Last year’s opposition protests have never been considered by the Venezuelan government as what they really were: opposition protests. Instead the government has consistently explained them as part of a broad conspiracy. Student protestors have been portrayed in the official media as mercenaries, paramilitaries, or thugs paid through the United States embassy.
Violent protests were never understood by the government as protests that had turned violent because of frustration or as a response to repressive overreaction by the police and army. Instead Venezuelans were told through public media that the violence had been carefully planned from abroad by conspirators based in Bogotá, Miami, and Madrid who had sent mercenaries to “burn the streets.”
Because protests were not really protests but part of a conspiracy, conspirators had to be found and arrested. Those who had leading roles in the guarimbas (barricades), especially coordinating the logistics of the two months long protests, had to be the links between the student on the streets and the conspirators abroad.
Rodolfo González was an active supporter of the guarimbas. His house was raided on March 26, 2014 by the intelligence police SEBIN and he was arrested. On March 29 president Maduro on national television identified him as “El Aviador” and claimed that he was the mastermind of a foreign backed plot to overthrow his government through violent protests.
On May 2, the then minister of interior Rodríguez Torres announced that an analysis of the Aviador’s computer had revealed unspecified links with Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma (recently arrested on conspiracy charges.) That supposed evidence never made it to court. Indeed no evidence of any kind was ever produced during the whole year González was in custody. It was later revealed, by the president of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello, that González had been arrested following a tip of a patriota cooperante, an anonymous government informant.
The lack of evidence did not stop public attorney Katherine Harrington form accusing, in July 2014, González of “conspiracy, public instigation, and association to commit crime.” Harrington is the same public attorney that accused mayor Ledezma of conspiracy and is one of the seven Venezuelan government officials recently sanctioned by the United State government.
The ordeal the Gonzalez family was forced to endure during the last year was recounted by Rodolfo’s daughter, Venezuelan academic Lissette González in her blog.
Last Friday, March 13, Lissette González herself confirmed the rumors that her father had taken his own life inside the SEBIN cell during the night. Rodolfo González, and other students also held since the protests, had been told the day before that they were to be moved from the SEBIN facilities in El Helicoide, to the notoriously dangerous Yare prison.
However, on Friday afternoon, the minister of interior González Marinez, declared that there had never been any plans to move Rodolfo González form his SEBIN cell.
But Rodolfo González told his family that he had been told he would be moved to Yare prison. The students in SEBIN told their families that they were told they would be moved to Yare. Some reports claim that prisons minister Iris Valera herself told the prisoners they would be moved to Yare. If what the Interior Minister says is true, then these prisoners were subject to a very serious form of psychological pressure.
When conspiracy theories become the official discourse of a government, they have serious political consequences. They are not just an innocent interpretation of reality among others: when used by authorities they turn political adversaries into enemies. Critics and protesters cease to be disgruntled citizens with legitimate (or not) grievances against the authorities and become part of grand conspiracies plot. They are no longer part of the national community, but lackeys of foreign powers and are therefore to be treated as traitors. They are dehumanized and ridiculed by public media. They cease to have human rights because they have become the embodiment of the absolute other and of absolute evil. The can be charged without any evidence, and worse…