The only thing that seems to have killed this campaign is the Central Bloc, stability must be achieved with PS rule on the left or PSD rule on the right.

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Even betting on Pivetta’s return to the political scene, Geller says he doesn’t discuss future opponents.

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Even betting on Pivetta's return to the political scene, Geller says he doesn't discuss future opponents.

(Photo: Playback/Internet)

Although Deputy Governor Otaviano Pivetta (no party) has repeatedly stated that he will not run in this year’s elections and under any electoral scenarios, as he returned to do double duty with Governor Mauro Mendez (DEM) as his deputy or even in speculation about a possible dispute for the Senate of the Republic, some preliminary candidates still include him in this political environment.

As did federal deputy Neri Geller (PP), who commented last Wednesday (19) in an interview with Rádio CBN Cuiabá about this possibility, perhaps pointing to a political turn or, who knows, to a personal request from the governor, Pivetta’s longtime friend. Thus, placing him as a possible opponent in a dispute in the Senate. Theoretically, this could create an “obstacle” to his provisional candidacy as Geller seeks a seat in the upper house of Congress.

Neri, who has already secured MDB’s support in the Senate race, is now looking to merge his name with the Mendez group. According to the progressive federal deputy, opponents or future compositions are not chosen in pre-election disputes, but work is only on fixing the name itself.

“I don’t discuss the possibility of opponents or squad. Today I have good relations with three parties: mine, the PP, as well as the SDP and the MBR. It is clear that Pivetta can reverse his decision not to participate in the elections and run for office in advance. But this does not affect how I act, work – respectfully, even with my opponents. However, it won’t affect me in any way. I am calm and very well positioned from an electoral point of view and, mainly, from the point of view of the support base that I am creating,” the deputy said.

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Neri also claimed that his candidacy was launched in an arc of alliances supported by former governor and former agriculture minister Blairo Maggi (PP), federal deputy Carlos Bezerra (MDB) and senator Carlos Favaro (PSD).

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LGBT phobia in politics may increase in 2022 – DW – 01/23/2022

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LGBT phobia in politics may increase in 2022 - DW - 01/23/2022

An atmosphere of hostility, attacks and threats against openly gay or LGBTQI+ politicians has been evident in several recent episodes within Brazilian political institutions, although for the average voter, a candidate’s sexual preference or gender identity has less and less influence on voting at the ballot box. – at least if we consider the major urban centers of the country.

LGBTQI+ politicians are preferred targets for the far right, and due to the polarized climate of this year’s Brazilian presidential election, many of them already fear that the agenda of customs and gender ideology will be a topic raised in the National Congress by allies of Jair Bolsonaro. , which would serve as a weapon against the centre-left and pollute the pre-election debate.

The biggest rejection of Bolsonaro, according to a Datafolha Institute survey last December, concerns homosexuals and bisexuals: 83% would not vote for the incumbent under any circumstances.

Due to the critical economic situation in the country, Bolsonaro has given way among low-income evangelical voters to former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and must use this conservative debate to try to contain them.

“Bolsonaro is trying to scare this evangelical public with strange things, like saying that “your child can become a woman at the age of 7.” Today there is much more respect for the LGBTQ cause among non-ideological evangelicals, but it is clear that they are resisting this topic,” explains Renato Dorgan, specialist in political-electoral marketing, qualitative and quantitative research and co-owner of the Instituto Travessia-Estratégia e Marketing.

Dorgan believes that homosexuality in politics has gradually ceased to be a big taboo, especially after 2015, 2016, which he observes in a qualitative study he conducts with Brazilian voters. According to recent polls, more than half of the population approves of same-sex unions.

“So much so that now Eduardo Leite (governor of Rio Grande do Sul) has declared himself a homosexual, although he is a preliminary presidential candidate,” the specialist noted. Leyte lost the PSDB primary to Sao Paulo Gov. Joao Doria, but did not hesitate to use the sexual option in mid-2021 when he sought accreditation as a candidate for President of the Republic.

Shortly after the announcement of the governor of Rio Grande do Sul, a poll conducted by the Instituto Paraná Pesquisas in July 2021 showed that 75.9% of Brazilians would not change their vote if the presidential candidate was gay: 13.7% admitted, that willing to vote for a candidate decreases, while up to 5.8% increases. The survey was conducted in the municipalities of 27 subjects of the Federation with an error of 2 percentage points. The poll showed that the greatest resistance to a homosexual candidate comes from men over 60 living in the south of the country.

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Far-right uses homophobia as voting strategy, says Gene Willis

“The current government was elected because of homophobia,” former federal MP Jean Willis, who recently joined PT, told DW Brasil. Gay, Willis had direct clashes with Bolsonaro while both were MPs and came to spit in the face of the incumbent when he praised tormentor Brillante Ustra by voting to impeach Dilma Rousseff in 2016. The journalist and writer gave him a mandate for being subjected to death threats and numerous attacks. Willis advocates that “a section of the far right should use homophobia to advance elections,” a topic he has covered in recent books and articles.

