Energiesnet.com 05 15 2023
Former PDVSA executive Alfredo Chirinos, who had to spend two years in house arrest after he had filed complaints against corruption within the Venezuelan state oil company, spoke about his sufferings at the hands of the police and the judiciary in his interview with Venezuelan journalist Vladimir Villegas, on the YouTube show Vladimir a la Carta.
Last week, Chirinos and his wife Aryenis Torrealba, both former executives of PDVSA, were granted full freedom, two years before the end of their 5-year imprisonment sentence that was issued on February 4, 2021, after the 8th Trial Court of Caracas had found them guilty of “disseminating confidential information of the Venezuelan oil industry.”
A few hours after the interview went live, Venezuelan Attorney General Tareck William Saab posted on his social media a statement stressing that Torrealba and Chrininos had not been declared not guilty, and had been granted full freedom after the completion of the sentence. On April 11, 2021, the two former PDVSA workers were allowed to leave prison and were placed under house arrest.
In the interview conducted by Vladimir Villegas on Wednesday, April 5, Chirinos and Torrealba’s lawyer, Antonio Molina, also participated. He explained that the strategy of the defense is to take the legal battle to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Venezuela to definitively establish the two former PDVSA employees’ complete innocence.
The lawyer complained that besides the multiple legal hurdles that the defense faced since 2021 as they tried to get an additional judiciary benefit of liberty to work and move in certain areas during house arrest, the Ministry of Penitentiary Affairs never granted them the authorization to receive a full psychological evaluation, a necessary step to receive this benefit.
Vladimir Villegas, a very popular journalist, who was formerly Chavista and currently is close to opposition sectors, started the interview by asking Alfredo Chirinos about the case and how it all began with accusations of treason and ended up with a sentence finding them guilty of spreading classified PDVSA information.
Chirinos commented that he now realizes that they had made a mistake by taking the corruption complaint to the Public Ministry in 2017, and believes that the best move could have been to organize a workers’ front and push for public actions against the irregularities that they found. Villegas, however, responded that Chirinos and Torrealba did the right thing, but the authorities, including the Public Ministry, were the ones that did not do their duty.
Villegas went on to explain that 2017 marked a peak in the number of irregular operations in which PDVSA delivered oil shipments to phantom companies that later began to default in their payments, going against PDVSA’s internal procedures. However, he forgot to mention that it was in 2017 that a huge wave of US sanctions began, making it almost impossible for Venezuela to export oil.
Chirinos said that he and his wife Aryenis Torrealba took the complaints to their superiors, then to PDVSA security authorities, and as a final move they contacted the Public Ministry (MP) where they had five meetings from 2017 until mid 2018 when the MP stopped receiving them, and nothing happened. Meanwhile, cases of workers being accused of crimes for following the instructions of top executives breaking with internal procedures were on the rise.
Speaking about the recent anti-corruption operation launched by the Venezuelan government that has implicated top PDVSA authorities, and the recent calls from Venezuelan authorities requesting workers to file complaints of wrongdoings, Chirinos stated that he could not understand how workers would comply with that call when two junior executives (he and his wife) ended up imprisoned after having filed complaints of corruption.
Chirinos narrated his hellish sufferings when he was detained by the DGCIM. “They burned my face, they broke my ribs with kicks,” he said. At that moment, all the arguments that he had had with an opposition-sympathiser friend, where he had defended the government and claimed that torture did not exist in Venezuela anymore, flooded his mind.
“The torture lasted four hours; I was face down getting kicked, with chemicals on my face that peeled my face,” Chirinos described. “And the judge who saw me like that the day I was charged, when I showed her all the blows, she told me that it didn’t matter.” He added that the judge was Carol Padilla, in charge of the Anti-terrorism Court, who, according to him, was a tool against workers denouncing irregularities in public institutions.
A formal torture complaint was filed with the Public Ministry but nothing came of it after two years. “Our relatives were received very well by the Ombudsperson’s Office, but when my family told them that we were detained and tortured by the DGCIM they were told to be thankful because our relatives were allowed to see the officials,” Chirinos stated.
“A few days ago I watched with considerable interest a speech by President Maduro in which he instructed various state officials to submit reports on corruption on the management of certain institutions,” Chirinos continued. “A very coherent request from the president, but he closed it by saying that they should not disclose complainants’ names, that complaints be anonymous. In other words, the president himself is asking that the complainants should remain anonymous because he knows that those who file complaints run the risk of going through what we lived.”
When asked if he and Aryenis would accept to go back to work in PDVSA or work in any other government institution, he said that he doubts it, because he cannot see him seated at a table next to the head of a security agency who might practice torture or next to a public official who comes with three bodyguards in four SUVs and whom everybody knows to be corrupt. “I can’t sit down to defend my country next to those who are destroying it,” he stressed.
Orinoco Tribune Special by staff
orinocotribune.com 05 08 2023