Archive for March 16th, 2004

Photo albums from the repression

March 16, 2004

Somebody has placed about one hundred pictures from the repression of Feb. 27th. to March 6th. in these five ofoto albums, simply click on view photos: Album 1, Album 2, Album 3, Album 4 and Album 5. Thanks to Alfredo S. for sending it. Here is an example that “nothing” was happening in Venezuela that week and that it was just a bunch of common criminals like me. These tanks were there BEFORE the march had even begun:


 


Photo albums from the repression

March 16, 2004

Somebody has placed about one hundred pictures from the repression of Feb. 27th. to March 6th. in these five ofoto albums, simply click on view photos: Album 1, Album 2, Album 3, Album 4 and Album 5. Thanks to Alfredo S. for sending it. Here is an example that “nothing” was happening in Venezuela that week and that it was just a bunch of common criminals like me. These tanks were there BEFORE the march had even begun:


 


Michel Zambrano released

March 16, 2004

Last Friday I reported on the story of Juan Carlos Zambrano who was tortured and killed by the military in Zulia state. The same military had raped his wife. I also said then that his brother Michel was missing. Michel has now been released, after spending a week in detention. He is now being protected by the Venezuelan Observatory on Human Rights. In today’s El Nacional (by subscription) (A-8) Zambrano tell his side of the story.


Zambrano says that he managed to see his brother when he went to find him that week. He was also detained him and they began to torture both him and his brother. He stayed at the military camp for seven days and learned of his brother’s death from the same officers. He witnesses his sister in laws rape which was performed by soldiers wearing amsks. Through the videos of the soldiers at the camp, Michel has identified all three of the soldiers who caused his brother’s death. He also said that five people were tortured, including him.


 


Jorge Govea, Head of the Observatory said that for the deaths of Juan Carlos Zambrano and Eva Carrizo are responsible Generals Castor Perez Leal and Wilfred Silva who led the repressive wave that week in Zulia state, concluding:


 


“It is perhaps ironic that the armed forces use as propaganda that they are an army for the people that favors those that have the least. This has been exposed as being only an advertising slogan since that institution has turned its back on the people and is assuming roles that do not correspond to it. The Government is handling a doctrine of public order and citizen safety which is antiquated, antidemocratic and in the best style of the gorilla Governments of Latin America. Both Zambrano and Carrizo (killed on Zulia state with a shot on her back) were “pueblo’, from fairly low backgrounds and were assassinated without compassion.


 


Seven people are still missing from the wave of repression their names are: Omar Arturo Morales (28); Juan José Pérez (27); Juan Ernesto Sánchez (37); Andrés Bastidas Guedes (32) ; José Luis Rodríguez (33); Eduardo José Miranda (30) y Julio César Gómez (34)

On the verge of a Constitutional crisis?

March 16, 2004

Venezuela got closer today to a huge Constitutional crisis as most institutions aligned with the Government refused today to even consider accepting the validity of yesterday’s decision by the Electoral Hall of the Supreme Court.


The division reflected the deep polarization of Venezuelan society, except that this time, it is institutions and high ranking Government officials refusing to recognize a decision by the highest court of the land.


 


It all began today with the statements by CNE Director Jorge Rodriguez saying that there was a Constitutional conflict between the Constitutional Hall and the Electoral Hall and that the Electoral Board would recognize the Constitutional Hall because that was the body that had named them.


 


The argument was absolutely convoluted. First of all, there is no conflict……yet. While the Electoral Hall made a decision and sentenced on its case, the Constitutional Hall not only met illegally, without a quorum, but it never issued a decision, nor has a sentence been published on the case. Rodriguez, sounding more like a lawyer (like most Venezuelans these days) than a medical doctor began making legal arguments that are definitely beyond the scope of his job as CNE Director.


 


The National Assembly leadership published a full page ad in today’s local papers criticizing the decision by the Electoral Hall, which at the time had not been approved by the National Assembly. Some even suggested the Assembly leadership had committed an act of corruption, using Assembly funds to publish an ad that reflected their personal views rather. This afternoon, the Assembly backed the ad, with the votes of the pro-Chavez members of the Assembly.


 


Then there was that amoral man himself, the Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel calling the decision by the Electoral Hall “a coup, unconstitutional and subversive”. Obviously, he said nothing about the fact that the Constitutional Hall claimed to have a decision that has yet to bee seen by anyone, was reached without a quorum and in a meeting that never took place.


 


Meanwhile, the third Justice from the Electoral Hall who was not part of the quorum said today that the decision was illegal because he claims he was at the Supreme Court building when it was made. He did not explain why he did not protest at the time of the press conference by the head of the Electoral Hall and in any case his protest can not be taken seriously because the vote was 3-0 and even if he had been present it would still have been approved by 2-1.


