On the evening of June 22, as Venezuela teetered on the brink of collapse, a small group of opposition activists met to discuss strategy in an upscale apartment in the leafy Altamira neighborhood of Caracas.
Among them was a bespectacled engineer named Roberto Picon Herrera, a well-known pro-democracy activist and nephew of iconic New York fashion designer Carolina Herrera.
As members of the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democratica coalition began to plan their role in daily demonstrations to protest recent election fraud, spiraling crime rates and triple-digit inflation in a country where many were now scrounging for food, a group of 30 heavily armed military police in riot gear burst through the door.
Their main target was Picon, who was not a member of any political party but a civic-minded engineer working to devise systems that would ensure free and transparent voting in what many feared would be an upcoming sham election by an increasingly authoritarian regime.
Picon was hauled off by AK-47-wielding troops, their faces obscured by black-knit balaclavas, to a notorious military jail in the center of Caracas where he was held in a communal bathroom cell for weeks.
Picon is the second member of the Herrera family victimized by the political and economic chaos that is sweeping Venezuela — a desperate situation that has mired the socialist country in daily violence and left many of its citizens to endure crushing poverty. Now, the normally discreet and reticent Herreras, bastions of New York society, are speaking up. And their outcry has coincided with a series of unprecedented measures directed at Venezuela from President Trump.
According to Venezuela’s authoritarian leaders, Picon, 56, is guilty of treason. Now the father of four is among nearly 500 political prisoners who’ve been rounded up by Venezuela’s unpopular socialist regime as it struggles to hold on to power.
In his regular weekly address to the nation, Venezuelan president Nicolas…