Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition leader urges ex-Chavistas to spill secrets about Chávez, Maduro

Former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma during a news conference in Doral in December 2017.
Former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma during a news conference in Doral in December 2017. cmguerrero@miamiherald.com

Former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma Friday urged Venezuelan government officials who have fallen out of favor with the regime to reveal the darkest secrets of Chavismo, including the real date of Hugo Chávez’s death and the true citizenship of President Nicolás Maduro.

Ledezma, who escaped from house arrest in Venezuela in November and now lives in exile in Spain, specifically urged former intelligence chief Miguel Rodriguez Torres and oil czar Rafael Ramirez to come clean.

He also accused Maduro of what he called the biggest fraud in Venezuelan history, saying he had seized control of the presidency even before he was officially elected.

“There are many things in the shadows, and people like Rodriguez Torres are the ones who can explain them,” Ledezma told el Nuevo Herald.

“There’s a mystery over the real date of the death of Chávez, and Venezuela has yet to see a birth certificate for Maduro or a death certificate for Chávez,” he said.

Ledezma, one of the most respected leaders of the Venezuelan opposition, offered no evidence that Chávez died on any day other than the official date, March 5, 2013. But different dates have been widely reported over the years, according to people close to Chávez in his last days, such as former bodyguard Leamsy Salazar, now a witness in a U.S. court case.

“Leamsy Salazar confirms Chávez died at 7:32 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2012. How many lies were told to hide his death. Shameless,” Panamanian diplomat Guillermo Cochez wrote on his Twitter account in 2015.

“Parents, siblings, children and friends allowed themselves to be used to hide the death of Chávez, so they could profit by keeping the horrible secret. Barbarians,” Cochez added.

That information, as well as allegations that Maduro was born in neighboring Colombia, can be confirmed by Rodriguez Torres and Ramirez, Ledezma repeated.

The two men “were in that innermost ring [of the government] and know a lot about what’s happened,” he said.

“Many of those secrets have been kept as insurance policies, but I think the time has come for them to pay restitution to the country,” he added.

Rodriguez Torres, who was arrested last week, is believed to have compromising information about the Chávez and Maduro governments because he was the head of intelligence for many years.

Ramirez, now a fugitive living abroad, was one of the most powerful officials during the first years of the Maduro government. He was fired in 2014.

Although some Venezuelans don’t consider the date of Chávez’s death important, considering it a mere historical fact, Ledezma said it is significant because it gave Maduro a window to seize power.

If Chávez really died weeks before the official date, then his signatures on any decrees appointing cabinet ministers or other decisions during that gap were falsified, he said.

“The selection of Maduro, his designation to assume control of the country, would also be irregular,” Ledezma added.

Maduro’s legitimacy as president also has been challenged because of evidence that — in the best case scenario — he’s a dual citizen of Venezuela and Colombia.

The former Caracas mayor said the statement last week by former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana that Maduro has dual nationality is credible because of evidence that his mother was Colombian.

“He is the son of a Colombian mother and has Colombian nationality,” making him constitutionally barred from serving as president of Venezuela, Ledezma said. “All of that is true. He should have resigned.”

Follow Antonio María Delgado on Twitter:@DelgadoAntonioM

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