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Behind the Scenes of Mayor Antonio Ledezma's Arrest in Venezuela

Categories: Venezuela, Breaking News, Citizen Media, Human Rights, Politics

Video capture of Antonio Ledezma's arrest from The Pin.

Political clashes in parts of Venezuela escalated this weekend with the arrest of the mayor of Caracas [2], Antonio Ledezma [3]. Ledezma is accused of being part of a foreign plot to force the current administration from power. The arrest and the authorities’ allegations have provoked a lively debate online, where Internet users have traded words of support and outrage. 

Supporters of Nicolás Maduro [4]‘s Chavista government pointed to the history of alliances and criminal accusations in Ledezma's political career, saying his arrest is justified for reasons beyond the current charges. Many celebrate the arrest of such a visible political figure seen publicly as an symbol of the corruption of political parties [5].

According to JM Álvarez [6]:

El presidente llama al pueblo a resistir, anuncia que no va a renunciar y captura a este criminal en un gesto muy bien acogido por todos los chavistas pero también por los opositores moderados que no quieren una guerra civil ni que este “monstruo” (como le llama el pueblo) sea su jefe político y por la gran mayoría del pueblo. Tiene toda razón Maduro en expresar su desconfianza con respecto hacia este político profesional, jefe administrativo y policíaco de un régimen podrido y agente del imperialismo [estadounidense] que resume en su persona toda la inmundicia de una camarilla de traidores sin moral alguna que se enriquecieron en un país petrolero mientras el 80 % del pueblo era relegado entre pobreza y miseria.

The President calls on people to resist and announces he's not going to resign. He will also capture this criminal in a gesture well received by Chávez supporters and for moderate opposers who don't want a civil war, who don't want to see this “monster” (as the people call him) become their political chief. Maduro has good reason to express his distrust with respect to this professional politician—this administrative police chief from a rotten regime and an agent of [American] imperialism, who embodies all the filth of an immoral traitor group living off a petroleum-rich country, while 80 percent of the people are stuck between poverty and misery. 

Internet opponents demand the mayor's release through various online campaigns such as #LiberanALedezma [7]. They accuse the governor of circumventing the law (not for the first time) and creating more political prisoners [8] in the country. The mayor's capture reminds many of the list of people who have been and continue to be held in prison without clear legal proceedings [9]. One of the opposing figures on the list is Leopoldo López, who has been in prison for a year [10] for “intellectually participating” in the violent riots of the 2014 protests [11]

Even so, the mayor's arrest begs questions about the government's lawfulness and the radicalization of the law against the opposition. Many online are concerned about the reluctance of police groups to end their competition because of legal and constitutional demands. 

Hugo Pérez Hernáis from Venezuela Conspiracy Theories [12] reflects on Maduro's political motives and their possible meaning—among them, a creating a diversion from the country's economic hardship. It highlights how government spokespeople have drawn up a plan [13] already set in place with convincing evidence of their supported decisions, but the evidence will be presented later:

El gobierno no parece muy apurado por mostrar la evidencia de sus argumentos de conspiración y así convencer a la oposición y a los votantes indecisos de la existencia real de la planificación de un golpe de Estado. En lugar de esto, al gobierno le preocupa más bien establecer una retórica de “ellos o nosotros” al apuntar a una lucha contra un enemigo ampliamente definido, que incluye el Imperio [estadounidense], la oposición local, los exilados en Miami, Bogotá y Madrid; y básicamente cualquiera que no jure lealtad a la revolución [bolivariana] [14].

The government does not seem to be in any rush to show the evidence of its conspiracy claims and thus convince the opposition and the undecided voters of the existence of an actual and real coup d’état plot. Instead, the government is concerned with clearly establishing an “either-us-or-them” rhetoric by pointing to a struggle against a broadly defined enemy that includes the [American] Empire, the local opposition, exiles in Miami, Bogota, and Madrid, and basically anyone who does not pledge loyalty to the [Bolivarian] revolution.

On the Prodavinci website, various opinion writers proposed analyzing the issues that are sometimes left out of discussions. José Ignacio Hernández [15] presents arguments that question if Ledezma's arrest would be considered constitutional and advises “the case should be assessed in a wider context with international standards of the protection of human rights,” a point that should worry Chavistas and oppositionists alike:

[Los] hechos noticiosos [16] comentados permiten concluir en el carácter arbitrario [17] de la detención, al no haberse mostrado esa supuesta orden al momento de su detención, al no existir información sobre aspectos tales como el sitio de reclusión y los motivos de la detención, y por el uso desproporcionado de la fuerza [18] y por el carácter político con el cual se ha asociado esta detención.

The newsworthy events [19] allow us to establish the arbitrary nature of the arrest: the failure to show the alleged warrant at the moment of his arrest, the absence of details like the confinement site, and political motives for the arrest, as well as the disproportionate use of force by police. 

Francisco Toro from Caracas Chronicles [20] argues that this series of events shows how Nicolás Maduro's government isn't falling, but is actually growing stronger:

Cómo puede leerse el arresto del Alcalde Mayor de Caracas Antonio Ledezma? Es una muestra de un gobierno desesperado en sus últimos bastiones? O es una muestra de fuerza, un despliegue de su habilidad para hacer lo que quiere sin temer consecuencias?

Ninguna de las dos. El régimen no se está derrumbando, pero es débil. Ya no puede mandar sobre una mayoría electoral, y se adapta entonces a esta nueva y radical realidad.

How to read yesterday’s arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma? Is it a sign of a government that’s desperate? On its last legs? Or is it a show of strength—a display of its ability to do what it wants without fear of the consequences?

It’s neither. The regime isn’t crumbling, but it is weak. It can no longer command an electoral majority. And it’s adapting to that radically new reality.