After spending two years in the Helicoide prison, Venezuelan opposition deputy Juan Requesens, 31, returns home. Political negotiations resulted in the granting of a house arrest for the politician of the Primero Justicia party, who was taken from his home after Nicolás Maduro pointed out on television that he was involved in a failed attack with drones loaded with explosives during a military act of the August 4, 2018 in Caracas in which they would try to assassinate him.
“It’s a first step, Juan,” Henrique Capriles Radonski tells him in a video posted on his Instagram during his reception at his home where he was present. In the images, Requesens is shown smiling, receiving hugs with masks from his parents, family, friends and lawyers. “They let me go,” and he corrects: “Well, I’m at home,” the politician is heard saying.
The case of Requesens has been one of the most emblematic among the more than 300 political prisoners that the Venezuelan Government maintains. Juan Requesens, one of the most energetic deputies, forged in the ranks of the student movement, was imprisoned despite his parliamentary immunity. Intelligence agents forcibly took him from his home on the night of August 7, 2018 and judicially, after dozens of deferred hearings, his case was in limbo without sentence or evidence.
The police procedure was described as arbitrary in the report published by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Human Rights Council in November 2019. The international community and the High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, fought hard for his freedom without achieving it. With the arrival of the pandemic, humanitarian measures had been requested for him and other inmates.
The president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, reacted with distrust to the measure, demanding full freedom for the deputy to whom he sent a hug. “A house arrest is far from freedom, but there will be justice,” he wrote on his social networks. In a statement from the interim government, he added: “We warn the international community of a common practice of the dictatorship: the” revolving door “through which they release a number of hostages to later capture other political leaders.” In the text, it indicates that they continue to advocate for the release of the 386 political prisoners and that the end of the suffering of these Maduro prisoners passes through “the exit from the dictatorship and the holding of free, fair and verifiable presidential and parliamentary elections.” For her part, Michelle Bachelet described the granting of house arrest for Requesens as a very positive gesture. “After more than two years in detention at the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Services, this decision is a very positive gesture,” he said in an official statement. “I encourage the authorities to continue taking similar measures that contribute to improving the human rights situation in the country and that allow progress in the political dialogue,” he added.
Spain has been one of the first countries to react to the measure. “Spain congratulates itself on the release of Juan Requesens and continues to advocate for a negotiated political solution through the holding of elections. This exit must include the full release of all political prisoners and respect for the human rights of Venezuelans, “the Foreign Ministry reported on its Twitter account.
The release finally occurs in the midst of negotiations for the parliamentary elections with which the Maduro government plans to regain control of the National Assembly lost five years ago. For the opposition, participation in this process with everything against it, in which the government has changed the rules in its favor, has become a new dilemma. Those who gather around the figure of Juan Guaidó, as head of Parliament and interim president recognized by more than 50 countries, announced their abstention and called for a unitary pact around a route to face what they predict as a fraud.
One sector, the one represented by Capriles Radonski, advocated negotiating conditions with the Government and participating in the elections, adding to the appeal made by the Catholic Church through the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela. The freedom of Requesens would then be a consequence of those agreements, in which Capriles and the deputy Stalin González had actively participated, and unofficially it has been indicated that more releases could take place. The Maduro government has at other times used political prisoners as bargaining chips when it is politically cornered, especially by international pressure. Opposition leaders have reacted to the news by demanding full freedom. “Today my heart is full of joy because my brother Juan Requesens is finally going to be able to sleep at home. House for jail is not freedom, without a doubt their conditions improve notably. We will continue to fight for their full freedom and that of all political prisoners. I refuse to give up, “Deputy Delsa Solórzano tweeted.