In the early hours of March 21, agents of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service of Venezuela (SEBIN), controlled by Cuban “advisers”, arrested at their home in Caracas lawyer Roberto Marrero, chief of staff of the constitutional president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó. Sergio Vergara, a legislator of the banned National Assembly and head of the bench of the Voluntad Popular Party, was arrested simultaneously nearby.
It didn’t take long for President Guaidó to denounce in social media the kidnapping of his trusted collaborator:
“They kidnapped @ROBERTOMARRERO, the head of my office, and he reported emphatically that they planted two rifles and a grenade in his home. He said so to legislator @SergioVergaraG, his neighbor. The procedure started at 2 am, and his whereabouts are unknown. We demand he is released immediately, “wrote Guaidó.
The member countries of the Lima Group quickly reacted by “vigorously rejecting and condemning the illegal detention of Mr. Roberto Marrero and the unacceptable forced entrance on the residence of Legislator Sergio Vergara,” and demanding that the regime “grant Mr. Marrero immediate release, and full respect to the parliamentary immunity of Mr. Sergio Vergara “.’
The same group of countries, during a meeting in which Guaidó participated last February in Colombia signed a statement by which, adhering to the comfortable and outdated Estrada doctrine of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, theye proclaimed that the “transition to democracy” in Venezuela “must be carried on peacefully by the Venezuelans themselves”.
This Friday, in an article published by the newspaper El Nuevo Herald of Miami under the title “Maduro has to leave,” the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, described the action of the criminal group sponsored by Cuba in Venezuela as an “atrocious violation of the rule of law “, and” the most recent example of Maduro’s brutality and despotism “.
“We will not tolerate Marrero’s imprisonment or intimidation to the legitimate government of Venezuela. And those responsible for this act will be considered responsible. Maduro must free Marrero now,” Pence wrote.
Vergara and Marrero had accompanied Guaidó on his return to Caracas on March 4th after a tour of Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador. Supported by more than 50 democratic governments and protected to some extent by US warnings to the Maduro regime about the possible consequences of touching Guaidó, the legitimate president returned through the country’s main international airport without being disturbed.
However, neither Vergara nor Marrero, or the rest of the Guaidó team, have being extended such protections so far.
In 2002, based on an article of the Cuban Constitution that allowed citizens to propose referendums on legal matters as long as they were supported by a minimum of 10,000 signatures, Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá personally presented to the National Assembly of Cuba 11,020 signatures of fellow citizens, all backed by their Identity Card numbers, in support of the Varela Project’s call for a referendum.
The plan sought to submit to the popular will the restoration of basic freedoms, free elections and an amnesty for political prisoners in Cuba. Payá’s initiative earned him the European Parliament’s 2002 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience. The unexpected award gave Payá such a media and public opinion resonance that in December 2002 the government of Fidel Castro allowed him to visit the headquarters of the European Parliament in Strasbourg to receive the prize, make a most applauded acceptance speech and return to Cuba without being disturbed.
Just three months later, in March 2003, as part of a repressive wave known as the Cuban Black Spring, Castro ordered the incarceration of 75 dissidents, of whom at least 25 were Varela Project activists who had helped gather more than 11,000 signatures throughout the island. Giving a sample of his tenacity, Payá managed to present in 2004 14,000 additional signatures, but there`s no doubt that the imprisonment of his main collaborators dealt a heavy blow to the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement.
For the pro-democracy activists who have suffered on the island for decades the repression and harassment methods by Cuba’s G-2, it is very clear that Havana has exported to Venezuela these repressive and undermining techniques, which are applied today against the Venezuelan opposition.
To carry out the titanic task that lies before them, in the face of a brutal regime puppeteered from Havana, President Guaidó and his collaborators will need more than energetic condemnations, redundant denunciations or cheerleading from the sidelines.