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Henrique Capriles Radonski: Anderson's Prisoner.

By Oscar Medina, El Universal

It was a moment of chaos. One part of the country thought that a new day was dawning, and the other saw their idol overthrown and accepting to leave them unprotected. Listening to the hasty announcement of General Lucas Rincón, then general inspector of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, it became clear that there was no longer President Hugo Chávez.

A group of excited demonstrator, including frenzied anti-Castro activists, insisted that members of the fallen government were hiding in the Cuban Embassy in Caracas. And they run to the diplomatic mission with unclear intentions. Did they want to execute them following the code of barbarism? They shouted, wrote insulting graffitis, cut electricity wires and hit the official cars of the embassy.

His Excellency Germán Sánchez Otero feared for this security and that of his subordinates. Who might help them? His telephone then rang and he heard the voice of a Nordic ambassador expressing him solidarity and offering his family connection to contact the municipal authority, Mayor Henrique Capriles Radonski.

The aides of the young mayor have confirmed that this diplomat called Capriles and transmitted him Sanchez' fears and call for help. They also say that the tape recorded by the television channel Televen's reporters that day show the Cuban ambassador speaking again with his Nordic colleague, explaining to him that the bad moment is about to end and thanking him for his concern.

Obviously, if a trial against Capriles takes place, it would be unlikely that any of the parties call Sánchez as a witness. The process to legally take his declaration is complicated enough to persuade anyone not to try in the first place. Let alone the mutual oil interests involved.

Mayor Capriles in fact went to the Cuban Embassy on April 12, 2002, and managed to talk to Ambassador Sánchez - unduly requiring him to demonstrate that no Venezuelan citizen had taken refuge in the house. Capriles also tried to calm down the furious demonstrators. He was shown in television using a ladder to enter the ambassador's house. Sánchez himself revealed in the colourful saga published by Venezuela's estate news agency Venpres that he himself had ordered one of his collaborator, named Elio Perera, to offer a ladder to the mayor and other visitors, including the Metropolitan Police Department's Director Henry Vivas. Cuba's President Fidel Castro had given precise instructions to do it in this peculiar way.

Although a television team taped it, accounts on the encounter are rather conflicting. What seemed to be an invitation to solve a threatening situation later turned into accusations that have sent Capriles to the cells of the Venezuelan Intelligence Services Direction (Disip), thanks to the determination of Prosecutor Danilo Anderson.

Juan Martín Echeverría, one of the lawyers defending Capriles, explained that Anderson's accusation was based on a complaint filed by an official of the Cuban Embassy. "The regular (proceeding) is to file the complaint before the Attorney General's Office," Echeverría said, "but this one was filed directly to Anderson, who at that moment was not in this case."

Anderson, the lawyer said, cited the complaint submitted by Mario Fontanillas, identified with the diplomatic card number 651-94, and a report on the event signed by Ambassador Sánchez and addressed to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry. "The weird thing is that none of these documents mentions Capriles. No official has until now offered the investigators any document naming Capriles." Echeverría said.

Pure logic

Anderson, a national-reach prosecutor in environmental legislation, first summoned Capriles as a witness on October 15, 2002. This status was soon changed to an accusation for the events outside the embassy. But what are the charges? And why is Capriles still in prison?

Echeverría answered the second question: "The government's order is to keep him under arrest." However, the first one demands a long answer. He has been accused of violating international principles, illegitimate deprival of freedom, private violence, housebreaking by an official, public intimidation and damages. Anderson was initially accusing Capriles of attempting against a foreign head of state, but he finally dismissed it, as it was obvious that President Castro was not in the Cuban Embassy in Caracas that day.

In plain terms, the accusation states that Capriles "failed to create a security mechanism to protect the diplomatic mission." It also says that his statements, "which were not appropriate for an official, allowed violence to continue developing."

In other words, it is a sort of guilt for omission. It, additionally, points out that the mayor's goal when entering the embassy was to search the house for hidden supporters of then former President Chávez.

The defense argues that the acts investigated "do not have a criminal character." There is no rule obliging the mayors of Caracas to protect diplomatic missions, and, therefore, Capriles did not violate any norm. That is an obligation of the government, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Echeverría, however, indicated that in criminal law, all crimes are judged based on action rather than on omission, and they must be stipulated by a juridical norm that interprets them as such.

Translated by Edgardo Malaver

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