Carlos Patiño │ Rubén González is a prisoner of the military in Venezuela. The 61-year-old trade unionist has been imprisoned twice as a punishment for the struggle he leads in the public sector. In 2014, after a 5-year trial for organizing a strike, he was found not guilty on all charges. In 2018, he was arbitrarily arrested again and in 2019 a military court sentenced him to 5 years and 9 months in prison. They allege that the trade union leader had “insulted” the Armed Forces.
Rubén González is a worker of CVG Ferrominera Orinoco (state-owned company responsible for the exploration and exploitation of iron ore and its products), a former member of the government party and an evangelical Christian. Demanding labor rights has cost him his freedom and his health. Rubén suffers from chronic illnesses that are not properly cared for in prison and, according to his relatives, he shares a cell without any protection to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He is currently the only civilian prisoner in the military wing of the La Pica prison. However, for a sector of the international left, Rubén does not exist on the map of victims of human rights violations.
This deliberate silence of sectors related to the Bolivarian revolution shows shameful complicity with the captors of the labor leader. The journalist Andrés Cañizalez, on the occasion of the XXV Forum in Sao Paulo, coined the term ‘caviar left’ to describe those who claim to be progressives but in reality live in a bubble of comfort, distant from the people and from the victims they allegedly help. Rubén González is a leftist worker ignored by much of the left.
The most important human rights bodies in the world have spoken in favor of Rubén. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, rejected his conviction. The International Labour Organization’s Commission of Inquiry recommended his release and that of Rodney Álvarez, another trade unionist imprisoned without a fair trial. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention qualified the deprivation of his liberty and the conditions of his imprisonment as arbitrary. Amnesty International has declared him to be a “prisoner of conscience”.
The caviars have ignored the case and looked the other way. Just as there is police and racial abuse in the United States, post-conflict violence in Colombia, repression in Chile, Ecuador, and Brazil; there are also serious human rights violations against social leaders in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. There are many Rubén González, no matter how hard oppressors try to make them invisible.
Translated by: Pascual Díaz
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Human Rights defense lawyer. Enforceability Coordinator at DESC of Provea.