Venezuela is now so polarized that not even our poor judicial system has been immune to politics. Case in point is that of Baruta Mayor Henrique Capriles. The events of the last few weeks have gone something like this:
-Prosecutor Danilo Anderson the star prosecutor for all political cases in the Attorney General’s office, despite the fact that he is an environmental prosecutor, calls Baruta Mayor to testify, as a witness, about the events at the Cuban Embassy in April 2002 when Chavez was briefly overthrown. The prosecutor claims Capriles was later summoned twice as a suspect, but never showed up.
-The prosecutor, via the control Court #40, which is also the once that has been used for political cases, issues an arrest warrant for Capriles.
-Capriles goes into hiding, while his lawyers attempt to get a hold of the file to study the charges against Capriles, they are refused the case file repeatedly. Capriles never turns himself in.
-Two leaders from Primero Justicia, Capriles’ party, are kidnapped and tortured by unknown individuals. They say that during the three days of captivity, they were repeatedly asked to reveal Capriles’ whereabouts.
-Capriles’ lawyers go to the Penal Hall of the Venezuelan Supreme Court. The case is assigned to Justice Alejandro Angulo. Angulo writes a decision reassigning the case to a different control Court but ratifying the arrest order. The decision is turned down by the other two judges of the Hall. The case is reassigned to Justice Blanca Marmol de Leon
-Judge Marmol de Leon, rules today, reassigning the case and suspending the arrest order. The Justice says Capriles had responded to all summons and states the arrest decision should not have proceeded. Moreover, says the Judge, Capriles could have been tried while free since, given his position as Mayor of Baruta, there was no flight risk as claimed by the court and the prosecutor.
-The Attorney General/Prosecutor Isaias Rodriguez, who is sometimes extremely slow to speak out, defend the law or a give opinions, very quickly issues a press release saying that the procedure followed by the Penal Hall of the Supreme Court should not have been followed, because there were no irregularities to correct. He adds that the decision is based on false facts and there was no denial of due process by his Office.
Now, I am definitely not a lawyer to say whether on side is right or not on the detailed legal aspects of the procedures. However, there is something very sinister, in my opinion, about arguing that the Mayor is a flight risk, the fact that it is prosecutor Anderson that is doing the accusations, the fact that the Attorney General is so quick to criticize the Supreme Court on the case and the fact that Capriles’ lawyers have had no access to his case file. This is simply another case in which the opposition thinks Capriles arrest order is politically motivated, but the Government would argue it simply involves a guilty politician.