By Daisy Galaviz.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho.
Seven months have passed since Gerardo Jose Coticchia Guerra, a baseball coach from the town of Santa Ana de Moron, located in the state of Carabobo, was picked up by Maduro regime officers, accused of being in on Operacion Gedeon (Operation Gideon), a failed coup attempt against Maduro.
On April 20, the 29-year-old was detained by officials of the General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence (Dgcim) while he was staying at the Hotel La Cascada in Los Teques, 20 minutes out of Caracas.
That was two weeks before May 3, when the regime started giving confusing reports of sea landings, shootouts, and mercenaries tied to Operation Gideon. The Maduro regime tried to pin the fiasco on the opposition but has so far been unable to. The initiative ended with six murdered and a score of detainees.
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Among them was Coticchia, linked to yet another attempted uprising and weapons theft that took place at the 441st National Guard Detachment in Los Teques on April 20, 13 days before the events in Macuto. It was around this time that regime sources started rumors about sea landings as part of a coup to unseat Maduro.
His mother, Betty Garcia, denies any link between her son and the attempted coup against Nicolas Maduro. She explained that her son traveled from Carabobo to the state of Miranda because he is a sports coach and has two baseball academies in Moron.
“My son traveled to see some prospects (players) for his team. He did not carry any weapons or anything. He was asleep in his hotel room. He was with another coach, who also has an academy, but in Puerto Cabello,” he said.
For the events at Puerta Morocha, besides coach Cottichia, were detained Captain Dimas Omar Murillo, a commander of the First Company of Detachment 441 and who allegedly led the insubordination attempt, Ronnie Adelso Olivares, Richard Rafael Aleman, and Junior Jose Ojeda. Aleman and the coach are baseball buddies.
“When my daughter-in-law and I found out that Gerardo got taken, they stole our breath. Days and days passed, and we knew nothing about him. After investigating and inquiring, they told us that he was at the Dgcim headquarters in Caracas. Then, we confirmed his arrest, exactly on May 8, when Prosecutor Tareck William Saab mentioned him and said that he had participated in Operation Gideon, but that is completely false,” narrated Betty Garcia.
The Public Ministry charged coach Cottichia with the crimes of conspiracy with a foreign government, terrorism, treason to the Homeland, rebellion, traffic of heavy weaponry, financing of terrorism, and association to commit crimes. After spending two months in detention, he was allowed to communicate with his family and, although he thought that after the preliminary hearing, the authorities would release him, due to lack of evidence, the judge in charge of his case left him in prison.
“It is has been five months since my boy was arresting, and we have not been able to see him. He passed the prelims stage and hast not released. We have only heard from him in a few phone calls that are no longer than three minutes,” she says.
Authorities forced the coach into accepting public defense, a common practice that has been denounced by human-rights NGO. Prisoners complain that public defense attorney often persuades them to plead guilty to obtain a shorter sentence and avoid torture. Cottichia asked for a private lawyer, but he got a public one against his will.
“And they did not find anything on him anyway, just two gloves and a ball. But he is still in jail, he is still in jail,” Mrs. Betty Garcia said, her voice breaking. They ask for his release arguing there is no evidence to support his participation in the armed insurrection.
Coticchia has always lived in the town of Santa Ana de Moron and, together with his wife, formed a family of four children. Besides being a sportsman, he is a musician and a cultural activist in the municipality of Juan Jose Mora.