News of the arrest of human rights advocate and community builder, Rodrigo Diamanti, has spread like wildfire across social media. As the popular founder of Un Mundo Sin Mordaza (A World Without Censorship), a network that promotes freedom of expression in Venezuela and around the world, Diamanti is notorious for using methods of nonviolent civil resistance including art, poetry, music, peaceful protests and social media to combat repression. Being the largest Venezuelan nonprofit on social media, it's no wonder his arrest has caused an uproar. Whether that will help him is yet to be seen. His civic activism began years ago as the a founding member of the Venezuela Student Movement, which works for free and fair elections, transparent governance, freedom of expression and association, and reconciliation in Venezuela. Later, Diamanti founded the nonprofit, Futuro Presente, which focuses on the education of young people in public policies.
Diamanti is charismatic, educated, intelligent, ambitious, loyal and resolute. All of these are very complimentary characteristics, so why would a man of this pristine reputation be incarcerated? Very simply, apparently, if you are a Venezuelan opposing the regime of Nicolas Maduro, you are vulnerable to arrest and prosecution -- even if the charges are erroneous. And yes, that is a human rights violation.
Reportedly, charges against Diamanti were not stated at the time of his arrest. He was at the airport preparing to travel when, out of the blue, the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN) placed him under arrest. From the point of engagement, and as they transported him, he had no idea where he was going and why. At the time of my submission of this article, roughly 18 hours later, Diamanti's lawyers still do not have any information from SEBIN on the cause for his arrest and there seems to be no documentation on file ordering his arrest. This instance of arrest without cause should be alarming to every human rights advocate.
Diamanti joins a growing list of notable figures that have been incarcerated for opposing the authoritative regime of Venezuela's President, Nicolas Maduro. What stands out, however, is the fact that Diamanti is not a politician, and was not part of any active protest, two factors of other high profile arrests. He was just traveling as he often does. There's no doubt amongst his peers that he has been targeted for his work to achieve human rights and liberty in Venezuela. If that's the case, Human Rights Watch (HRW) will have to add Diamanti to their already massive list of severe human rights violations. On May 5, 2014, HRW released a 103-page report claiming that, "...security forces have abused the rights of protesters and other people in the vicinity of demonstrations. Security forces have also allowed armed pro-government gangs to attack unarmed civilians, and in some cases openly collaborated with the gangs." THIS IS ALARMING!
With a government establishing new laws at-will or choosing to reinterpret existing laws to suit their agenda, in which they legalize repression upon protestors, limit the right to protest and obligate mayors to repress protests even if they are members of the opposition, it seems reasonable to expect many more human rights violations out of Venezuela.
You can help. Support Diamanti and other prisoners of conscience by sharing their story and extending support via social media. Take a stand against human rights violations, as a member of the international community is encouraging to anyone on the receiving end of this president and his wretched posse.
The only fight that we lose is the one that we abandon.
--Rodrigo Diamanti, Founder of Un Mundo Sin Mordaza