Archive for November 26th, 2004

A time to be cautious

November 26, 2004


While I have been around reading your posts, things have been too hectic and connections too brief to even attempt to comment and respond to what has been said or to what has happened in Venezuela in the last three days.

This is a very dangerous time for Venezuela and Venezuelans. Both sides should try not to make mistakes. A mistake by either side could take a country into a dangerous and terrible path that nobody wants. Maybe only a few even understand it.

Thursday’s terrible murder should not happen again, but it may. This was the first major assassination in Venezuela of a terrorist nature since 196,7 when Government official Iribarren Borges was killed. That case was never cleared up and those responsible were never identified. We should be so lucky if the Danilo Anderson’s assassination had no repercussion’s like that case.

I have to confess that I had been proud of Venezuelans because something like this had not happened before in the last five years. The Chavez Government had pushed and cornered too many people to the breaking point. Despite this, Venezuelans had held their cool, nobody had had the reaction of cornered animals that you would expect. But now they did and the future holds too many horrific dangers. Neither side should blink. Everyone should keep their cool. But will they? Do they understand the terrible and profound effects that the Danilo Anderson case may have on this poor country?

 So far I would say yes and no. The Minister of Justice Jesse Chacon appears to have at least a good feeling that this is no time to rush to judgment and has been remarkably cool and discreet. The same can not be said about the Vice-President and the Minister of Information. To accuse some people because they have said stupid things on the radio is irresponsible. To ask the US to investigate these cases is to skirt responsibility. When a Government undermines institutionality and the independence of powers, it is at times like this when they are most needed. And currently they are. Right now, what the country needs for the sake of both sides is a credible investigation of the assassination. Not rumors, not silly accusations. Not one mistake at assigning blame. What is uncertain is whether this is possible.

It is almost impossible to assign blame at this case by conjecture. Danilo Anderson was no heroe as some want to suggest and have suggested in this blog. He was a tool of the impunity and repression that has ruled this country for the last five years. In fact, he prosecuted the El Llaguno shooters who were in the end freed. He jailed Henrique Capriles Radosnky for months and in the end the Judge that freed him said that the crime that Capriles supposedly had committed did not even have a jail sentence in our penal code. But he did spend four months in jail anyway because Anderson manipulated the legal system. He also prosecuted the Sumate leaders (THIS IS INCORRECT!) and, according to the Supreme Court only last week, he denied them their right to due process and the defense was not a le to present evidence in favor of the defendants. Anderson even tired to have them jailed on top of this incinsistencies. He was no hero. But he did not deserve and nobody deserves this ending either.

Perhaps the answer to who killed him lies in the case that he was prosecuting against more than three hundred people who went to the Presidential palace on April 11th. 2004. He was going after everyone that showed up that day. He was accusing of rebellion those that signed the Carmona decree as witnesses, as well as those that signed into the Palace. Too many people from all walks of life. Too many military and former military accused of rebellion, a crime that Venezuelan law requires you to hold a weapon against the recognized Government for anyone to be charged with.

This case involved too many people, too many active and former military, most of which are used to violence, obedience and intolerance. And the case also ignored those that are in Government today or have been in the past. The key witness, retired General Lucas Rincon whose famous words “And he accepted” still resonate in the minds of all Venezuelans, was not even called to testify once and nobody has been sentenced for the twenty people that died on April 10th. 2002.

And there is too much intolerance today on both sides. But the same way you can not accuse everyone that support Chavez of radicalism, you can not accuse everyone in the opposition of being capable of this horrific crime. In fact, only a few can possibly be considered to reach these extremes at this time. And it is not a time for the extremes to prevail. It is not a time for the middle ground of the country to embark on a path that nobody wants and that can bring nothing positive for all of us. The opposition has expressed only outrage about the assassination, which the Government and its leaders never showed for the many victims of the state sponsored violence seen in the last three years.

It was wrong for Government supporters to invite “the people” to demonstrate against the assassination at the same time that they were accusing the opposition of causing it. It would be wrong for the opposition to question the results of a serious investigation. It would be wrong of the Government to use this as an excuse to persecute and intimidate. This is not a time to rush to judgment. This is not a time to improvise.

 This is not a time for empty promises. What is at stake is too important for everyone. When people feel trapped, oppressed or persecuted they may react in unexpected ways. Governments do have the higher responsibilities than everyone else. In this case, they are higher than have ever been.