On February 21, 2017, authorities reportedly detained Professor Santiago Guevara of the University of Carabobo in apparent retaliation for opinion pieces he had recently written in a Spanish newspaper. On February 23, Professor Guevara was charged with a series of national security-related crimes.
Professor Guevara is a 65-year-old economist who has taught at the University of Carabobo’s Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences for 42 years, focusing on economic development and forecasting. In addition to his scholarship, Professor Guevara has led economic development projects in Venezuela, and has frequently commented in the media on the current administration’s economic policies.
On February 21, 2017, officers from the Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) reportedly visited Professor Guevara at his home in Valencia, where they served him with a summons instructing him to report to the DGCIM. Professor Guevara did so voluntarily later that evening, and was taken into custody. On February 23, he was reportedly brought before a military court and charged with “treason,” “incitement to rebellion,” and crimes against the “security and independence of the nation.” While the evidentiary basis for the charges has not been disclosed, Professor Guevara’s colleagues allege that his arrest was a response to his recent publications, and that DGCIM officers have questioned him specifically about articles commenting on economic conditions and political unrest in Venezuela.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest of a scholar in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom and freedom of expression — conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Venezuela is a party. Arrests aimed at limiting an academic’s expression undermine academic freedom and society generally. State authorities have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression, due process, and fair trial.