The wives of four Venezuelan political prisoners whose release was recently demanded by hunger strikers testified against judicial corruption in their country during a press conference last week at the National Press Club. The four women were in the U.S. to petition the Organization of American States to investigate human-rights abuses in Venezuela. Their husbands are four of 27 Venezuelans imprisoned for their political views.
"It’s hard to fight. We have nowhere to look," said Tahianny Pisani Romero, wife of Brigadier Army General Delfin Gomez Parra, who has been detained for five years without trial because the judge who was supposed to try him has been on leave for two years.
Parra was the head of a military unit overseeing construction of a sugar-processing plant in Barinas, the home state of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He was accused of corruption when funds went missing during the construction, but his wife says Parra was the one who uncovered the corruption and was punished for trying to expose it. The Venezuela Awareness Foundation says the accusation was full of irregularities.
"My 15-year-old has been five years without a father," said Pisani, adding that living far from the Caracas prison makes visits very difficult for the family.
Pisani was joined by three other wives of Venezuelan prisoners. Jackelin Sandoval, the wife of Rolando Guevara Perez, said the witness who testified that her husband had murdered a federal prosecutor was paid by the government and operated under false credentials, a claim substantiated by Venezuela's Globovision.
Yajaira Castro said only Chavez loyalists supported charges that her husband, Lazaro Forero, a police officer, fired on protestors during the April 11, 2002 uprising.
Indira Ramirez, the wife of Alejandro Pena Esclusa, an outspoken Chavez critic accused of terrorism, says the Venezuelan government "planted heavy weaponry in her daughter’s room in order to imprison her husband." Ramirez claims his July 12, 2010 arrest was based on ìtrumped-up charges intended to silence a man "who has opposed efforts by the Chavez regime to spread Marxist revolution in Venezuela and throughout the region," according to Accuracy in Media.
Ramirez says her husband will be tried in April, and hopes that international awareness of his case will put pressure on the judge to rule fairly. Attorney Jose Luis Tamayo, who accompanied the four women to aid them in their testimony, doubts that any Venezuelan judge is free to rule fairly. He cited the case of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, who was herself imprisoned in 2009 after granting bail to a banker Chavez wanted jailed.
"Her case is a paradigm for other judges in the country," said Tamayo. "No judge can be just with the example of Afiuni."