Political Violence Returns to Venezuela

After a few weeks of calm, the political tension has grown and violence showed up again.

It seems like the long running conflict between Chavez and his detractors is turning into a battle to the end. Only to weeks after the finalization of the national strike that claimed for the resignation of the President, the opposition is trying to recover from its defeat and strike back.

According to the last reports from Caracas, the opposition threatened the Government with new mobilizations after a strike leader was arrested by the secret police facing charges of treason and violence instigation. Also, opposition politicians denounced the assassination of three dissident military officers and an opposition activist.

International human right groups took part on this case, as the bodies of the four were found in the suburbs of Caracas showing signs of torture: hands tied and faces wrapped with tape. Darwin Arguello, Angel Salas and Felix Pinto and opposition activist Zaida Peraza, 25, had multiple bullet wounds and showed signs of torture, Raul Yepez, deputy director of Venezuela's forensics police, said Wednesday.

Carlos Ortega, head of the Venezuelan Workers Confederation, said that the murders and arrests were "terrorist attacks" against country's opposition. On Thursday, the morning after the midnight arrest of Carlos Fernandez, president of Venezuela's largest business federation FEDECAMARAS, opposition leaders threatened to call a new strike in response.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, a witness saw the victims being forced into two vehicles by men wearing ski masks, not far from a plaza that has become the opposition's central rallying point. "The circumstances strongly suggest that these were political killings," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch to the foreign press in Caracas.

The vice president of the Fedecamaras business association, Albis Munoz, warned of another nationwide strike. She said Fernandez was seized without a court order and was being held at secret police headquarters. "Definitely there will be actions, and very strong actions," Munoz said, adding that Fernandez was "practically kidnapped."

OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria issued a statement urging Venezuela's judiciary to treat Fernandez's case in "strict compliance with the laws and rights guaranteed by the (Venezuelan) constitution." These actions come only days after a formal declaration signed by all parties compromising not to use violence for political reasons.

For the sake of good order, is important to remark that is difficult to check reports from Venezuela, as the local media is completely against the Government. For instance, TV chains did not presented advertising during the general strike, financing with their own money the 24 hours anti-Chavez transmissions.

President Chavez has not yet referred to these episodes; instead, the national Assembly has passed new legislation about "media social responsibility", which threats, according to the opposition, freedom of speech in the country.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

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