Not so harmless Cuba - Venezuela legal agreement
24.01.05 | At first glance, the law approving the Agreement on Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters signed by the governments of Venezuela and Cuba seems to be just another conventional cooperation treaty.
On a closer look, however, and reading between the lines, the dire implications of this agreement become apparent. Its contents differ substantially from traditional treaties signed with other countries and leave open the door for bringing to trial anyone resident in Venezuela whom the government of Cuba considers to have committed a crime.
Under this agreement, Venezuela and Cuba undertake to provide assistance to the other party in the area of the prevention, investigation and trying of crimes and in procedures associated with criminal matters. And even though the agreement states that the this is a two-way agreement, it is hard to believe that Fidel Castro will accept Venezuela’s interference in its territory, even if the request comes from his “bosom pal” Hugo Rafael.
The spectrum of powers granted the Ministers of Justice in the two countries -the main authorities responsible for handling matters covered by the agreement- is broad. They can, for example, take declarations; search for or identify individuals; transfer detained persons for them to make declarations or for other reasons; and execute petitions for the search, embargo and preventive withholding of property and for the immobilization of assets. Thus far, everything seems to fall within the normal parameters of any agreement of this kind.
Where it seems that Venezuela’s sovereignty –so vigorously defended by the government coalition in the Granda case- is compromised is in the provision that assistance given Cuba by Venezuela shall be forthcoming no matter the motive of the investigation, trial or procedure requested by Cuba and regardless of whether the matter in question is a crime under Venezuelan law, and vice versa. And again when the agreement emphasizes that private individuals will not be entitled to obtain, eliminate or exclude evidence or prevent a petition for assistance from being carried out. In other words, no one will have the right to object.
In the future, the sight of Cubans accompanying Venezuelan investigators on raids and during the interrogation of people resident in the country, nationals or foreigners, will be nothing out of the ordinary.
And while the agreement provides that, if the person who is being accused is taken to declare in the territory of the other party, this must be voluntary and with his or her full consent, it also leaves open the possibility of extradition. It is somewhat suspicious that the National Assembly ratified this agreement nearly six years after it was signed and makes one think that now there might be some special reasons for doing so. Could one of them be retaliation against the people who were present at the Cuban Embassy on April 12, 2002? Time will tell.
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