…that Fabricio Ojeda, journalist and revolutionary, died under hinky, stinky circumstances in military custody:
The news upset the land: Fabricio Ojeda, political leader, opposition deputy, and president of the Patriotic Junta which brought down the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez, captured five days before by the Armed Forces Intelligence Service (SIFA), was found dead in his cell under strange circumstances.
The event occurred 50 years ago today: On June 21, 1966, in the midst of the 4th Republic period.
Raúl Leoni, social democrat of the Acción Democrática party, was president of Venezuela, in a coalition with two other parties of the era, COPEI (social Christian) and the Democratic Republican Union (URD), heirs of Venezuelan “yellow liberalism”, from the 19th century, constituted the régime of the “broad base”.
The official word was that Fabricio, 38 years old, had hung himself in his cell.
The then minister of defence, General Ramón Florencio Gómez, gave out a statement in which he said: “We were the first to lament the occurrence.”
However, his co-religionists and all the people knew that Fabricio Ojeda “was persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and murdered by the Punto Fijo democracy”, as Luis Berrizbeitia says in the the prologue of the book, The Death of Fabricio Ojeda, by José Antonio Solórzano León.
As a reporter for the daily newspaper, El Nacional, for which he covered the government, Fabricio Ojeda was the anonymous and clandestine president of the Patriotic Junta, which brought down the government on January 23, 1958.
Upon the installation of the “democratic régime” of the pact of Punto Fijo, signed in New York by directors Rómulo Betancourt (AD), Rafael Caldera (COPEI), and Jóvito Villalba (URD), Fabricio Ojeda was elected deputy for the URD, but on June 30, 1962, disgusted by the betrayal of those parties of the ideas of freedom and justice which headed the fight against the dictatorship, he resigned from the Chamber of Deputies with an emotional speech and went into the mountains, where the guerrillas of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) were already operating.
In contact with guerrilla chiefs Douglas Bravo and Argimiro Gabaldón, Ojeda was named commander of the recently created José Antonio Páez Front. Late in 1962, he was captured and sentenced to 18 years in prison, but he managed to escape the Trujillo jail where they had confined him.
Four years later, on June 17, 1966, Fabricio Ojeda once more fell into the hands of the government of Raúl Leoni.
On one occasion, Fabricio Ojeda said: “If I die it doesn’t matter, others will come later who will pick up our rifles and our flag to continue with dignity what is ideal, and will know of our people.”
In one of the speeches of our eternal Comandante, Hugo Chávez, recalling the emancipatory deeds of Fabricio Ojeda, said: “They killed Fabricio Ojeda, murdered him vilely…We pay tribute to that great revolutionary, martyr of our people…Great thinker who traded his seat in parliament for the mountains.”
After Ojeda’s murder, Venezuelan revolutionaries established June 21 as the Day of the Martyrs.
Fabricio Ojeda’s words proved prophetic. Chavecito did, indeed, take up the banner and the arms that the Venezuelan hill-guerrillas dropped when the forces of so-called democracy destroyed their camps. He did so almost 100% literally; as a young officer of the Venezuelan army, sent to fight guerrillas near the Colombian border, Hugo Chávez found to his dismay and consternation that there were no guerrillas left for him and his troops to fight. Only humble peasants, literally dirt-poor. The ostensibly democratic army was beating and murdering the poorest of the Venezuelan people for no reason. Chávez put a stop to that, and developed a healthy relationship between the army and the local campesinos, one that became the foundation for his later phenomenal rapport with poor Venezuelans in general. He also found an abandoned car, riddled with bullet holes, that had belonged to the guerrillas. In the trunk was a treasure trove of Marxist literature. He rescued the books, cleaned and repaired them…and read them. And that was how he came to know the thoughts of Fabricio Ojeda, and gained the respect of other former guerrillas, including Douglas Bravo, who still lives to this day.
As do Fabricio and Chavecito…in the people’s hearts.