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Venezuela: Retired General, Whistleblower Defies Arrest

By: María Gabriela Díaz - Feb 23, 2014, 8:17 pm

Yesterday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro ordered the arrest of retired military General Ángel Vivas, for allegedly masterminding the murder of Edwin Duran de las Rosas (29). Last Friday, while riding his motorcycle from work, Duran was killed by a steel wire. Tied to both sides of the road, it made him fall, hit his head to the pavement, and killed him — presumably as part of a barricade to deter armed-motorcyclist groups.

After the recent violent attacks that Venezuelans have witnessed, people have resorted to building barricades to block streets and impede the entry of military tanks, as well as Chavista armed groups. For example, on Wednesday night, amid all the chaos from the protests and military repression, armed motorcyclists violently entered a residential building to vandalize and steal. Days later, Duran died from a steel wire tied up on the same avenue.

Through a radio and television transmission, the president immediately blamed Vivas for ordering the crime.

“I have ordered the arrest of the retired general who ordered the placement of that wire. Search and bring me Ángel Vivas,” Maduro said during a political rally called “Women for Peace” last Saturday.

The evidence against Vivas was that he had previously tweeted defense techniques against Chavista militias that normally attack on their motorcycles.

Rebellious General Attacks Back over Cuban Presence in Military

Vivas, however, claims that the government is framing him for a different reason. Previously, he released a video in which he denounced the interference of Cuban officials in Venezuela’s military force and called on Venezuelan military officials to rise up against Maduro’s government.

In addition, Vivas exposed the presence of Colombian agents in a social club in San Cristobal, Táchira — one exclusively for Venezuelan military, as exists in each state of the country. Táchira is where the student uprising started, and it has become a riot zone.

In 2007, after 30 years of service, Vivas (now 58) resigned and denounced the military for committing severe violations of the national constitution. Vivas had become well known for his rejection of Chávez’s military slogan: “Fatherland, Socialism or Death, we shall prevail.” He requested that the Supreme Court of Justice eliminate the slogan, but his petition was denied. Immediately, the military detained him and accused him of insubordination and disobedience.

After his resignation, he became a hardline opponent of the regime, and he has been very active via social media. On Sunday afternoon, for example, General Vivas denounced that technicians from CANTV — state owned cable and telephone company — were outside his residence “making some repairs” (pictured below). Soon after, he tweeted through his cell phone that he was left with no internet or landline telephone.

Then, just minutes later, officials of the Intelligence Service and the National Guard arrived to arrest him, accompanied by three military tanks.

General Vivas climbed onto the roof, and with a machine gun threatened anyone who dared to enter his private property. Vivas refused to surrender to the authorities, and claimed the arrest warrant was illegal, since it wasn’t signed by a judge.

From his residence he claimed, “if God gives me health and life, I promise I’ll dedicate the rest of my life to make all those who have betrayed this country pay for the final consequences… They have given this land to its worst enemy, Fidel Castro’s narco-terrorist state … And now they are here, alongside this genocidal state, spilling the blood of our students, our children.”

Hundreds of neighbors and people who heard of Vivas’s confrontation through social networks arrived at his home to give him support and impede any arrest. Hours later, national guards had to leave without Vivas. However, intelligence agents remained outside his home.

The Witch Hunt Begins

Since the start of the latest round of protests, President Maduro has ordered the arrest of several prominent political leaders in an attempt to stop the demonstrations. Even though the most widely known case has been Leopoldo López, Maduro has recruited law enforcement to go after other members of the Popular Will Party. Coordinator Carlos Vecchio and General Antonio Rivero, both members, also face arrest warrants, and the two remain in hiding.

General Vivas is the fourth government opponent facing arrest for allegedly being behind one of the murders in this recent turmoil. Opposition Representative Maria Corina Machado may be the next, as she is also under close government watch. Chavista members in the National Assembly have asked to debate next Tuesday a motion to remove Machado’s parliamentary immunity and prosecute her for the violent attacks that have taken place since February 12.

María Gabriela Díaz María Gabriela Díaz

María Gabriela Díaz reported from Caracas, Venezuela, and led the PanAm Post internship program. She has a Bachelor of Arts in political science with a focus in international affairs.