[News] Few or no advances in the Venezuelan judicial system
News at freedomarchives.org
News at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 26 08:27:39 EST 2004
Carlos Herrera: Few or no advances in the Venezuelan judicial system
VHeadline.com commentarist Carlos Herrera writes: It is well known that
there are no "white collar criminals" behind bars in Venezuela and that the
prisons are populated by ranks of the poor, unfortunate enough to have got
involved in criminal activity.
Since the instauration of democracy at the end of the 1960s, there has
literally been one law for the rich and another one for the poor.
In this case, the rich somehow never get condemned and the poor are sent
"down the river" for crimes from murder to petty offenses, to experience
institutional prison life which is still the shame of Venezuelan society,
due to the inhuman conditions in almost all of the penitentiaries. Since
the beginning of the 5th Republic in 1999 after the approval in national
referendum of the Bolivarian Constitution, little has changed.
Embezzlers, bankers, tax evaders, smugglers and other dishonest individuals
are still enjoying their liberty and the whole corrupt state apparatus
inherited from the IV Republic is still intact.
No high profile citizens who were involved in the April 2002 coup d'etat,
without mentioning the national strike and sabotage of ports and the oil
industry, have even gone to trial so far.
* All the cases pending are in the Attorney General's Office and are
being processed at less than a snail's pace, since many State Prosecutors
did not want to take on high profile cases.
Only the late Danilo Anderson had the courage to stand up and be counted in
terms of implementing justice in Venezuela, by pursuing the criminals who
signed Carmona's decree on April 12, 2002 ... and we all know what befell
to him at 9:45 p.m. on November 18.
This vulgar impunity has its historical roots as explained above, and was
fuelled by the habit of bribe taking by the State Prosecutors and the
judges themselves, so that the corrupt paid off the public servants with
money stolen form the government coffers, in the first place, and for which
they were being investigated.
It is almost impossible to have a more incestuous and ironical situation
... with the result that the "endemic corruption" has always been
Some consequences of impunity:
The decision of August 14, 2002, by the Supreme Tribunal by 11 versus 9
votes ratifying that there was not a coup d'etat ... but a "power vacuum"
... and that Chavez' captors were in fact protecting him ,and the leading
coup generals were "acting with good intentions" caused riots in Caracas.
* Despite lack of hard evidence, there is good reason to suppose that
at least one of the judges of the Supreme Tribunal was bribed, since
leading opposition figures were recorded in a telephone conversation
talking about giving the judge in question a "toquecito" -- a little nudge.
This sort of "deal" was always par for the course in Venezuela ... and even
more so since Chavez' ex right hand man and veteran political operator,
Luis Miquelena -- now one of Chavez' arch enemies -- was responsible for
the recommendations of judges for high posts in the judiciary ... before he
abandoned the Bolivarian project and went over to the opposition side in
This decision laid the ground for all the destabilization for the rest of
2002 and 2003, since it gave the coup mongers a legal basis upon which to
continue their quest to overthrow the government, as they could not be
easily indicted for the original crime of plotting Chavez' demise.
Many State Prosecutors supported the destitution of Chavez and publicly
expressed their support for this anti-Constitutional action, before his
return to power within 47 hours by a combined effort of the people and the
The "go slow" in dealing with emblematic and high profile cases is part of
the inefficiency which Chavez wants to address in this next phase of the
What could happen
The well-known Constitutional lawyer Carlos Escarra stated in an interview
on Vive TV on Monday, November 22, that 90% of the judges are not doing
their jobs (i.e. upholding justice) and the 10% that are functioning, are
still doing a bad job.
Escarra is a candidate for the enlarged Supreme Tribunal from 20 judges to
32 ... and this reform of the judicial system is starting at the top, in
the expectation that the "vacuum of power and no coup d'etat" decision will
eventually be reconsidered, and followed by a "clean out" of 90% of the
judges evaluated as incompetent or corrupt.
Escarra also commented that if the system did not change so as to
administer justice equitably, then a situation could arise where the
populace begins to take justice into its own hands.
Chavez has said on innumerable occasions that. under the new Constitution
"no-one is untouchable" .. but these words have so far fallen on deaf ears
in the circles of the existing judiciary.
Drastic changes have to be made ... and fairly quickly.
The widespread impunity propelled along by the inefficiency and obstruction
by many State Prosecutors ... and backed up by the judges themselves ...
has been a guarantee that no-one has been sent to prison so far.
High profile criminals and fugitives from justice such as Carmona himself,
Carlos Ortega, Carlos Fernandez, Molina Tamayo, Orlando Urdaneta, Rafael
Marin have left the country.
Extradition proceedings many take up to five years.
The leaders of the sabotage of the oil industry Juan Fernandez and Horacio
Medina were summoned to court, but had their cases thrown out by the
judges, due to the incompetent or deliberately poor preparation of the
charges against them by the State Prosecutors responsible.
The 18,000 PDVSA middle mangers and executives who abandoned their posts in
December 2002 may have lost their jobs ... but so far no legal action has
been taken for sabotaging computer systems by changing or deleting
passwords (for example) and the resulting billion dollar losses suffered by
The directors of Sumate are being processed for conspiracy, receiving
foreign funding to finance their activities and electoral fraud.
At the same time the judicial system is being pressured by comments from US
politicians and representatives from the US State Department meddling in
internal Venezuelan affairs, so as to taint these cases as being "political
prosecutions," and the point out danger of members of civil society being
treated as "political prisoners" -- such as the convicted coup mongers in
There is a long road ahead to surgically remove these vices from the
Venezuelan judicial system. Impunity effectively demoralizes the population
supporting the Bolivarian revolution, the great majority of whom are still
poor and see the shenanigans of the wealthy and corrupt as an affront to
their revolution, as judges somehow never seem to convict anyone who has
money or position in society ... no matter what they are accused of.
* In the poor areas there are very often lynchings of local thugs,
rapists and thieves as the population knows that the chance of these
antisocial elements being punished is slim, to say the least.
Thus, justice is administered by the "mob."
Let us hope that the opinions expressed by Carlos Escarra do not become
reality with "popular justice " being administered by the population ... as
recently happened in Peru when one Mayor (accused of corruption) was killed
by the fury of mob law ... and a second one suffered a similar fate two
<mailto:Carlos.Herrera at VHeadline.com>Carlos.Herrera at VHeadline.com
Venezuelan grass roots activist Carlos Herrera works with the local
population with the aim of organizing direct action to develop projects
that will benefit the community, with the added objective of forcing home
the message of participative democracy.
These activities are complemented by meetings and forums designed to make
the average citizen more conscious of his rights, duties and role in
contemporary Venezuelan society.
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