 


Even the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington got into the game issuing a press release saying the Electoral Hall had no competence on the issue because it was a Constitutional rather than an Electoral matter. Clearly, the Embassy was attempting to mitigate the fallout from the decision by the Electoral hall that has been published by most media outlets in the US.


 


At the end of the day, the President of the CNE gave a confusing statement in which he said that the Electoral Board would fight for its “autonomy” (What’s the Electoral Hall for, I ask?). Initially, it appeared as if he was suggesting that the decision by the Electoral hall would not be recognized, but CNE Director Ezequiel Zamora said later that the CNE would abide by the decision but will introduce recourse in front of the Constitutional Hall.


 


Thus, the stage is set for a Constitutional conflict. If the Constitutional Hall were to rule or revise on the decision by the Electoral Hall, it will create a precedent never before followed in Venezuela’s legal history. If it does, the full Court will have to decide on the conflict. In either case, it does not sound like the Government is ready to accept the possibility of a recall referendum against President Chávez taking place in the near future without a fight.


 


As if this were not enough a lawyer introduced a request to rule on whether the three Justices of the Constitutional had or not committed fraud by simulating that a valid meeting of the Hall had taken place and a decision had been made by the three. According to the judge this is a felony and the three Justices should be tried for it.


 


Thus, the Chavez administration continues to pull all the possible dirty tricks to avoid the recall referendum, clearly signaling that it knows it would suffer a resounding defeat. Anybody that thinks differently has only to look at the irrationality and indefensible positions assumed today by the pro-Chavez forces.

On the verge of a Constitutional crisis?

March 16, 2004

Venezuela got closer today to a huge Constitutional crisis as most institutions aligned with the Government refused today to even consider accepting the validity of yesterday’s decision by the Electoral Hall of the Supreme Court.


The division reflected the deep polarization of Venezuelan society, except that this time, it is institutions and high ranking Government officials refusing to recognize a decision by the highest court of the land.


 


It all began today with the statements by CNE Director Jorge Rodriguez saying that there was a Constitutional conflict between the Constitutional Hall and the Electoral Hall and that the Electoral Board would recognize the Constitutional Hall because that was the body that had named them.


 


The argument was absolutely convoluted. First of all, there is no conflict……yet. While the Electoral Hall made a decision and sentenced on its case, the Constitutional Hall not only met illegally, without a quorum, but it never issued a decision, nor has a sentence been published on the case. Rodriguez, sounding more like a lawyer (like most Venezuelans these days) than a medical doctor began making legal arguments that are definitely beyond the scope of his job as CNE Director.


 


The National Assembly leadership published a full page ad in today’s local papers criticizing the decision by the Electoral Hall, which at the time had not been approved by the National Assembly. Some even suggested the Assembly leadership had committed an act of corruption, using Assembly funds to publish an ad that reflected their personal views rather. This afternoon, the Assembly backed the ad, with the votes of the pro-Chavez members of the Assembly.


 


Then there was that amoral man himself, the Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel calling the decision by the Electoral Hall “a coup, unconstitutional and subversive”. Obviously, he said nothing about the fact that the Constitutional Hall claimed to have a decision that has yet to bee seen by anyone, was reached without a quorum and in a meeting that never took place.


 


Meanwhile, the third Justice from the Electoral Hall who was not part of the quorum said today that the decision was illegal because he claims he was at the Supreme Court building when it was made. He did not explain why he did not protest at the time of the press conference by the head of the Electoral Hall and in any case his protest can not be taken seriously because the vote was 3-0 and even if he had been present it would still have been approved by 2-1.


 


Even the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington got into the game issuing a press release saying the Electoral Hall had no competence on the issue because it was a Constitutional rather than an Electoral matter. Clearly, the Embassy was attempting to mitigate the fallout from the decision by the Electoral hall that has been published by most media outlets in the US.


 


At the end of the day, the President of the CNE gave a confusing statement in which he said that the Electoral Board would fight for its “autonomy” (What’s the Electoral Hall for, I ask?). Initially, it appeared as if he was suggesting that the decision by the Electoral hall would not be recognized, but CNE Director Ezequiel Zamora said later that the CNE would abide by the decision but will introduce recourse in front of the Constitutional Hall.


 


Thus, the stage is set for a Constitutional conflict. If the Constitutional Hall were to rule or revise on the decision by the Electoral Hall, it will create a precedent never before followed in Venezuela’s legal history. If it does, the full Court will have to decide on the conflict. In either case, it does not sound like the Government is ready to accept the possibility of a recall referendum against President Chávez taking place in the near future without a fight.


 


As if this were not enough a lawyer introduced a request to rule on whether the three Justices of the Constitutional had or not committed fraud by simulating that a valid meeting of the Hall had taken place and a decision had been made by the three. According to the judge this is a felony and the three Justices should be tried for it.


