Archive for December 26th, 2002

COFAVIC and Human Rights in Venezuela: Not a pretty Picture

December 26, 2002

COFAVIC, created to investigate human rights violations in Venezuela after the “Caracazo” in 1989 has in time become the Venezuelan Human Rights organization with the best reputation for seriousness and integrity. Today COFAVIC issued its yearly report. Here I present some highlights of the full report for those that don’t know me and may think that when I say the Chavez administration has become illegitimate, I am saying it as some sort of opposition fanatic with no ability to be  impartial. It is interesting that Hugo Chavez himself spent many years praising COFAVIC for its work, until the organization criticized his Government for the first time. These are some of the highlights:

-COFAVIC received this year 120 accusations of which it has assumed 62 because it considers them to be relatively grave violations to fundamental rights. They have systematic information that indicates the presence of paramilitary groups in four states who act with impunity in committing crimes.

-COFAVIC believes that that the state of law has progressively weakened in a serious manner. It blames this partially in the lack of independence of certain crucial institutions like the Attorney General, the People’s Defender, the Comptroller’s office and the judicial power. COFAVIC believes these institutions have been the subject of interference by the Executive Power, which distorts and pressures initial phases of police and judicial investigations.

-Impunity has deepened with systematic and ironclad protection for those that violate human rights. Examples include the lack of concrete results about the events of April, the persecution of reporters, human rights defenders and the continuous threats by paramilitary groups in nine states of the country.

-There have been judicial decisions at the First Circuit Court level that have generated a regressive jurisprudence for the protection of human rights which limits the validity of a state of law. It cites the sentences over the conflict over the metropolitan police and the injunction against the oil industry. According to the first one, says COFAVIC, any branch of the Armed Forces could assume police duties and according to the second one, because of its ambiguity, it may produce interpretations that go against individual freedoms, such as detention without orders or forced labor. COFAVIC says there are some rights that can never be suspended, not even in war and some of these decisions imply they can be suspended.

-During December the Government has been executing illegal and arbitrary detentions which violate due process and judicial protection, all of which are guaranteed by the main international instruments subscribed and ratified by the Republic

-During the third quarter, attacks against reporters have become more acute. This includes the attack suffered by Luis Alfonso Fernandez, in favor of whom the CIDH has issued a precautionary measure.

-Crimes have been committed against civilians which have enjoyed impunity and have been executed under the mode of political violence. Examples are the events of November 4th (when the petition to the referendum was handed in) and the Altamira assasination of December 6th.

-During the last quarter, peaceful demonstrations have been repressed with a disproportionate use of public force, not one person has been punished for these. This includes victims of police violence and illegal detentions.

-The Interamerican Commission on Human Rights has issued twelve precautionary orders to Project rights The Venezuelan Government has not fulfilled its obligations, has not given protection to the victims. In one case, a reporter with a precautionary measure in his favor was detained arbitrarily and ahs been threatened. Moreover, the sentence by this Court on the Caracazo forces Venezuela to adjust its operating planes to deal with demonstrations and protest, a decision which ahs been disobeyed by the Venezuelan Government.

– There is increasing political intolerance which ahs degenerated in grave acts of violence. Nobody should repudiate anybody for his political beliefs and COFAVIC asks that hostilities cease against families that hold political beliefs different than their neighbors.

COFAVIC closes by saying: “Because of all of the above, we firmly urge the Venezuelan Government to frame its actions and policies within the principles and obligations contained in the main international instruments for the protection of human rights as the fundamental base for a regime of public liberties. The respect and guarantees of these rights constitute an indivisible and unavoidable obligation for democratic states. Moreover, we encourage all sectors of society to promote a climate of tolerance and friendship, respecting political diversity and action according to the parameters offered by our Constitution and a democratic regimen in general.  

Reading this justifies all the work I have put in into my weblog

Why we don’t want to wait for the recall referendum

December 26, 2002

The most frequent comment I receive about the Venezuelan situation, both by e-mail and comments within the weblog, is why can’t we just follow the Constitution and wait until August recall referendum. If the answer came from the heart, I would say I just don’t believe the Government will ever allow that referendum to take place, but I just can’t prove that. What I can do is describe the many reasons why I believe this is an illegitimate Government and we need to have Hugo Chavez either resign or hold early elections, by describing the options that exist, the ones that have been tried and why we stand today where we are (Most of this material is in the blog):

Referendum: The Venezuelan Constitution allows for a referendum whenever 10% of the electorate petitions to have a question posed. On Nov. 4th. the electoral commission was presented with signatures from 16.5 of the electorate asking for a non-binding referendum on the question “Do you agree that President Hugo Chavez should resign from his position?”. While some people don’t seem to understand why we would want to ask him that, if it is non-binding, the reason is simple, Hugo Chavez claims to be the leader of a “revolution” by popular mandate. First of all, he never had a mandate for such a revolution, people wanted change, justice, an end to corruption, prosperity, less crime and democracy. They got none of these. Thus, establishing that Hugo Chavez no longer has popular support is very important. Second he no longer has the popularity to execute such a revolution.

