Caracas, May 4, 2023 (OrinocoTribune.com)—Venezuela’s Public Ministry made an announcement regarding the arrest of Ernesto Paraqueima, the mayor of Simón Rodríguez municipality (El Tigre), Anzoátegui state. Paraqueima (of the Democratic Alliance opposition party) was arrested this Thursday, May 4, after a wave of indignation arose regarding his radio statements about artworks made by autistic children in order to raise awareness about autism, at the Divino Maestro school, also known as Nuestra Señora de Coromoto home.
Mayor Paraqueima—who has been accused several times of sexist and misogynistic comments, attacks against homeless people, senior citizens, and has previously received public backlash for having a strident style of leadership based on social media scandals, among other things—made the following statement about the mural during a radio show, as reported by Alba Ciudad:
“Speaking of modern things, beautiful things and quality things. At the Coromoto, who painted that? Who painted that so hideous? Who did that? Little sister or little brother, go and paint that in Moitaco (a small town on the border of Bolívar state). They tell me that it was the people of the Asperger children. Who painted it? Children? What did they paint it with, with their legs? What did they try to do there, a landscape of what? What a horrible, awful thing! Why do they paint that in the first place? With the permission of…? Ah, it’s that we donated the paint and they painted it. Who came up with that? They took that from me. And when they go to paint something, they have to go through the Engineering Office and say what they are going to paint.”
#AHORA… #detenido a solicitud del @MinpublicoVEN: el ex alcalde de El Tigre Ernesto Paraqueima, por la comisión de los #delitos que incitan al#odio a nuestros niñ@s q presentan trastorno del espectro autista, a nuestras mujeres, adultos mayores y sectores vulnerables del pueblo pic.twitter.com/Vmx5r7JWHo
— Tarek William Saab (@TarekWiliamSaab) May 4, 2023
The attorney general of the Republic, Tarek William Saab, announced an arrest warrant against Paraqueima, on the crime of incitement to hatred. The Public Ministry decision was announced after a meeting with deputies of Venezuela’s National Assembly (AN), that, on Thursday morning, approved an agreement rejecting “outrageous and discriminatory statements against children on the autism spectrum.”
As part of the agreement, the parliamentarians requested the Republican Moral Council to open an investigation against Paraqueima. In the middle of the session, the AN plenary appointed a special commission to meet with the attorney general in order to urge him to launch an investigation, as they effectively did that same day.
#AHORA Fiscal General Tarek William Saab recibe comisión de la Asamblea Nacional que entrega acuerdo de repudio a declaraciones del alcalde José Paraqueima #4May pic.twitter.com/EqKj9v87GB
— Ministerio Público venezolano (@MinpublicoVEN) May 4, 2023
Diosdado Cabello denunciation
Venezuelan deputy and vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Diosdado Cabello, denounced the incident, speaking on his television show Con El Mazo Dando on Wednesday night. The Chavista leader spoke out in support of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). “All my solidarity with the young people,” he announced, “the children who participated in that drawing of the mural there in El Tigre.”
He recalled that on April 24, President Nicolás Maduro promulgated the Law for Comprehensive Care for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders (TEA), prepared by the AN. It comprises 15 articles and a final provision, with its purpose to guarantee and promote early and timely comprehensive diagnosis of people with ASD.
The deputy also called on various authorities, the governor of Anzoátegui state, Luis Marcano, and the PSUV, to speak out and enforce the law. “Because that man [Paraqueima] is crazy about it,” Cabello stated. “If he’s crazy, he’d be throwing rocks at planes and doing other things.”
RedRadioVe reported that the mayor’s criminal behavior is not limited to this incident on the mural by autistic children.
The head of the Public Ministry also reported that already, on March 20 of this year, his office began an investigation against the mayor for an audio broadcast published via social media, in which Paraqueima threatened merchants and workers in the Simón Rodríguez municipality.
“Don’t even think about messing with me, remember that you are messing with a guy who doesn’t care about life, that’s very dangerous,” were the mayor’s words at the time during the incident with local retailers. “Messing with a guy who doesn’t care about life, that doesn’t care about anything.”
Attorney General Saab further reported that Paraqueima had also been accused of crimes of violence against women; Antonieta Betancourt Chacín denounced him “for sending her a message with obscenities, vulgarities, and denigrating her,” after Paraqueima harassed her relatives.
Paraqueima is also accused of inciting suicide against a homeless person, and a number of other criminal acts that are part of the mayor’s conduct.
Orinoco Tribune Special by staff
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