On April 2002, after the coup [that ousted Hugo Chavez for a few hours], a fifteen-year-old Alfredo Chirinos left a note attached to his home refrigerator. He wrote to his mother that he was going to look for Chávez.
18 years later, he is in detention in a dungeon of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (Dgcim) in Boleíta (Caracas), along with his partner and colleague Aryenis Torrealba.
During those almost two decades, many things happened, especially militancy and life, but none ever pointed to the unfortunate possibility of being publicly singled out as traitors to the homeland, collaborators with the CIA and responsible for very serious events within the country’s main company, the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
Their sisters claim they are innocent. And not only them, but also an immense network of unions, grassroots movements, workers, friends, militants of the left, Venezuelans and foreigners.
The accusations are categorical: criminal association, corruption and breach of confidentiality disclosing strategic information.
The accusations of treason against the fatherland and high-level collaboration with the United States that were exhibited at the beginning of the process, do not appear in their file at this time, so it is presumed that they were part of a plan of media lynching and character assassination.
82 days passed after their arrest until they were able to appoint a private lawyer, and 115 days passed until the defense had a copy of their file. However, the prosecution’s evidence that supports the accusation is lacking in the file, allegedly because in the courts there is no photocopier.
The worst of calvaries
[Their sisters] Iracara Chirinos and Jhensy Torrealba have sustained a tireless crusade, since last February 28 when their relatives were summoned to a meeting at their jobs with officials from the Loss Prevention and Control Management (PCP-PDVSA), who appeared accompanied by members of the DGCIM. It was when the worst of their ordeals began.
Arrested and held incommunicado, Alfredo says that he was tortured, beaten for 48 hours until he passed out, to make him plead guilty. Aryenis, for her part, said that she was locked up for almost four days in a room with the air conditioning turned on, in a chair and an irregular supply of water and food, which triggered panic attacks.
Despite the fact that the investigation by the prosecution ended on April 16, and the following 15 days for the court to set the date of the preliminary hearing were exceeded, so far the procedure has been denied under the allegation of a resolution of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) which establishes that, due to the pandemic, there is a national state of protection and emergency that keeps judicial processes on hold.
For their sisters this is contradictory. They say that throughout the country, during the quarantine, more than 120 preliminary hearings have been held for different cases. Only in Caracas there have been 22 of them, including those of the mercenaries of Operation Gideon who were captured in May, received a hearing and were already sentenced.
“It is also striking that precautionary measures have been given to prisoners for different crimes, such as two of the six gringos who are detained in Venezuela for the Citgo case, and they were given a home detention benefit,” says Iracara.
The threat of the Coronavirus
For Alfredo and Aryenis they ask for considerations of a humanitarian nature. Not just because the detention process and her incarceration conditions have bypassed all regular avenues, but because Aryenis has tested positive for Covid-19 .
Her clinical picture is dangerously compromised because to date, as far as her relatives know, she has not been treated by a doctor but by a nurse over the telephone.
Alfredo, although he is not going through the same situation, said that several of the detainees in his cell have tested positive and were isolated, receiving treatment, including the ginger infusions that he himself prepares for them thanks to the supplies he receives from their relatives.
“What we are asking,” says Jhensy, “is that they give us the preliminary hearing to prove their innocence. But at this moment, with this life situation, we are requesting a reconsideration of measure, a little more humanitarian, whether it be house arrest, a self surrender situation, or whatever the courts say. We cannot be guaranteed the life of our people while they’re in a detention center.”
For Iracara (teacher) and Jhensy (veterinarian), there are very powerful interests within the industry that were touched by the two, who apparently always maintained the indefatigable attitude that unleashed the fury that keeps them deprived of their freedom.
They consider that not even the presumption of innocence – as established by the Venezuelan legal framework – has been respected. It was the first thing cast aside when the “Alí Rodríguez Araque” presidential commission, appointed by the first national president to investigate the alleged cases of corruption within the oil industry, rushed to publish an official statement in which they are tried without going through the courts, designating them terrorists and traitors.
The attorney general himself, Tarek William Saab, stated during a television program with journalist Vladimir Villegas that the detainees “confessed their guilt,” which according to Iracara does not appear in the file.
– Is it possible that it is cruelty from the ranks of PDVSA?
ICh – It’s a retaliation, because the kids always refused to agree with those people, the internal PDVSA mafias that wanted to favor commercial sectors with which they had economic interests. They are middle managers, career officials who would not go through the ranks from there. They were assuming those responsibilities for their professional preparation, for having participated in heroic acts, as pointed out by their colleagues in a statement published on March 8. That, for the briefcase companies, brought losses, not so for the country, but for the Venezuelan people, for the industry. Besides, everyone knows that they always showed their revolutionary, Chavista and anti-imperialist stance.
Alfredo directed the Special Operations Management since the end of 2017; Aryenis the General Management of Crude Operations, appointed by Manuel Quevedo (former president of PDVSA) in January 2018, without finding conflicts of interest between the two, due to the high level of performance and ethics in their professional work.
She (39 years old) graduated as an industrial engineer from Unexpo Lara, with a 13-year career within PDVSA where she started as an operator. In all this time, she didn’t even rack up a warning for being late for work. He (32) is an Electronic Engineer, from the same house of study, with ten years in the company where he started as an intern. In PDVSA they met, fell in love and got together almost 6 years ago.
They are known publicly for their political activism in favor of the revolution, their sporting, cultural, environmental and community activities, their unrepentant cycling through the streets of Caracas.
Their sisters say that the most ostentatious thing among their material goods is a ’75 Combi pickup that they have not been able to finish repairing, to go out to fulfill their dream of touring Venezuela and photographing its most paradisiacal landscapes.
Alfredo’s father is the renowned Treco, a former guerrilla member of the José Leonardo Chirinos Front and a constituentist. Aryenis’s mother is the head of UBCH, a spokeswoman for the communal council. All, proven combatants, militants of the left and of the struggles that recognize imperialism as the true enemy.
On Thursday, August 14, after a demonstration of their support in front of PDVSA’s headquarters in La Campiña, their families and members of the Solidarity Committee with Alfredo Chirinos and Aryenis Torrealba delivered a document addressed to the current PDVSA president, Asdrúbal Chávez, requesting a hearing to present the arguments for the two.
They also await the opportunity to talk with Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Constituent Assembly and vice president of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) of which they are militants, with the idea that he authorize the formation of a commission of constituents — who know the evidence in favor of Alfredo and Aryenis.
They are even requesting to be questioned by the ANC in a public and televised manner, and that the prosecution take the evidence that supports the accusations. “We, as revolutionaries, have a duty to tell the truth to the people of Venezuela,” they report Alfredo Chirinos says.
So far, and during the time they have been detained, they have not received a single response.
Featured image: File photo.