The Simonovis case exposes the cruelty behind “Chavismo”

By  Published 24th March 2014 

Simonovis has spent the last ten years in prison for unconfirmed crimes. For nine of those years he was kept in a 2m x 2m basement.

He has become the most emblematic Venezuelan prisoner in current political times and he has just finished writing his dramatic autobiography El prisionero rojo (The red prisoner) on paper napkins.

On March 4 this year, Ivan Simonovis, a former deputy head of the Venezuelan police force turned 54 years old, although the harsh treatment he has received in prison over the last 10 years has left him looking more like an 80-year-old man. He is expected to serve a 30-year sentence in prison. He has been doing time for crimes which according to him, his lawyers, the press, and diverse human rights organizations have yet to be proven against him. The reason they have not been proven is simply because he did not commit them.

His Via Crucis began in 2002; until then he had been one of the most reputable police deputies working for the Venezuelan Scientific Bureau of Penal and Crime Investigation. After 23 years of continuous service he was promoted to Secretary of Civil Security for the city of Caracas working under Major Alfredo Peña (back then a Chávez supporter, later becoming a political dissident and finally exiled for political reasons).

On April 11, 2002 the opposition held rallies in Caracas that were even larger than the ones we have seen in recent weeks against President Nicolás Maduro. That day protesters marched to the presidential palace to demand President Chávez’s resignation.

That massive protest took place in the midst of a national strike and resulted in the death of 19 protesters and a short-lived coup d’état that removed President Chávez from power for a total of 47 hours.

A court found Simonovis guilty of complicity in two of those deaths; even though his lawyers, including his own wife María del Pilar Pertiñez (Bony), presented evidence to the prosecution proving his non-involvement in the uprising against Hugo Chávez that day. He was subsequently sentenced to the maximum sentence under Venezuelan law: 30 years in prison for crimes against humanity.

Simonovis defence team has spent years battling a highly corrupt judicial system. In 2012 the former pro-Chávez magistrate Eladio Aponte denied former President Chávez’s insistence that in Venezuela there were no political prisoners. Aponte accused the Venezuelan government of political persecution against himself and ended up having to ask for political asylum in the US. He later confessed that Ivan Simonovis, his colleagues Henry Vivas, Lázaro Forero and eight other members of the police force also arrested at the time were convicted from a direct order by then president Hugo Chávez. Aponte admitted in a written confession that he was forced to draw up a verdict against Simonovis without even looking at his records and to ignore the annulment option submitted by Simonovis’s defence team because Chávez had said he wanted to have it all done and dusted as soon as possible. Henry Vivas and Lázaro Forero have both been diagnosed with cancer and have now been freed but in Simonovis’s case the Venezuelan judicial system continues to turn a blind eye.

Last December a small ray of hope shone on Simonovis’s case. The former vice-president to Chávez, José Vicente Rangel, petitioned for a reassessment of the court case. “Nicolás Maduro, successor to our commander (Chávez), does not lead a repressive regime. He has a profound sense of human empathy and for that reason he must pardon Simonovis. Very few people remain in prison for such a long time especially when they are in such poor health. What is preventing the current government from providing a measure of grace? I do not understand what is going on.” Rangel made these declarations after learning that Simonovis is now suffering from 19 different diseases. It is believed that at any moment Simonovis’sspinal cord could collapse due to its fragile state. Even though his health condition has been certified by a military medical board at the request of a judge, his appeal for early release on humanitarian grounds is still pending.

Iliana Ortega, the director of the NGO COFAVIC declared: “No person sentenced to prison for ideological or religious reasons should suffer such levels of cruelty.”

