Venezuela mayor arrested and charged in coup plot
By Rachel Boothroyd, venezuelanalysis, Commentary by Les Blough, Axis of Logic
Monday, Feb 23, 2015
Following Antonio Ledezma's arrest the corporate media took over and controlled the story for millions of readers and TV news viewers around the world, portraying him as an gentle "59 year old mayor." Ledezma was named "the vampire" and "student killer" by the Venezuelan working class for a number of reasons that are detailed in the article below. In contrast with the selected image-control photos by the corporate media, of a calm, victimized, bespectacled gentleman, he is known by Venezuelans for his public face filled with hate and rage, screaming on private television here with fists in the air.
The New York Times report led their article on Ledezma's arrest 4 days ago with a photo of a handful of protestors screaming with fists in the air. They gave President Maduro's words on the arrest a couple of misleading fragments. But they went on to quote opposition figures 11 times. They repeated a quote by the US State Department twice, defending Washington against the Venezuelan government's charge that the US gave material support and advised yet another violent coup in Venezuela:
“These latest accusations, like all the previous such accusations, are baseless ... The United States is not promoting unrest in Venezuela, nor are we attempting to undermine Venezuela’s economy or its government. Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent.” The NYT article is laced with anti-Maduro editorializing based on unnamed "witnesses" and repeats the blatant lie that President Maduro has "approval ratings in the low 20 percent." Among the quotes from the opposition, they depicted Ledezma as "working calmly in his office when a dozen armed officials burst in, fired into the air and dragged the mayor away to the intelligence agency’s headquarters," quoting his lawyer, “He’s content, in a happy state of mind and not scared of anything.” Again, this description of the arrest is based on nameless "witnesses". Based on videos taken of the arrest, there is no indication or evidence that weapons were fired and videos show that rather than being "dragged" from his office, Ledezma willingly surrendered and walked out without resistance. Moreover, one can understand the state's show of overwhelming strength during the arrest when considering the February 12 plan to bomb Caracas and assassinate President Maduro, in addition to the violence perpetrated by the opposition in the past year.
Others of NYT's selected, prejudicial quotes included, “This government has lost all perspective ... This isn’t democracy. We’re suffering a dictatorship,” and “We’ve all been kidnapped. I don’t know if this is a dictatorship, communism or what. But it’s not a democracy,” and “The government is showing force and generating fear,” ending their rant with a quote by David Smolansky, Mayor of Hatillo, a wealthy municipality and hotbed of opposition violence: “All us Venezuelans that express views differing from those of Nicolás Maduro have our days numbered. The question is when the guillotine falls.”
We can expect more of this from the corporate media as more opposition members involved in the February 11-12 coup plot will be jailed after sufficient evidence has been presented to the state prosecutor and they are given due process in criminal court.
Finally, we want to clarify one statement in the article below regarding Julio Borges: "Unlike, Ledezma, Borges cannot be prosecuted as National Assembly legislators are protected by political immunity." If the National Assembly votes to strip Borges of his parliamentary immunity (I expect they will), he too can be prosecuted for his involvement in the attempted coup.
- Les Blough, Editor
Axis of Logic
Venezuelan Opposition Mayor Arrested In Blue Coup Plot
Venezuelan opposition Mayor and longtime rightwing politician, Antonio Ledezma, has been arrested by the country’s intelligence services, SEBIN, for his alleged role in plotting to stage a coup against the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro.
The planned coup was uncovered last week by security forces, just hours before several US backed Air Force officials had planned to partake in a bombing spree of strategic targets in the capital. They had hoped this would lead to the assassination of the country’s president and bring about regime change in the South American country.
“Antonio Ledezma who, today, by order of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, was captured and is going to be prosecuted by the Venezuelan justice system, to make him answer to all of the crimes committed against the peace and security of the country and the Constitution… We’ve had enough of conspiracies, we want to work in peace!” announced Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, amidst a chorus of cheers from onlookers.
Last week, Ledezma, who is current Mayor of the Metropolitan Capital District of Caracas, signed a statement calling for a “National Transition Agreement” alongside opposition politicians, Maria Corina Machado and currently detained leader of the Popular Will party, Leopoldo Lopez.
