Venezuela Requests Extradition of Coup Leader Pedro Carmona

The Supreme Court of Venezuela approved a request for the extradition of Pedro Carmona Estanga from Colombia yesterday. The request was made in order to try Carmona for his involvement in the April 2002 coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

By Chris Carlson - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Mérida, April 10, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— The Supreme Court of Venezuela approved a request for the extradition of Pedro Carmona Estanga from Colombia yesterday. The request was made in order to try Carmona for his involvement in the April 2002 coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.  Also, twenty-eight other individuals under investigation for their involvement in the coup attempt are not allowed to leave Venezuela.

Pedro Carmona Estanga, former president of Venezuela’s main chamber of commerce, Fedecámaras, took power as the President of Venezuela during the 47-hour coup that began April 11th, 2002, in which Hugo Chávez was taken prisoner by military officials. During this time, Carmona's interim government dissolved the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, and annulled the Venezuelan constitution.

The Supreme Court decided yesterday to approve the request for extradition made by the Attorney General almost one year ago.  Carmona, along with others involved, is accused of the crime of civil rebellion specified in Article 143 of the Penal Code, which stipulates a punishment of between 12 and 24 years in prison.

Following massive protests on April 13th, 2002 that resulted in Hugo Chávez' return to power, Carmona was detained and put under house arrest. He later escaped from his home and took refuge in the Colombian Embassy in Caracas. He was then given political asylum by then Colombian President Andrés Pastrana and taken to Bogotá where he has resided for the last 5 years.

The decision of the court is based on the extradition treaty signed between Venezuela and Colombia, as well as Organization of American States (OAS) resolutions. The request, however, will not be considered valid if it is considered that Carmona's crime was of a political nature. The Attorney General, however, has made the argument that Carmona can be extradited under the treaty since it guarantees the extradition of any individual who makes an attempt on the life of a Head of State.

In the early morning hours of April 12th, 2002, President Chávez was taken prisoner after high military officers had threatened to bomb the presidential palace if he did not step down. Chávez was then taken to the Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas and later to Orchila Island in the Caribbean. It is not known what plans the coup organizers had for Chávez, but officials loyal to Chávez sent soldiers to the island shortly after to free the president from captivity.

In a related matter, twenty-eight other individuals who were involved in the 2002 coup attempt have not been permitted to leave the country. The court will decide today whether or not to extend the prohibition requested by the Attorney General's office.

The individuals all signed the Carmona Decree, which eliminated the powers of the constitutional government, suspended the National Assembly, and annulled the 49 Enabling Laws, among other things. For these actions the 28 individuals have also been accused of the crime of civil rebellion.

Among those accused are María Corina Machado, who is the president of the NGO Súmate; José Rodríguez Iturbe, the leader of COPEI; Guaicaipuro Lameda, the ex-president of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA; and Albis Muñoz, ex-president of Fedecámaras.

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