Without going into how Chavez’ supporters attempted on Nov. 4th. to block the petition from being handed in by violent means, the Chavez administration has tried since that day, to stop the referendum from taking place. It has used legal maneuvering to have the electoral commission declared illegal, the Supreme Court ruled it is legal. It asked the Supreme Court to rule the question invalid, the Court said the question was valid. It asked the Court to rule the referendum illegal because it collides with the Constitution, the Constitutional Hall of the Court said it could not rule on that issue. Since all these legal attempts failed, the solution was simple: The Chavez-controlled National Assembly and the Chavez administration have refused to this day to provide the funding for the referendum. By law, it has to provide them, period. There is no grounds for them even considering whether to provide them or not.

-Impeachment: Hugo Chavez can be impeached, there are roughly fourteen requests for his impeachment that go from charges of corruption to crimes against humanity. The problem is that the Attorney General has to initiate any proceeding against Hugo Chavez. The current Attorney General is Chavez’ first Vice-President who has shown his partiality to levels that I consider disgusting. Thus, he will not bring any charges against the President.

Above, I mention the many cases that have been used to ask for Chavez’ impeachment. There are crimes agaisnt humanity because there is sworn testimony that he participated in meeting on how to stop the April 11th. march from reaching the residential palace. Nineteen people were killed and hundreds injured. There is also charges for corruption, among them US$ 2.3 billion that to this day is unclear whether the funds are missing or were spent for something different that what they were budgeted for. The latter is cause for removal from a Government post in Venezuela. In fact, Carlos Andres Peres was impeached in 1993 for that reason, the only difference is that in his case the amount was half a million US$.

But there is another very interesting case to justify his impeachment. Judge Baltasar Garzon, the same one that had General Augusto Pinochet detained in England, has found that Spain’s Banco Bilabo y Vizcaya (BBVA) misused US$1.5 million in two illegal campaign contributions to Hugo Chavez’s campaign. What is interesting is that there were two of them. One, while Chavez was campaigning and he was the President of his organization called Movimiento Quinta Republica (MVR). This one was illegal because it was never reported to the Electoral Commission. A second is even strange, because it was made, while Hugo Chavez was President, and thus it can not possibly be legal. This case alone should have brought Hugo Chavez down as President, but it hasn’t, simply because nothing has been done about it.

-Elections: According to the country’s Constitution a recall referendum maybe held after the midpoint of the Presidential term. The term is six years and Chavez has been in power for over four years. The problem is that Chavez decided after the new Constitution was approved that he had to be reelected under the new Constitution, which he needn’t be. Thus, the Supreme Court has interpreted that the midpoint is next August when half of the new term ends.

The opposition wants elections to be held as soon as possible because of the political crisis. It is true that such an instrument was not in the Constitution, but neither was the referendum that Chavez invented to change the Constitution. It was then argued that power ultimately resides in the people and thus a referendum with 62% of the vote justified changing the Constitution. Now that the opposition wants to use Chavez’ arguments they are not valid. Even worse, as recently as April 2001, Hugo Chavez signed the Declaration Of Quebec under protest because he did not believe in a representative democracy, but only in a participatory one, in which the people decide everything. How easy it was for him to say that at the crest of his popularity, when he believed it would never end!

In the end, we need elections because the Hugo Chavez Government has become illegitimate through incompetence and irresponsibility. Because there are daily violations of human rights. Because corruption is rampant. Because the judicial system is manipulated daily by the Government, as proven by the fact that eight of the twenty Supreme Court Justices essentially said they will not work as long as the Government persecutes them and pressures them. Because there is impunity not only with the massacre in April, but what happened on Dec. 6th. in Plaza Altamira or the precautionary measures of the OAS that have never been enforced by the Government. I could go on and on, but only one of this should be enough. It is Government’s who are in charge with protecting the law and its citizens, when they don’t do it, they are no longer legitimate, when they become the violators, they are simply criminals.

More Posters

December 26, 2002

Dont cover his mouth, stangle him!                 Grinchavez

No Christmas 2002, Freedom 2003          Nobody paid me, I came for the women

Oscar Sabater’s pictures from Monday’s candlelight march

December 26, 2002

Leaving Candles at fence of Air Forces base                Lots of people