Enforcement of the law in Venezuela is highly selective these days, so when a well-publicized arrest takes place, there’s usually some reason. In the latest international tiff between Venezuela and Colombia, Venezuelan law enforcement arrested eight Colombian residents for taking pictures of power lines and transformers. The eight were owners and employees of an ice cream factory in Chávez’ home state of Barinas.
The question is, why were they really arrested?
Today, El Tiempo has published a long and generally interesting article on the Ice Cream Spies. One detail in particular stuck out:
The news of the Colombians’ arrest fell like a bomb on the village of Barinitas (about 40,000 residents, half an hour from Barinas, where the Giraldo family has lived for 11 years), and not only because they are widely recognized as working people dedicated to their ice cream factory, ‘Maky Helados.’
People were also surprised because the Giraldo family is close to the ‘revolutionary process’ and friends with Narciso, the brother of President Hugo Chávez. They helped him in promoting the candidacy of the current mayor of Barinitas, Ana Lucía de Cartier, a member of the ruling party.
Did the Colombians somehow cross the Chávez family, which rules Barinas like a fiefdom? It wouldn’t be the first time a former ally got thrown under the bus. Another more quotidian yet plausible explanation is that Chávez is using that time-honored trick of nationalist autocrats everywhere, Blame Your Problems On The Other.
Colombians are to Venezuela as the Mexicans are the United States or the Haitians are to the Dominican Republic or the Nicaraguans are to Costa Rica or the Guatemalans are to Mexico: The low immigrants on the totem pole. You can always lambaste them in public to direct attention away from your leadership failures and whip up a few extra votes.
Hence the hilarious accusations of not only espionage, but sabotage. So far, the Colombians haven’t even been charged with anything, though Venezuela’s head of state is already working to convict them in the court of public opinion.
Good luck getting a fair trial.