He explains that he relinquished his mandate because he was and remains the target of death threats, including from members of his family, in addition to a “heavy and well-funded campaign of slander and assassination” of his reputation through “dirty lies”.

“It was obvious to me that after the cowardly and cruel murder of Mariel Franco, the threats would not be limited to threats. It was just as clear to me – but not to the left in general, and even more so to my old party, unfortunately, despite the consistent denunciations that I made, that this attack was not only on the person or on the person of Jean Willis. It was a brutal attack on everything I represented and represent,” he says.

The fact that he is an openly gay politician and activist, Willis adds, has made him “an easy catalyst for hatred and resentment in a historically homophobic and racist society” along the same lines as trying to destroy Lula’s image.

“Homophobic hostility was more pronounced on the part of heterosexual parliamentarians, especially neo-Pentecostal evangelicals and/or those associated with the security forces. This does not mean that there were no homophobic sentiments on the part of some left-wing parliamentarians and on the part of women on the right,” he said.

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Despite pre-election marketing polls, Willis insists that Brazilians will not elect a gay president today and that those in power now want to prevent this from happening in the future.

“The current government was elected because of homophobia,” says former federal MP Gene Willis.Photo: DW/C. Neher

For a gay senator, “this confrontation takes guts.”

Some scenes were notable: in the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the Pandemic (CPI da Covid), in the Senate, in which capixaba senator Fabiano Contarato, at the time associated with the Network, spoke about his sexual choices and his family. Married, he and his partner have adopted two children.

“Brazil must begin to reverse centuries of structural politics based on sexism, racism and LGBT phobia. I came into politics believing that it takes courage to stand up to this.”

Contarato, now associated with PT and a possible candidate for the Espirito Santo government acronym, emphasizes that all of the country’s recent gains by the LGBTQIA+ community have been the result of judicial decisions, not political ones.

“The right to adopt is without a doubt one of the most important. It guarantees the basic right of homoaffective families and allows them to form on an equal footing with others. However, the fact that this is not yet a registered right in Brazilian law creates uncertainty about a possible annulment.”

Congress, according to the senator, ignores the debate about the protection and rights of LGBTQI +. “I am the first openly gay senator and I hope to have opened the doors to others in the near future. I humbly hope that our mandate will serve as an inspiration to other gays, lesbians, transgenders and transvestites. …everyone, even if we have to fight a lot harder to get there.”

He cites the adoption of stiffer sentences for those who commit crimes motivated by discrimination or prejudice based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation as successful benchmarks. “The House also passed Bill 2353/2021 of my own authorship, which prohibits discrimination against blood donors based on sexual orientation.”

Brazil |  Senate investigation into the pandemic
“I am the first openly gay senator and I hope to open the doors to others in the near future,” Contarato says.Photo: Leopoldo Silva/Agência Senado

The resistance is higher in the chamber

Already in the House, says Federal MP David Miranda (Psol-RJ), the deputy who accepted the mandate for Wyllys’ vacancy, LGBTQI+ programs are making little headway, especially due to resistance from the evangelical, armed and conservative wing of agribusiness. . According to him, there are about 40 projects in the Chamber that are of interest to this population, 50% with a more progressive approach and 50% with a biased and derogatory look.

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“This agenda is not moving, and if it is brought to plenary session, it will paralyze Congress. Both progressive and conservative MPs are trying to use these agendas to advance themselves. It will definitely happen this year.” Miranda predicts there will be a big debate around a project defining that public toilets are for men and women, thus avoiding embarrassment for Miranda’s transgender people.

The MP is married to journalist Glenn Greenwald, who posted on The Intercept Brasil website messages from former judge Sergio Moro with prosecutors involved in Operation Lava-Jato. The Jato Vase, as the case became known in Brazil, led to the demoralization of Lava-Jato and culminated in the decision of the Federal Supreme Court on Moro’s suspicion of trying Lulu.

Vase Jato, according to the deputy, has made him a specific target for the extreme right. “We received death threats, me, my husband, my children, my mother. We were attacked at all levels. They made fake news with our names, our lives. a welcoming field with great support,” he said.

David Miranda walks daily accompanied by bodyguards. He says he has not received permission from the President of the Chamber, commanded by Bolsonaro MP Artur Lira (PP-AL), to rely on the security of the Legislative Police. “The Chamber stopped giving me security, although I have a positive opinion from the parliamentary commission in Geneva. I pay with my money, I don’t complain. protection in the state of Rio.

DW Brasil asked the President of the Chamber for information on the number of parliamentarians under the protection of the Legislative Police, as they are threatened, and questioned the Miranda case. “For security reasons, information about the escort of parliamentarians is confidential,” the press service of the chamber said by e-mail.

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