The document calls on Venezuelans to unite behind a plan to remove elected President Nicolas Maduro and sets out an action programme for the would be provisional government. This includes facilitating the return of “exiled” Venezuelans, prosecuting current members of government and reaching out to international financial lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund.
Circulated on February 11th, the statement was disclosed just a day before the attempted coup was set to unfold and was reportedly the signal to set the plan in motion.
“It has no base in any juridic text, it is a putschist act of conspiracy that is unfortunately to the liking of thousands of opposition militants who have been indoctrinated to attack democracy,” Constitutional Lawyer, Jesus Silva, told Venezuelanalysis.
Ledezma’s detention comes in the wake of several other arrests, including those of a number of airforce officials implicated in the plan.
According to revelations made by the President of the National Assembly, Diosadado Cabello, on Wednesday night, Ledezma has since been named by one of the arrested officials under questioning.
The confession links Ledezma to a plan to “eliminate” opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez last year in order to create “chaos” and destabilise the government. Fellow opposition politician and National Assembly legislator, Julio Borges, is also implicated in the assassination plan, which forced an intervention by the government in early 2014. At the time, Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, stated that the government had acted to protect her husband’s safety.
Unlike, Ledezma, Borges cannot be prosecuted as National Assembly legislators are protected by political immunity.
The “Blue” Coup
Although details surrounding Ledezma’s exact role in the recently discovered “Blue” coup plot are still unclear, it appears that the opposition politician is implicated beyond his call for a transitional government.
Following the announcement of the coup plot last Thursday, the Maduro administration suggested that further arrests were to be made once there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the political ringleaders of the plan.
“In these intelligence investigations, we have discovered a codified message, in another language, by an important leader of a party. On translating it, we found that it gave the details, the elements of the coup. We are about to capture the person who brought the script that they were going to read, the script they were going to read out was already written, and circulated by a person who I will name at the correct moment”, said Maduro, referencing a preplanned statement which was to be read out to the public following the aerial bombardment, announcing a “rebellion” of the armed forces against the government.
Arrest and possible prosecution
Although international press has widely reported that the Mayor was manhandled when SEBIN officers entered his office, a video of the detention has emerged appearing to show a reticent but unharmed Ledezma being escorted from his office by several armed guards. Photos published of glass on the floor in Ledezma’s office by news agency, Ultimas Noticias, appear to show that SEBIN forcibly entered the building.
He has since been transferred to the SEBIN’s head office in Plaza Venezuela, Caracas, where a few hundred of his supporters gathered outside in protest in the early evening. They were joined by former presidential candidate and current Governor of Miranda State, Henrique Capriles Radonski. Streets were clear by around 10pm.
It is expected that the opposition politician will now await a hearing before a judge to decide whether there is sufficient evident to proceed with the case against him.
“Ledezma is Mayor and for that reason he does not bear the Constitutional right to impunity as legislators, governors and the heads of national public powers do. Legally speaking, he should be presented before a judge, along with a public prosecutor and his defence lawyer within the next 48 hours,” Silva informed us.
It is not the first time that Ledezma has been implicated in a plan to violently overthrow the government. In 2002, he participated in an attempted coup which saw socialist president of the time, Hugo Chavez, ousted for a period of 47 hours. Last year, he was also named several times as a “principal ally” by currently detained terror plotter, Lorent Saleh. Saleh was one of the main underground activists fuelling the armed barricades known as guarimbas which last year claimed the lives of at least 43 Venezuelans. He had planned to go on a killing spree with the help of Colombian paramilitaries but was arrested before the plan could take place.
Popularly known as “the vampire”, Ledezma began his political career in 1973 as a member of the “Democratic Action” Party. In 1989, he infamously became Governor of the Federal District of Caracas, when he oversaw one of the most violent periods in the history of the Caracas Metropolitan Police.
The police body, which was since disbanded in 2010 due to its human rights violations, regularly opened fire on unarmed student protests, systematically repressed street vendors, pensioners and the unemployed, as well as regularly disappeared political activists.
During this period he also oversaw the “Caracazo,” when up to 3000 people were killed and disappeared by security forces in the wake of violent protests against a government imposed austerity programme.
This particular period of Ledezma’s career earnt him the reputation of “student killer” amongst working class Venezuelans. He is founder and current leader of the rightwing party known as the “Brave People’s Alliance”.
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