The Fugitive

Patricia Poleo, a Venezuelan journalist and political activist, is accused of murder. She's in exile in Miami.

Helena Poleo, who is in Miami by choice, says both she and their father lobbied for Patricia's departure. They are sure she would have remained in jail had she stayed. "The destiny of an effective resistance is exile or hiding," Rafael Poleo told Venezuelan newspaper El Universal after she was charged. "I don't want for Patricia to be like Mandela; I want her to be like Betancourt," a reference to Rómulo Betancourt, often called "the father of Venezuelan democracy," who spent much of the 1950s in exile.

But Helena says the separation has hit their father particularly hard. "He is a big influence on her, and she is very, very close to him," Helena says of Patricia. "Everything that happens to her affects him. It was like hitting two birds with one stone."

Poleo has accepted that she will remain in South Florida for a while, and recently moved her family from an apartment to a house. (She asked that the location not be disclosed.) On a recent weeknight, she could be found there, cooking up a hasty dinner amid still-unpacked boxes, her somewhat aggressively friendly cat demanding attention from visitors helping with the move. Poleo dragged out three large filing boxes filled with scrapbooks of Venezuelan newspaper articles documenting the course of a career's worth of confrontation with the government.

Some media analysts believe that Poleo's role as an 
opposition activist harms her reputation as a journalist. She 
contends politics is behind the accusations against her
Jacqueline Carini
Some media analysts believe that Poleo's role as an opposition activist harms her reputation as a journalist. She contends politics is behind the accusations against her
A spook in every attic: The government's sole witness 
against Poleo was a convicted con artist with a fake 
degree in psychiatry from Johns Hopkins University. He 
claimed she cooperated with the usual suspects of Latin 
American political conspiracies — the CIA, the FBI, and 
Cuban exiles in Miami
NEWSCOM
A spook in every attic: The government's sole witness against Poleo was a convicted con artist with a fake degree in psychiatry from Johns Hopkins University. He claimed she cooperated with the usual suspects of Latin American political conspiracies — the CIA, the FBI, and Cuban exiles in Miami

If there is a positive aspect to living in Miami, she believes it is drawing attention to her country's situation. In addition to still publishing her daily column in Venezuela, she appears often in the local Spanish-language media, most notably during the expatriate vote at the Orange Bowl during the December 3 elections. Poleo denounced the election as fraudulent. She contends that it is not the voting itself but the list of registered voters that has been tampered with. Chávez was re-elected by a two-to-one margin that day.

Following reinauguration, Chávez declared the end of the "transition period" of his socialist program. In recent weeks he has actively consolidated power: nationalizing key industries, asking the national assembly to let him make laws by decree for one year, and appointing his brother to overhaul the public education system. He has created the Ministry of "the Popular Power for Participation and Social Development" to oversee the creation of "communal councils" and the construction of new, planned "socialist cities" in the Venezuelan interior. Many of the members of the opposition believe that after RCTV's broadcast license is revoked this spring, Globovisión, another anti-Chávez network, will be shut down too.

Given the circumstances, many Venezuelans understand why Poleo would remain in Florida rather than attempt a legal battle. "The courts in Venezuela really have no independence," says Venezuelan media analyst Andrés Cañizález. "And then there are the conditions of incarceration: Venezuela's jails are the most violent of Latin America. To be in jail in Venezuela is to really put your life at risk, especially if you are a person of her social class." And Poleo also had her daughter to consider.

Poleo says she believes that Venezuelans have been backed against a wall. When asked how she feels about the possibility of violence to overthrow the government, Poleo reluctantly admits that it might be the only way to make change. "I would do what it takes," she says. "I know the country does not want the type of government they are imposing. If I were sure that it was a majority decision and that the Venezuelan people want to live this way, that they want the Cuban model, I would stay here quietly in this country and I would accept that this is what my compatriots want and I would have to take it. But it is not that way."

After so many promises, speeches, and recriminations, Anderson's murder remains unsolved. According to Cañizález, that is just the way things go in his country. "In Venezuela there is sometimes a great deal of scandal, and then it passes and people forget and lose interest and move on to other issues. What happened with the Anderson case is something like that."

For now Poleo can only hope that her compatriots will not forget about Danilo Anderson. If they lose interest, the case will remain unsolved. Without exoneration, Poleo must remain in exile, waiting and watching — for political winds to shift; for a country to change its collective mind; for the government of one man to topple.

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