According to his wife Bony, in the last 10 years of incarceration her husband has only been allowed to step outside his cell into the sunshine a total of 13 times. The rest of the time he has been in solitary confinement in a 2m x 2m basement. A year ago he was transferred to Ramo Verde, a military prison outside of Caracas. His new cell is located near the opposition leader Leopoldo López’s cell, who himself has been in prison now for over a month. They are denied contact with each other, but Simonovis has written a letter in support of López’s cause stating: “López has understood the Venezuelan people’s discontent as being the result of food and basic health care shortages and the violent death of 25,000 people in 2013. The youth of our country take to the streets because they cannot see a future for themselves…”

Simonovis has found solace in his writing. In December 2013 he published his autobiography titled El prisionero rojo (The red prisoner). It has resulted in a 438-page book describing his experience, which was initially written on paper napkins and later transcribed by his wife, and a few other friends. Many say that the Simonovis case exposes the cruelty, abuse of power and the judicial system’s manipulative tactics, a legacy like no other of Chávez’s regime in Venezuela.

On February 2, journalist María Luisa Rivero wrote an article in the daily newspaper El Universal stating that few people in Venezuela have ever been given the maximum sentence, “unless the regime had been looking to find a scape goat to sacrifice for political reasons and to instigate terror in a population that refuses to bow to Cuba. We are facing an illegitimate and indifferent president, who allows the Supreme Court in Venezuela to implement the slow execution of Simonovis for a series of crimes that the prosecution has been unable to prove simply because Simonovis did not commit them.” She goes on to ask in the same article: “Do the people who have subjected Simonovis to such barbaric treatment really believe they will emerge unscathed from being judged for these crimes against humanity?”

Bony, his wife was 39 years old when her husband was convicted.

María del Pilar Simonovis (Bony)avoids holding false expectations about her husband returning home any time soon. “I do not want to suffer again and again” was her response when asked if she thought the father of her children would ever return home. “Ivan junior was 12 years old and Ivana was 7 when their father was imprisoned” said Bony with tear-filled eyes after confessing how many times she had already imagined the reception she would give her husband on his return home. Very often she had thought she would take him to see her mother Luise, but sadly she passed away in 2013 not having been able to realise her wish to see her son-in-law freed from prison. Even Pope Francis has interceded in Simonovis’s name but many fear that former President Chávez’s unpredictability is now compounded by apathy from incumbent President Maduro.

Ivana Simonovis’s cry for pity in the name of her father has moved thousands of people, but not Nicolás Maduro.

Ivan Simonovis’s daughter has sent several letters to the Venezuelan government. In her last letter she pleaded for her father’s freedom on account of his deteriorating health.

“My smile is no longer the one in my family’s photo albums, my smile often crumbles like a cracker, because that is what my father’s bones have become. His bones have become like fragile crackers due to confinement, lack of movement and light. Please, I beg you to give back some sunshine to my father. Give him back whatever is left of his life. He has more than paid for the debt you think he owes you.” In that moving letter Ivana describes her father’s severe degree of osteoporosis as follows “His spinal column is so fragile it could crumble at any moment. His bones as well as his soul and his family have now served double the sentence he was condemned to. Whether he was justly imprisoned or not I believe his plight has gone too far. Everything has become inhuman, cruel and excessive.”

Ivana Simonovis pleads to the Venezuelan government for the release of her father on humanitarian grounds as a noble gesture during these hard times. “I am exhausted from the hate shown on both sides of this struggle. I believe many of us think the same. Such a gesture will not make you seem weak, on the contrary you will show the world a more humanitarian side of yourselves. I want to be 15 years old again and feel my father’s hugs one more time.”

Thousands of people cried and showed their support for Ivana when the letter was published last year, but Maduro didn’t even flinch.

On December 31 last year, Maduro declared, “If you want to label Simonovis a political prisoner you must then declare which political party he belonged to at the time. Simonovis was always a policeman therefore he cannot be a political prisoner. Mr Simonovis is in the hands of the judicial system, he was convicted for crimes against humanity.” An implacable Maduro later said “President Chávez already pardoned those who deserved his mercy back in 2007.”

According to opposition leader Delcy Solorzano, the Chávez regime has left a legacy of 3,000 political prisoners over a period of 14 years from 1999 to 2013. She believes the current situation under Maduro is much worse.


Source: “El caso Simonovis desnuda la crueldad del chavismo”. 4 de Marzo 2014.

Photo courtesy of Noticiero Digital

Traducido por #infoVnzla







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