15 August 2006

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.......

This is just too funny. While Chavez was in la Habana kissing Castro's wrinkled butt...........


Chavez foe on the loose after jailbreak
Labor leader was convicted for
strike role

By Ian JamesThe Associated PressAugust 15, 2006
One of President Hugo Chavez's most threatening enemies is on the loose, and
many Venezuelans wonder what new plots he has in mind.Carlos Ortega, 60, escaped
from a military prison over the weekend, and troops and police were ordered to
guard ports, airports and embassies to prevent him from fleeing or seeking
asylum. But those who know Ortega think he might stay to revive anti-Chavez
protests before December's presidential elections."Carlos has always been a
fighting man," Edgar Zambrano, an opposition politician who recently visited him
in prison, said Monday. "I imagine if he decided to escape from prison, he's
doing it to stay in the country and, while in hiding, begin a frontal fight
against the regime."A union leader who led a crippling national strike against
Chavez and later became what many consider Venezuela's most prominent political
prisoner, Ortega slipped out of the Ramo Verde prison west of Caracas, where he
was serving a 16-year sentence for civil rebellion. Three convicted military
officers also escaped.Prison director Gustavo Busnego said 14 guards were being
interrogated, and investigators think some may have helped the men leave the
prison. He said guards reported the escape Sunday after checking one bunk and
finding only pillows under the sheet, arranged to look like a dozing
inmate.Zambrano's party, Democratic Action, released a typed letter, purportedly
written by Ortega from prison a week earlier. In it, he repeated a phrase he has
often used: "I know that we will soon see each other again -- and free."However,
he also said, "For now I am a political prisoner of a dictator who knows I am
dangerous in the streets and, therefore, I prefer to stay behind bars. That is
the best way of showing he fears me."Ortega wrote that voters should boycott the
presidential vote and called for street protests to "defend democracy." He
signed off saying, "We will see each other soon, friends!"Chavez has called
Ortega a criminal who has conspired against democracy with Venezuela's wealthy
elite.Ortega was convicted last December of civil rebellion and instigation to
commit illegal acts for his role in a 2002-03 general strike that aimed to
topple Chavez's government.The two-month strike virtually shut down oil
production in the world's No. 5 oil-exporting country and cost Venezuela an
estimated $7.5 billion, plunging the economy into recession. Chavez refused to
step down, and he regained control of the state oil industry by firing almost
half its work force.The government also has linked Ortega, the leader of the
million-member Venezuelan Workers Confederation, to an April 2002 coup that
briefly ousted Chavez before street protests helped restore him to power.Ortega
has eluded authorities before. He fled arrest and sought asylum in Costa Rica,
then chose to return to Venezuela in 2004, to "continue fighting this regime by
any means necessary."Ortega spent months in hiding before his arrest in March
2005 inside a Caracas bingo hall.Some of Ortega's allies, including his lawyer,
said his escape was justified because he was wrongly convicted by a biased
judicial system.But pro-Chavez union organizer Pedro Vargas called Ortega's
escape "part of the opposition's Plan B" to try to destabilize the government.
Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez theorized that the opposition could have
"sponsored this escape."The three military officers who disappeared with Ortega
include two brothers, Col. Jesus Faria and Col. Dario Faria, and their nephew,
Capt. Rafael Faria.Jesus and Rafael Faria were serving nine-year terms for
military rebellion after being linked to reputed Colombian paramilitaries
detained in 2004 for allegedly plotting to assassinate Chavez. Dario Faria was
arrested for theft in 2005 after a military assault rifle was found hidden in
his car's fender. All three maintained they were innocent.
Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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