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Venezuela: prisoner of conscience speaks at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus

Statement of Carlos Eduardo Izcaray

April 22, 2004 - On March 1st, around 5 pm, I was arbitrarily detained by the Venezuelan National Guard while I observed the confrontations between them and protesting civilians near my residence in the Chacao District of Caracas. The manifestations taking place were a result of the opposition's discontent with the National Electoral Council's handlings of the signatures for a presidential referendum.

Though thoroughly opposed to violence, I was curiously driven to observe these confrontations, where some protesters turned violent and threw stones, bottles, and even firecrackers at the National Guard. The officials then retaliated by shooting their tear gas bombs towards the multitude, creating a commotion where every protester started to run away from the now moving law enforcement body. I did not run, assuming I was safe because I was not taking an active roll, physically or verbally, in the previously mentioned manifestations.

Still, I was forcefully detained by national guards, and even when I demanded an explanation for the brutal treatment I was receiving, all I got in return were further abuses. I was taken to a nearby area where military trucks were parked. Before I was forced to enter one of the vehicles they looked at my documents, took my money, and hit me very hard with their fists and law enforcement sticks. I received a very hard blow on my elbow that left my right hand partially numb up to this current moment. I then entered the truck, where I joined other detainees that were previously there. I was repeatedly hit in the head and neck areas by many of the National Guard members. They kicked us and used their fists, sticks, guns, and even traffic cones to hit us. Some went even further to rub the toxic powder substance that is found inside their tear gas bombs in my face and body, and my hair was purposely burned using this substance. I was insulted and humiliated. They called me names such as "daddy's little rich boy", "oligarch", "yuppy,', etc. One guard went as far as to introduce a nine millimeter gun in my mouth and made me repeat a phrase against my will.

I was taken to another closed truck were the systematic physical abuses continued. I was forced to breathe tear gas while the guards wore gas-masks. At several points they made us sing pro- government and pro-National Guard songs. This went into the night, and things got even more brutal when they exploded a tear gas bomb inside the closed truck. I feared for my life, not knowing what to do. My lungs burned and my vision was totally blurred by the gas, and if I or any of the detainees tried to get out of the truck the guards would wait outside laughing and waiting to hit us in the head to keep us inside the truck.

Later on I was taken to the 51st post, one of the national guard's main quarters that is located in El Paraiso, on the west side of the city. There, a superior officer interrogated us and asked us what each one of us was doing when detained. I told him my case but I he did not believe me or any of the other people's testimonies. I was later beaten repeatedly and received electric shocks, causing me second degree burns in my neck. I was also verbally abused throughout the night by the guards. Some went as far as to say that they wished the president would declare a state of emergency so that we would loose our constitutional freedoms, allowing them to execute us. Others said that we were not formally arrested but detained, so no one would find out if anything would happen to us, or there would be no one to blame. It is also important to mention that another group of detainees was added from another area of the city which included 3 underage minors.

I was kept along with the others inside a bus for the remainder of my detention. One guard secretly mentioned that he opposed tortures against detainees, and it was this guard who around 9am of the next morning allowed me to make a secret phone call from a public phone inside the military quarters. I called people who are close to me and it wasn't until then that my illegal detention was known to anyone in the outside.

The physical tortures did not stop, and in the morning several guard members tried to give me a political doctrine in favor of the current Venezuelan government. They justified their actions against me and the other detainees by saying that we were insulting them and that they were too tired and frustrated with their work, which led them to their rage against us. They told us that if we were more considerate we would not go to the manifestations, therefore avoiding treatments such as the ones we were receiving. As for my personal case, they kept referring to me as a member of the elitist rich class in Venezuela, even though I mentioned that I am neither rich, nor elitist. I am if anything a middle class member of society, I hold two jobs to keep myself afloat and have never been maintained by my family as they presumed. Every one of my three degrees has been achieved through scholarships through American and Venezuelan institutions. I was finally released at 2 pm on March the 2nd, around 21 hours after my detention. I was forced to sign a release document which I did not read thoroughly, and just before walking out they told me that if they saw me making any statements on the media about what occurred, I would be killed.

Following my detention I was hospitalized for 2 days in a private clinic, and was out of work for a month and a half. A few days after my release I started to take legal actions to achieve justice regarding my case, but so far things are going very slow.

I stand here before you, respectable congressmen and women, to let you know about my case and to speak on behalf of other citizens that suffered similar treatments in my country during these last weeks. These are clear signs of human rights violations, and I hope that you will consider this statement to draw your own conclusions about what is happening in Venezuela This violence has to stop!

I thank you very much for your attention.



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