Jimmy Hoffa, call your office…

…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.

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4 Responses to Jimmy Hoffa, call your office…

  1. Wren says:

    Having a truckload of American dollars in a relatively poor country does give a fugitive an edge in escaping and fleeing the authorities. I wonder how many secret bank accounts this guy has just for these occasions? Still, given the trouble Chavez has had with the military, I wonder why he was in a military prison in the first place?

  2. Bina says:

    Well, Chavez is former military himself, and for the most part has a good rapport with the troops–in fact, the army was key to his return after the coup. But there are probably still a number of moles in the forces. Since the coup against him was supported by a group of paid-off bottom-feeders from high in the ranks, it’s not implausible that the US is STILL bribing certain ones to look the other way while Ortega scurries off to the nearest bingo joint.

  3. Pedro says:

    Excuse me but:
    No money has been found.
    No clues or investigation has concluded to anything yet.
    And, wasn´t Chavez and his hole gang in jail to? they stayed only like 2 years, didn´t they?

  4. Bina says:

    Yeah, Chavez WAS in jail. He was also PARDONED by Caldera, and released. When was Ortega pardoned, and what has he done to deserve a pardon? He’s guilty of treason. It’s all well known. Why would Chavez release him?
    BTW, there was US money and plenty of it going to this thug:
    The NED has spent over $900,000 to support the corrupt opposition in Venezuela since 2001. In 2002, the “Solidarity Center” sent at least $150,000 to coup plotter Carlos Ortega’s CTV “union” in Venezuela.
    Poor Pedro. How your memory fails!

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