…because Carlos Ortega is now a fugitive. AGAIN.
A senior Venezuelan opposition leader has escaped from a military prison, the country’s attorney general has said.
Carlos Ortega was sentenced to almost 16 years in jail last year after being convicted of inciting unrest during a strike that began in late 2002.
He escaped along with three military officers and may have been aided by some authorities, Venezuela’s attorney general said.
Ortega is known as a fierce opponent of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.
In his role as a key union leader, Ortega, 59, played a central role in the 63-day strike that aimed to oust Mr Chavez from the presidency.
He was arrested last March after returning to Venezuela from Costa Rica, where he sought asylum after the strike ended.
Attorney General Isias Rodriguez told Venezuelan TV that Ortega had escaped from prison.
“Effectively at this moment the people who appear to have escaped are not in the Ramo Verde prison,” he said.
He had been jailed at the military prison, some 40km (25 miles) outside Caracas, for his own security, officials said.
Ortega’s lawyer, Carlos Roa, expressed “surprise” at the news and said he had doubts about the truth of the story, the EFE news agency reported.
Here’s a blast from the coup-monger’s past.
Ortega is about as much of a union leader as any mafia boss can be expected to be: corrupt, more likely to get in bed with the corporate employers (as indeed he did) than to represent the interests of workers. He’s a sell-out, having traded away workers’ rights for concessions that were never fulfilled.
However, Ortega is something even worse: he’s an active perpetrator in the treason of 2002 and much of the plotting for the repeat attempts to unseat Chavez that followed. In the documentary Venezuela Bolivariana, there’s a clip of him actually saying that he doesn’t give a fuck for the law or any of the democratic instutions of the land. If he had been a US citizen talking about his own government, that would have landed his ass in Gitmo. It was a jaw-dropping statement to be making in public with half a dozen media outlets shoving their microphones in his pudgy face, but it wasn’t enough to get him jailed…yet.
After the coup and the subsequent oil “strike” (really, a lockout and sabotage) failed to oust Chavez but succeeded in finally provoking the authorities to make arrests, Ortega went on the lam. He sought refuge in Costa Rica, where he soon embarrassed the local authorities into asking him to leave. Soon after that, he washed up where all the scum of Latin America has a funny way of landing: dear old cockroach-ridden Miami. But he was no more welcome there than in Costa Rica, being something of an embarrassment to his US backers, so he returned to Venezuela under a fake identity. Eventually, the law caught up to him…in, of all appropriate places, an illegal gambling den in Caracas. His greying hair was dyed black, and he had a fat black fake mustache that made him a dead ringer for Saddam Hussein. But there was no mistaking his droopy eyelids, or his arrogance.
Ortega got 16 years for his part in the treason; a light sentence, all things considered. He continued to lead the CTV union from his prison cell, unofficially and illegally; his rule had in fact been illegal all along, since he was not democratically elected and was never recognized as such by the CNE, the national elections council. Eventually, the Venezuelan trade union movement went on to found a new organization, the UNT, to be free from CTV’s corruption. It was a massive indictment of just what a poor job of union representation Ortega was doing.
But such things matter little to a fugitive coup plotter who doesn’t give a fuck for the government, the law, or any other democratic institution of his country.
PS: Oil Wars has a post on this as well, with a terrific anti-Ortega poster.