By Carlos Aznárez – Aug 4, 2020.
In the 1970s, the name of Ilich Ramírez became a true symbol for the Palestinians and revolutionaries of the world who fought against imperialism. However, his enemies, especially Zionism, considered him a target to be killed, and after a long series of unsuccessful persecutions, they managed to catch him in Sudan, where a commando kidnapped him and took him directly to France, where he has remain in prision for 26 years. His brother Vladimir Ramírez, a Bolivarian and therefore Chavista, tells us about the true story of Ilich and the campaign to get him repatriated to Venezuela, where he was born in 1949. Vladimir is a man who has made solidarity an act of life, not only to bring his brother home but also to fight in his own way for the liberation of the peoples, as his father taught them,
-We are very close to August 15, a date that recalls that 26 years ago your brother Ilich Ramírez, also known as “Commander Carlos”, a fighter for the Palestinian cause and many others, was captured. Can you tell us how this campaign is working to make visible this injustice that has so far led to the French government’s refusal to grant the repatriation of Ilich to Venezuela, his country of birth?
-For us it is important to have access to this important news website to be able to spread the Ilich campaign and so more people have the information. Indeed, next August 15 will be the 26th anniversary of the kidnapping of Ilich, I insist a lot on this term because detention would be associated with a legal process of capture of a person and in the case of Ilich, his extraction from Sudanese territory occurred through a kidnapping, even recognized by those who ordered that operation in 1994. It is important to clarify it because it is a crime that causes the presence of Ilich in French prisons. In the opinion of him and his team of defense lawyers, and those of us who support him in the family and the groups that defend his freedom, this action by the French state delegitimizes his status as a prisoner in France. He was kidnapped. He is illegally in France, illegally detained and of course deprived of his liberty. Our campaign has been developing according to the times and the facts of our country, throughout these 26 years. The first 4 years of Ilich’s illegal imprisonment in France corresponded to what was the Fourth Republic, the government of Rafael Caldera. In that period, unfortunately, no action was taken by the Venezuelan government to lodge a claim with its French counterpart and request the release of Ilich. We have always demanded repatriation and not release, reversing the kidnapping, because knowing the French state as an imperialist force that it is, they would be able to return Ilich to Sudan and due to pressure on the Sudanese regime, establish a legal process or adhere to international law to be able to carry out their extradition. We always require repatriation so that Ilich would come back to Venezuela, which guarantees him the legitimate exercise of his rights as a citizen and his human rights. In those 4 years as expected, the government of Rafael Caldera was in tune with the imperial powers, it did nothing. Since the arrival of Commander Hugo Chávez, the situation changed, of course, in order to publicize the situation of Ilich and make known what the reality of that case has been. But unfortunately no significant progress has been made and we have not achieved repatriation so far.
-It is important to know, and that you tell those who do not know the case, who your brother was at the level of the internationalist struggle. It is worth clarifying, fundamentally why he is imprisoned, illegally kidnapped as you well affirm, and why this infamy of the persecution and the demonization of his name occurred. We remember him as Commander Carlos. But in the world he has been known as “the Jackal”. Thanks to the demonization by Zionism and US imperialism and by all their allies, they have treated him as a very dangerous man. Who is Ilich Ramírez really?
-Ilich was born in the year 49 and in the mid-60s he was part of that youth, which developed within the revolutionary sphere. Our father was a consistent Marxist-Leninist and transmitted to us three brothers, we are three children: Ilich, Lenin and I, already out there you get an idea of the way in which we were educated. Our father instilled the essential values of revolutionary training in the family. Ilich graduated from high school in 1966 in Venezuela in the midst of a world and national situation where young people with revolutionary sensibilities understood many things that transcended the borders of their own country. It was necessary to fight internationally to defeat the enemy that was the same everywhere. There was an enemy that still exists, it was not enough to fight in his own homeland, rather, it was necessary to transcend borders. Ilich was later educated at Lumumba University (in the USSR) and there he ended up making contact with students from all over the world and learned about the conflicts. And he was able to detect that there was a fundamental enemy that was Zionism. Because Zionism, for the majority, at least those who had knowledge of the characteristics of the situation in Palestine, was the enemy of the Palestinians, but those who studied more understood that Zionism was intimately linked to the imperial hegemonic factors in the world. Ilich understood that Zionism had to be faced as well and not only in the United States. In short, that world sector has a very clear rule for them, which is not to accept internationalism, they always applied the strategy of dividing to win, and one sees throughout history how Israel, NATO and the other allies have always confirmed alliances to take out a single enemy, weakened, without support, except now that we are seeing actions like those in Syria. What happens then? When he comes to the public arena in the 70s, and is detected as a member of the Palestinian movement actively fighting against Israel and imperialism, Ilich commits an unforgivable sin for those hegemonic forces, such as fighting alongside the revolutionary movement against the internal enemy. That is why they do not forgive him. That is why they describe him as a terrorist, a mercenary, they give him the nickname “Jackal.” 45 years have passed since a media campaign that we must admit, it has been successful, because in the world, the vast majority of the population knows Ilich as a “terrorist”, a “fearsome mercenary”, “murderer”, or simply do not know about him, which is another strategy used by hegemony. If they can’t bend you, they make you invisible.