 


Thus, the Chavez administration continues to pull all the possible dirty tricks to avoid the recall referendum, clearly signaling that it knows it would suffer a resounding defeat. Anybody that thinks differently has only to look at the irrationality and indefensible positions assumed today by the pro-Chavez forces.

Saluting the DISIP and the Constitutional Hall

March 16, 2004

No, these are not opposition marchers giving the finger to the members of the Constituional Hall today, the opposition’s march was cancelled to avoid violence. These are actually marchers two weeks ago saluting the DISIP’s (Political Police) helicopter that was observing the demonstration, but people were ready to do this again today.


 

Martini’s harsh words about his colleagues

March 16, 2004

Since I have not seen it anywhere in detail, here is what Justice Martini, the President of the Electoral hall said referring to the attempt by the Constitutional Hall to take away the case of the recall referendum petition from the Electoral hall:


“The communications prentend to conform an order dictated without the backing of any sentence, which is the raeson why the Electoral Hall has all of the necessary powers to substantaite and decide, according to article 297 of the Constitution”


He added:


“I do not understand what motivation these Justices had when they pretended to take away the cases from its natural judges” or ” to indicate that there was a session that never took place, like Justices Garcia and Rondon have certified. What are they trying to do? Violate the rule of law?” He also warned them that “the consequences of their acts will fall on their consciences”. Not mild words from Justice Martini.

The impact of the Electoral Hall’s decision

March 16, 2004

Given the ability of the Chavistas to lie, ignore and bypass the law and abuse their hold on public institutions, it is quite difficult to predict what lies ahead for the recall referendum. I really don’t want to get too excited and believe that because of today’s decision the recall vote will actually take place. But I will not minimize the huge impact of the decision in favor of the opposition.


First of all, the decision is clear cut, the details do not depend or not in understanding Venezuelan law, as was the case of whether the signatures were valid or not because of the same calligraphy. The headline for the Associated Press says it best: “Venezuela Court OKs recall signatures” For anyone in any country where the law is respected, having the Supreme Court say something like that has an element of finality that will be difficult to reverse. Try to imagine if in a few days the headline says “Venezuelan Supreme Court reverses on signatures”. Supreme Courts just don’t do that, so if it happens it will make the Government look bad in front of the court of international opinion which is already quite suspicious of Chavez’ Democratic spirit.


 


A second victory for the opposition is that the path via the Supreme Court to have today’s decision reversed is in itself very tricky. It seems quite difficult to convince anyone that the Electoral Hall does not have to jurisdiction on Electoral matters, no? The opposition should actually concentrate its message on this point, particularly at the international level.


 


But going even further, the possibility that the case will end up in front of the full Court creates many problems for Chavez and his allies. A loss in that Court will be absolutely final and irreversible. Even worse, they know that at best they can only get a 10-10 vote which would ratify today’s decision by the Electoral Hall. In fact, this in itself might cause other Justices to vote against the Government feeling that the end might be near and by favoring the opposition, they can go from being scapegoats to heroes, much like Justice Martini has transformed himself in the last twelve hours.


 


In fact, this might be one of the most powerful effects of the decision. If people in Government and influential positions begin to be concerned that the recall may take place and Chavez will lose, they may begin jumping sides (“saltando la talanquera’ in Spanish) before it is too late. This is how autocratic Governments begin to crumble.


 


Justice Martini is a very good case in point. Let us not forget that it was Justice Martini himself who wrote the majority opinion that stopped the Consultative referendum proposed by the opposition with his decision on January 23d. 2003. That day, he was the villain, today he is all of a sudden the hero. He will be forever remembered for his courageous stand today, not only in his legal decision but in his accusations against the members of the Constitutional Hall who clearly. His other decision will be forgotten.


 


The Chavez administration has played the borderline legal issues very successfully in the last five years. By appealing to Courts or complicated issues, it has been able to roll over the institutions; controlling them and making it all appear as if it was all quite legal and democratic. His luck may have run out with this decision, which is probably the reason why the Constitutional Hall attempted to block the path of the Electoral Hall last week with its fraudulent gambit. It was a last ditch effort to stop what could become a very damaging decision for the Government and Chavez’ future.


 


From a numerical point of view, today’s decision guarantees that a recall would take place. The Electoral Hall added 876.017 valid signatures to the 1.832.493 already validate by the Electoral Board, giving a total of 2.708.518 valid signatures. The opposition needs 2.432 million to activate the recall vote. Additionally, the Court also ordered the CNE to add to those signatures that can be validated those contained in 39,060 forms invalidate by technicalities. Since each form had on average 8.5 signatures, this adds some 332.000 signatures which may be added to the total. Thus, it is virtually impossible for the Chavistas to manage to void sufficient signatures in the ratification process to stop the recall vote.


