Venezuela: General Uson becomes a political prisoner

By Miguel Octavio

12.10.04 - General Francisco Usón became another political prisoner of the Chávez administration when he was sentenced to five years and six months in prison for insulting the Venezuelan Armed Forces. Usón’s crime was to say on TV that the Fort Mara soldiers were burnt by a flame thrower and not by an accidental fire. This charge was made by Usón in a TV program where he was being interviewed.

What is remarkable about the case is that to this day, the military has not shed light on exactly what happened that day in Fort Mara. The case was turned over to a civilian Court, but the witnesses were never presented by the military. Initially, the military said the soldiers had died when a fire caused by a cigarette butt ignited a mattress. The press made a big deal out of it and Chavez laughed on his Sunday TV program about much ado about nothing, only to have the first of the soldiers die that night. Later that week one of the soldiers that was getting better taped a video in which he said a big flash came into the jail cell through the door which led to the flamethrower theory. That soldier died of a heart attack that same night, before it was known that the video existed.

Maracaibo fireman, the National Guard and experts from the Armed Forces have all backed the theory that the fire in the cells that killed three soldiers was induced from the outside by either using a flamethrower or some form of chemical. This evidence was taken into account by the military court.

Usón was Chavez´ Minister of Finance until the events of April 2002. He said then that he saw from his office how the trap was set for the opposition march and converted the parking lot of his Ministry of Finance into an improvised hospital. He now will be able to appeal, while in jail, but becomes another political prisoner of this vengeful and intolerant Government.

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