-How has your brother resisted in prison, it is no small thing to spend so many years in a French prison. We know how France treats those they consider terrorists, we know it because of the Basque men and women fighters who have passed through French prisons and have been years of great suffering. How has Ilich survived this entire prison system of psychic and physical extermination?
-In a stoic way, with a firmness and an impressive temper. I am telling you because last year my brother Ilich turned 70 and I was lucky enough to be able to go meet with him. I hadn’t seen him since 1975, 45 years had passed. Of course we had been in contact all the time that he has been imprisoned in France and I was not surprised because I was always in contact with him and had listened to him on the phone. But his spirit, his spirit, his firmness in his convictions is impressive despite these long 26 years of confinement in conditions that have been dramatic, he has even had to go on hunger strikes, for having been psychologically tortured, for having been physically mistreated, including attempts to kill him in jail, using other prisoners. He continues to defend his cause, that of the Palestinian people. He defends the internationalist struggle tooth and nail, he is a firm supporter of our revolutionary process in Venezuela and of the liberation processes of our peoples in Latin America. It’s surprising that this is so, I can say it firmly because we were able to talk. Ilich has changed, of course, he had a maturing process, as happens to the prisoners, he has definitely matured, but he remains firm inside.
-Finally, I wanted to ask you how the situation is now that President Nicolás Maduro governs. Based on the fact that Ilich is a supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution, are there any more steps being taken to try to repatriate him?
-Many times people are confused with the statements that have been given. Our Bolivarian government, since 99 when Chávez installed himself in the government, has had a very different situation from the performance of Rafael Caldera. President Chávez made many pronouncements in favor of Ilich personally, but we did not find that there were concrete actions by the Venezuelan government against its French counterpart. Even José Vicente Rangel when he was Chancellor of the Republic, determined that Ilich had been kidnapped, but despite that we are not aware of formal efforts to recover Ilich’s freedom, either by the figure of repatriation or the placing in freedom for democracy in the face of crimes against them or through transfer.
-What would that instance be like?
-There is a legal form of transfer between France and Venezuela and in fact there have been prisoners who have returned to France as a result of that agreement. After the death of Commander Chávez, we have been in contact with the Maduro government, we have good communication, but we do not know of a formal action before the French government or the different French governments to achieve this benefit for Ilich and demand the rectification of the crime committed against Ilich. I would like to briefly point out that we in the campaign are insisting that our revolutionary process that is being steadfastly and firmly led by our comrade Nicolás Maduro in the midst of all these difficulties of the economic embargo, the imperialist pressures and now with the COVID -19. We know that the situation is very difficult but the years continue to pass and Ilich is still in the same place. It is strange, when we start to study the relations between France and Venezuela, France has used the revolutionary governments to recover French citizens. They did it with Íngrid Betancourt between 2007 and 2008 when Nicolas Sarkozy was president, and they succeeded in getting President Chávez to intercede with the FARC and achieve the freedom of Betancourt promptly. France has excellent relations with Venezuela of exchange at a technological, military, cultural and educational investment level, of all kinds, therefore, we have stated that the conditions exist for a respectful and firm dialogue to take place. Ilich has been in prison for 26 years and it is not frivolous. Ilich is the first revolutionary Venezuelan prisoner with the most years in jail in the history of Venezuela and that is something that must be taken into account. It must be taken into account, he is a symbol, in addition he was very successful in the actions that he carried out in his years of armed struggle and currently, he is in a phase of intellectual struggle, of a struggle of principles. We understand that the case is not easy, but we also understand that our State in the midst of this difficult situation and the excessive and ruthless attack of imperialism to end our process, must act cautiously diplomatically and needs a firm base of popular support on which can say: I am giving an answer because the people ask for it. We are consolidating this phase and we hope that we can reach more people. People are moving in Argentina, people are moving in Chile, and also in Europe to consolidate that network and achieve what was achieved with other colleagues, such as the 5 Cuban heroes.
Featured image: Vladimir Ramirez brother of Venezuelan internationalist Ilich Ramirez. Photo courtesy of Resumen Latinoamericano.