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Venezuela: The macabre trilogy

By Veneconomy

05.02.05 | Criminalizing dissidence, weakening civil society, and restricting the freedom of expression are the three prongs of the attack mounted by the Chávez administration to consolidate its power. The term “macabre trilogy” coined by Andrés Raúl Páez, the lawyer who is defending Tulio Álvarez, synthesizes the countless aggressions perpetrated in these areas in order to take control of the entire country. Two events this week have served to confirm that what in other countries is called dictatorship prevails in Venezuela.

The first is the case of Tulio Álvarez, who has been accused on charges of libel and slander by MVR deputy Willian Lara. Apart from the fact that, in the opinion of acknowledged legal experts, this case has no legal grounds, it has been conducted riding roughshod over the defendant’s rights and with patently political intentions. Another legal outrage was the arrest of José Rafael García, former president of the savings fund of the defunct National Congress and one of the witnesses appearing in Álvarez’ defense. Lara’s lawyer, Esther Biggot, interrupted García’s declaration before the court and accused him of lying. Immediately, and without attempting to find out whether the accusation was true, the judge ordered García’s arrest, so violating his right to defend himself. This is a clear message for other witnesses in this and other cases in which the regime has a vested interest.

The second and even more serious occurrence, if that were possible, was the indefinite suspension of the judges of Chamber 10 of the Court of Appeals on the order of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice’s the Judicial Committee chaired by the recently-appointed justice, Luis Velásquez Alvaray. Chamber 10 had revoked the order forbidding 27 of the people who signed the Carmona decree from leaving the country for the logical reason that there were no legal grounds for such an order, something that was confirmed by the Judicial Committee itself when, in the same order, it also suspended Control Judge 25 Josefina Gómez Sosa for having issued the prohibition order in the first place “without sufficient grounds.” This poses two questions: If the judges who revoked the prohibition order were right, why are they being punished? And, even more important, what are the implications of this decision for those people who signed the Carmona decree?

Everything indicates that, as Omar Mora Díaz -recently sworn-in president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice- warned, the “purge in the system of justice is not mere rhetoric.”

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