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The Sumate Trial: Chavez’s Coming-Out Party

By Pedro Camargo

10.02.06 | There is only one thing left for Venezuelans to do next week: silent, dignified public protests in support of the symbol of Venezuela’s raped judicial system, the heart of that country, as symbolized in the phony court proceedings against Maria Corina Machado and her Sumate colleagues. Concurrent with the February 14 Sumate judgment, far better to celebrate Cupid’s arrow in solidarity with innocent victims than the Miraflores Palace love fest being planned.

As is well known now, Maria Corina is innocent of all charges. She is trapped in Chavez’s kangaroo court with false crimes charged against her and worse yet: horrific, hard prison time facing her next week over... no crimes whatsoever. She is innocent.

Maria Corina has been baited this past week: urged to flee from her country. She has not done this although she knows this trial is a mockery. She is innocent of all charges and she stands to defend herself. She will be denied this opportunity. There will be no fair verdict for this innocent woman and nothing remotely resembling justice in Caracas.

Maria Corina knows very well that many foolish mis-steps have led her to this gallows moment and she faces decades of hard prison time:

- weak legal teams for Sumate’s defense, struggling with internal missteps in a lawless place where rule of law was abandoned long ago;

- profound, specious paid propaganda by Chavez to slander and libel the Sumate group as treasonous criminals;

- non-existent real-time support from Sumate’s `partners’: US AID’s Adolfo Franco and NED (who have typically delivered only late and tepid support, hanging these free election advocates from Sumate out to dry -ineffectively scrambling to inform us that they are worried; forgetting that they too failed to grasp the non-democratic, lawlessness of Caracas these days);

- and pre-trial media denouncements from over-paid Chavez hacks who claim the most obvious visual symbol of the Sumate group, Maria Corina is guilty because she is educated, well-spoken, stylish, attractive and worse yet -had a photo op with Bush (as have tens of thousands).

This is not a question of whether one likes or does not like this woman, this is a problem about integrity and the fate of a nation. It is not, as currently said by Chavez’s hacks, a problem of Maria Corina’s fashions but is about an innocent life, whose own government seeks to snuff out its very life to satisfy rigid state controls.

These reprehensible missteps are not the reason that Maria Corina Machado faces a prison sentence. The sole reason Maria Corina faces prison is simply that she is being used by Hugo Chavez in this profoundly dirty little theatre: Chavez, the megalomaniac, is using her to exhibit his own coming of age as a dictator. This is, as usual in Caracas these days, all about Chavez and has nothing to do with the facts, with justice or reality. This is Chavez’s personal litmus test. By all accounts, Chavez will come out of the closet next week, fully revealing himself in all his newfound glory, wearing the mantle of totalitarian governments the world over. There is no analysis of the Sumate trial that could not possibly render this fact: Chavez will, in one symbolic, albeit criminal, gesture, pronounce his reign of terror and his neo-dictatorial domain.

We encourage all who stand for democracy to rise next week and walk. That is the only tool the Venezuelans have left. This was never about Sumate. This was always about Hugo Chavez. He does not want to be denied his coming-out party. Chavez has invited his paid hacks to prepare for the upcoming party with the current flood of cheesey dis-information papers about Sumate. These efforts insult our intelligence and offend us with their denial of facts. But this was never about justice. It was always about Chavez and his need to finally prove himself as Latin America’s new strong man. And with the rendering of any `guilty’ verdict against Sumate, Chavez will claim his crown, exposing his dominion over the law, Venezuela’s economic structures, the military, the congress and all governmental entities. Chavez’s impotent wrath will be potent on that day and his need to expose himself, final.

Chavez’s self-exposure next week is a prurient event which would best be avoided. The courts could save face and suspend verdicts. Better yet, the Venezuelan courts could exercise a modicum of justice and declare a miscarriage of justice, which would be appropriate. It will take a miracle to see justice carried forward in Venezuela on Valentine’s Day. Judicial integrity, democracy and liberty itself have been subverted in Venezuela today. Chavez’s self-serving need to rule with complete totality in a dictatorship will be out of the closet and proclaimed if one iota of injustice or harm comes to the Sumate group.

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