Political Activist Yon Goicoechea Disappeared by Venezuelan Political Police

Yon Goicoechea, political leader and member of the Volutad Popular political party, was taken into custody by presumed agents of SEBIN, the Venezuelan political police, with no arrest warrant, no explanation and no information as to his whereabouts. Around 9:30 am on Monday, August 29, Goicoechea was in his car, along with driver Peter Salas, on his way to pick up furniture in Caracas. He was intercepted on the highway by two unmarked vehicles. Both Goicoechea and Salas were forcibly removed from their car and taken away to an unknown location. The car was seized. Diosdado Cabello, a highly influential figure in the government, alleged on Monday afternoon that Goicochea was transporting “detonators for explosive devices,” and refereed to Goicoechea as an assassin.

The allegation was made in the context of a pro-government political rally. No documentation has been made available to support these claims, and Cabello plays no formal role in law enforcement. It has been more than 30 hours since Goicoechea and Salas were last seen. They have not been given access to council, their families have not had any contact with them. No official information has been produced as to their whereabouts, the charges levied against them, or the evidence to support them. Under the Venezuelan constitution, Goicoechea has the right to contact with his family and lawyers immediately upon detention. Goicoechea, a 31 year old lawyer and political activist, especially focused on non-violent activism, won the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty in 2008.

He was a key leader during the 2007 student movement. He founded Futuro Presente, an NGO dedicated to the advancement of leadership and democratic values among Venezuelan youths. Yon had recently moved back with his wife and children to Venezuela, after having spent four years abroad studying and working, in order to continue his political activism in favor of democracy. He is the fourth member of Voluntad Popular to be either detained or issued an arrest warrant in the past week.

Goicoechea is the father of two young children, Salas is the father of a baby girl. Yon Goicoechea and Peter Salas are two more victims of an unscrupulous and repressive regime. Any evidence of wrongdoing is fabricated. The Venezuelan authorities must ensure their physical safety. We urge you to denounce these obscene and systematic violations of human rights in Venezuela so that repression and persecution of dissidence come to an end once and for all.

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