Ronald Ojeda
Ronald Ojeda Ronald Ojeda

The kidnapping of a Venezuelan dissident in Chile this week has caused commotion in Latin America, as members of the Venezuelan opposition claimed that the Maduro government is behind it, violating another country's sovereignty to crack down on its political rivals.

The person in question is Ronald Ojeda Moreno, a former member of the Venezuelan army who defected and denounced Maduro. He was kidnapped on Wednesday by a group of people pretending to be members of the Chilean police and his whereabouts are unknown ever since.

A Chilean prosecutor's office opened an investigation, which is still under secrecy, and the government has become a plaintiff, signaling its interest in finding out what happened. However, it has so far avoided to draw any conclusions: "There was effectively a kidnapping of a Venezuelan citizen," said Chile's Deputy Secretary of Interior, Manuel Monsalve.

Asked about the potential reasons for the kidnapping, he said "it's still early to draw any conclusions," but that the government "does not rule out any hypothesis." However, he also revealed that the Gabriel Boric administration ordered all border checkpoints be reinforced upon the possibility that Ojeda is removed from the country. It also requested collaboration from Interpol.

Members of the Venezuelan opposition said that Ojeda had already been taken to Caracas, something that could not be officially verified. They back up their claims pointing to the fact that his name was on a list published in late January along with other ex military members who, according to the Venezuelan government, were "involved in conspiracies" aimed at assassinating president Nicolás Maduro.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will visit China
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro AFP

The plot, which the government says was dubbed "white bracelet," is the same one for which it arrested human rights activist Rocío San Miguel earlier this month. The decision catalyzed even more political turmoil, as Maduro expelled a United Nations mission from the country after it voiced concern about it and said that its "wave of repression" was against international law. The Biden administration has also condemned the detention and urged the administration to immediately release the activist.

Ojeda was arrested by the Maduro government in 2017. Back then, he was accused along with three other military members of being involved in "conspiratorial acts and the planning of terrorist actions." They were formally accused of rebellion, mutiny and treason.

Ojeda escaped in November 2017 while being transported and, once safe, said he had been subjected to torture while in prison. He left for Chile shortly after and has been advocating against Maduro ever since. The Chilean government granted him political asylum in 2023.

According to Infobae, José Rodríguez, a fellow activist of Ojeda's published security footage from the building from which he was abducted and described the events. "Lieutenant Ojeda was resting with his family when a group of people pretending to be Chilean immigration police entered the building. Its security guard let them through, thinking they were indeed police," he said.

Rodríguez added that the kidnappers had chainsaws, hammers and other tools to take down the door in case Ojeda didn't open it. Once in the apartment, his family was threatened and Ojeda was stripped and taken. "Until then they thought it was immigration police, but after checking they corroborated that there was no warrant against him," added Rodríguez.

Even though there is no conclusive evidence yet, Venezuelan opposition party Voluntad Popular accused the Maduro government of orchestrating the kidnapping and of "using the sovereign territory of other states to conduct espionage and attack Venezuelans."

"For years we have denounced that they are danger for the continent's security. Ojeda's disappearance takes the situation to a new level, endangering Venezuelan dissidents even outside the country," wrote the party in an X post.

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