CARACAS, Venezuela—Like her deceased husband, Elena Rodríguez is ready to fight for her rights.
Rodríguez and her family are being investigated by the Attorney General’s Office for allegedly encouraging Franklin Brito, the Venezuelan farmer who recently died from complications brought on by a prolonged hunger strike, to “commit suicide.”
“My husband died asking the president to make a statement [on his situation], and [the president] didn’t,” Rodríguez said in a press conference in the nation’s capital on Sept. 6. “We are fighting to rescue the honor of Franklin Brito, and we will go to international organizations. The Brito family is fighting. We know against whom we are fighting, and even if a thousand years pass, the truth will be known.”
Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz said on her radio show, broadcasted by the government-owned network Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV), the Brito family is being investigated at the request of Carlos Aldana, whom the family doesn’t know.
“[Aldana] considers that we are in the presence of an inducement to suicide, according to what he says in his request to open an investigation,” Ortega Díaz said, adding that if found guilty, each of the accused could face between seven and 10 years behind bars.
But Venezuelans are pondering whether Franklin Brito’s death could have been avoided if the government had listened to his demands.
“His death could have been prevented by returning what belonged to him,” said Lisbeth Ojeda, a 25-year-old law student. “The death of Mr. Brito adds up to the list of crimes that we expect to be judged by a tribunal in The Hague.”
“For the government, the death of Brito is convenient,” said Daniel Azuaje, a 53-year-old accountant. “It sends a message to [the government’s] allies and adversaries: Dissidence doesn’t pay.”
But the government said it never violated Franklin Brito’s rights.
“Franklin Brito was never right,” wrote the columnist known as Marciano in the Sept. 7 edition of the government-owned newspaper Vea. “His lands where not invaded,” Marciano wrote. To the contrary, there was no seizure, and the government gave him the deed to his land. “He died of a hunger strike because he wanted to, not because there was an injustice,” Marciano wrote.