More on the Sumate prosecution

October 2, 2004

Good discussion in the comments section of the previous post about what exactly are Sumate officials being charged for. Stig cites the correct article of the criminal code:

“Artícle 132.- Anyone that, from within or outside the national territory, conspires to destroy the republican political form that the Nation has been given will be punished with jail from eight to sixteen years.

The same punishment will be incurred by the Venezuelan that requests foreign intervention in the national politics of Venezuela, or requests its participation to alter the peace of the Republic or those that went in front of their officials or by publications made in the foreign press, promoted civil war or defamed the President or injured its diplomatic representative or the consular officials of Venezuela, because of the nature of their functions in the country where the deed was committed”

Clearly, what the prosecutor from the Attorney General’s office wants to argue is that the officers of Sumate “requested foreign intervention in the national politics of Venezuela” by asking the National Endowment for Democracy for funding. This is made quite clear in statements made by the prosecutor in today’s El Universal.

This is of course simply a narrow and vindictive interpretation aimed at getting back at Sumate leaders for what they have done against Chavez by organizing the petitions and establishing the controls that allowed the opposition to get there. The key here will likely be whether funding is or not “intervening in the national politics of Venezuela”.  After all, it was the Sumate people that did the intervention, not the NED.

The amazing thing is that the same article applies to Chavez receiving US$ 1.5 million from Spanish bank BBVA during his 1998 campaign, which was also illegal because he did not report it. But more importantly, NED has also funded a number of pro-Chavez organizations which would be guilty of the same crime.

In fact the application of this article would simply mean that no Venezuelan organization could get foreign funding for any politically related issue, whether its human rights, elections or environmental issues. Local chapters of Greenpeace, Amnesty International and the like would be threatened by this. Even religious groups could be threatened by this, if they get involved in anything that could be considered political and most activities in Venezuela today are so influenced by politics that it could be applied if the Government wanted.

In fact, this blog could be in violation of this article if it is considered to be foreign press and of defaming Chavez.

This is of course trying to make sense of something that can not make any sense whatsoever and is simply a political vendetta by Chavez against Sumate, which reflects the problems of not having independent powers. If the Attorney General were truly independent, the case would have never reached the point it has. In fact, the Attorney General’s office seems to give undue priority to these political cases, ignoring much more serious crimes involving deaths, injury and other human rights violations.


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