Friday, February 14, 2014

Who Killed Felix Ortega?

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Author's Note: Student protests in Venezuela continue the cycle of death and the destruction of a society. They remind me that one day, God will call to account those who so callously cling to power at any price, and sacrifice everyone else to their own ambition. There will be a day of reckoning. At the same time, believers are called to pray—and always to stand up for truth and righteousness.

In the house hugging the foot of the Avila,* the conversation was subdued. The walls had ears.

“Felix has got to go. There are 400 names on his list and ours are among them.” The man slouched on the sofa looked worried.

“Be reasonable,” said another. “Montero got away—jogged away from his secret service minders right into an embassy where he could be sure of being granted asylum. We could easily do the same.”

“They will be more careful now. The leader of our movement walking away from house arrest in the plain light of day embarrassed them,” added a third conspirator.

“It’s only temporary. They will get someone to replace him,” suggested a fourth companion, adding: “We can only hope he’ll be less diligent.”

The subject of the clandestine meeting was state prosecutor, Felix Ortega.** Two years after what many considered a failed coup d’etat, Ortega was working his way through the list of supposed participants. At 38, he was a rising star on the political scene. His success and his public profile had become a threat to many.

Not far away, in an opulent reception room of the official residence of the president of the republic, others were having a similar conversation for different reasons.

“He’s got to go. He knows too much,” insisted the Minister of Justice.

“He’s fair,” said another.

“That’s the problem. Being fair means he is not necessarily going to be loyal to the revolution.”

“So, replace him.”

“No good. To fire him will throw him, and all he knows, into the arms of the opposition.”

Ortega had arrested members of the Metropolitan police, who had been accused of shooting and killing civilians during the march on the presidential palace that began the failed attempt to overthrow the government. He was also investigating the popular mayor of one of capitol’s satellite cities, implicated in the bombing of several embassies. Felix Ortega was tightening the noose around several necks.

In the house, plans were made.

“He has bodyguards. It will be hard to get to him.”

“If we were talking about a gunman, maybe. But a bomb is another thing. He’s taking a graduate course at night. They will guard him, but perhaps not his SUV.”

“Remote controlled?”

“Yes. He is most vulnerable on his way home from the university.”

In the presidential palace, other reasons for Ortega’s demise came to the forefront.

“The commandant wants it done,” said the president’s right hand man. “You know how he hates anyone to get more press than he does …”

“…or be more popular…,” interjected another.

A sharp glance from his companions silenced him. Even here, the walls had ears. They all looked around somewhat nervously as if expecting the Presidential Guard to rush in upon them.

“C-4 will do the job. There will be plenty of opportunity. He’s told us himself that he always dismisses his bodyguards when he goes to class,” said a minister.

One of the men chuckled. “We can always blame it on the opposition—or the CIA. He’ll make a handsome martyr for the revolution.”

On the night of November 18, 2004, a yellow Toyota SUV cruised through the darkened streets of the city. Just five minutes after the vehicle had left the university parking lot, two explosions ripped through the thin black fabric of the night. The car, consumed by flames, continued its forward momentum until it eventually crashed into a store.

Felix Ortega’s death is fact, as are some of the details in this story. The names and faces behind his death remain a controversy. Arrests were quickly made, but few are convinced that the real killers were found. The truth is that jealousy, fear, and lust for power killed Ortega. His death represents only one of many that God will charge to the account of the ambitious men behind the political turmoil that has marked this South American nation over the last ten years.

Paul’s admonition to Timothy is a constant reminder that unless those who rule come to faith, there will be no peace for anyone—including believers.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

*Part of the Andes mountain range
**Names have been changed.

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