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jueves, marzo 03, 2005

More on Ortega arrest

In addition to carrying a falsified ID, Ortega had changed his appearance (hair, mustache, etc.) and may have had cosmetic surgery. When captured, he was gambling in a bingo hall (which is similar to a casino in the U.S.) and was just about to win a round. Under his assumed name of Manuel Mendoza, he was a regular at the hall, showing up three times a week and betting 1 to 2 million bolivares each time (US$500 to $1000), always in cash.

The CTV convoked an emergency meeting of its Executive Committee to offer their unanimous support to Ortega. At the same time, they denied any knowledge of his return to Venezuela, saying they lost contact with him last year and had assumed him to be in Aruba or in the U.S. The CTV claims his arrest is an act of political persecution, are calling on the government to guarantee his safety and his rights, and have demanded to be allowed to interview him.

Chavistas, on the other hand, applauded his capture, gathering and shouting slogans in front of police headquarters. They say that he must assume responsibility for his actions in 2002 and 2003 and for the damage the petroleum stoppage caused to the nation. Nicolás Maduro, president of the National Assembly, echoed the sentiment that Ortega must face judgment in court for his actions. An acquaintance of mine offered the phrase “El que no la debe, no la teme” – essentially saying that if he were innocent, he wouldn't have fled the country and gone into hiding.

According to AP, Costa Rica revoked Ortega’s asylum after “he reportedly said he would return to Venezuela to work clandestinely to oust Chavez.” He has been wanted in Venezuela since Feb. 9, 2003, for civil rebellion, conspiracy, incitement, devastation, and treason. The last of these carries a 30-year prison sentence, the most severe punishment permitted under Venezuelan law (according to an acquaintance). Venezuela’s Vice-President Luis Tascon today claimed that sectors of the opposition were involved in Ortega’s capture, saying that he was exposed by one of his own companions.

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