 


This does not mean that the road ahead is clear; it simply means that the opposition has won where it counts, on legal and Democratic grounds, without tricks. In contrast, Chavez has lost despite the many tricks and only a new set of very dirty tricks ahead will be able to change the path to the recall referendum. These tricks are coming, they are probably being plotted as I write this, but in the end, whatever is being planned will make the opposition look much better and Chavez and his cronies much worse. And that, my friends, is a big victory in itself.

The impact of the Electoral Hall’s decision

March 16, 2004

Given the ability of the Chavistas to lie, ignore and bypass the law and abuse their hold on public institutions, it is quite difficult to predict what lies ahead for the recall referendum. I really don’t want to get too excited and believe that because of today’s decision the recall vote will actually take place. But I will not minimize the huge impact of the decision in favor of the opposition.


First of all, the decision is clear cut, the details do not depend or not in understanding Venezuelan law, as was the case of whether the signatures were valid or not because of the same calligraphy. The headline for the Associated Press says it best: “Venezuela Court OKs recall signatures” For anyone in any country where the law is respected, having the Supreme Court say something like that has an element of finality that will be difficult to reverse. Try to imagine if in a few days the headline says “Venezuelan Supreme Court reverses on signatures”. Supreme Courts just don’t do that, so if it happens it will make the Government look bad in front of the court of international opinion which is already quite suspicious of Chavez’ Democratic spirit.


 


A second victory for the opposition is that the path via the Supreme Court to have today’s decision reversed is in itself very tricky. It seems quite difficult to convince anyone that the Electoral Hall does not have to jurisdiction on Electoral matters, no? The opposition should actually concentrate its message on this point, particularly at the international level.


 


But going even further, the possibility that the case will end up in front of the full Court creates many problems for Chavez and his allies. A loss in that Court will be absolutely final and irreversible. Even worse, they know that at best they can only get a 10-10 vote which would ratify today’s decision by the Electoral Hall. In fact, this in itself might cause other Justices to vote against the Government feeling that the end might be near and by favoring the opposition, they can go from being scapegoats to heroes, much like Justice Martini has transformed himself in the last twelve hours.


 


In fact, this might be one of the most powerful effects of the decision. If people in Government and influential positions begin to be concerned that the recall may take place and Chavez will lose, they may begin jumping sides (“saltando la talanquera’ in Spanish) before it is too late. This is how autocratic Governments begin to crumble.


 


Justice Martini is a very good case in point. Let us not forget that it was Justice Martini himself who wrote the majority opinion that stopped the Consultative referendum proposed by the opposition with his decision on January 23d. 2003. That day, he was the villain, today he is all of a sudden the hero. He will be forever remembered for his courageous stand today, not only in his legal decision but in his accusations against the members of the Constitutional Hall who clearly. His other decision will be forgotten.


 


The Chavez administration has played the borderline legal issues very successfully in the last five years. By appealing to Courts or complicated issues, it has been able to roll over the institutions; controlling them and making it all appear as if it was all quite legal and democratic. His luck may have run out with this decision, which is probably the reason why the Constitutional Hall attempted to block the path of the Electoral Hall last week with its fraudulent gambit. It was a last ditch effort to stop what could become a very damaging decision for the Government and Chavez’ future.


 


From a numerical point of view, today’s decision guarantees that a recall would take place. The Electoral Hall added 876.017 valid signatures to the 1.832.493 already validate by the Electoral Board, giving a total of 2.708.518 valid signatures. The opposition needs 2.432 million to activate the recall vote. Additionally, the Court also ordered the CNE to add to those signatures that can be validated those contained in 39,060 forms invalidate by technicalities. Since each form had on average 8.5 signatures, this adds some 332.000 signatures which may be added to the total. Thus, it is virtually impossible for the Chavistas to manage to void sufficient signatures in the ratification process to stop the recall vote.


 


This does not mean that the road ahead is clear; it simply means that the opposition has won where it counts, on legal and Democratic grounds, without tricks. In contrast, Chavez has lost despite the many tricks and only a new set of very dirty tricks ahead will be able to change the path to the recall referendum. These tricks are coming, they are probably being plotted as I write this, but in the end, whatever is being planned will make the opposition look much better and Chavez and his cronies much worse. And that, my friends, is a big victory in itself.

Message to Hugo Chávez: Here are they are!

March 16, 2004

Yesterday in his Sunday program Hugo Chávez demanded from the opposition the names of those that have disappeared. Well, I am sure he does not read my blog, but just in case anyone near him does, or anyone has access to him, or you work fo a foreign Government that can send him a message, here is my direct message to him as a member of the opposition:


The names and ages of the desaparecidos are:


 


Omar Arturo Morales (28); Juan José Pérez (27); Juan Ernesto Sánchez (37); Andrés Bastidas Guedes (32) ; José Luis Rodríguez (33); Eduardo José Miranda (30) y Julio César Gómez (34)

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