Arrest Warrant Issued for Oppositional Mayor of Wealthy Venezuelan Municipality

Baruta Mayor Henrique Capriles Radonski has gone into hiding after a warrant for his arrest was issued in connection with the attack on the Cuban Embassy two years ago.

March 23, 2004, CaracasA Venezuelan court issued an arrest warrant last week for the arrest of Henrique Capriles Radonski, mayor of the Baruta municipality in Caracas, for his participation in violent confrontations outside the Cuban Embassy during the short-lived coup in April, 2002. Radonski has so far refused to comply with the warrant and has gone into hiding.

According to Public Prosecutor, Capriles failed to appear before the Attorney General on three separate occasions: 28 November, 2002; 6 January, 2003; and 7 March, 2003. “Capriles was determined to present challenges that were thrown out for not having a legal basis,” said Anderson.

Members of the opposition party Primero Justicia (Justice First) are calling Capriles a political prisoner, accusing the government of pursuing Capriles for political reasons. In a statement to the press, MVR deputy William García denied that Capriles is a politically persecuted and pointed out that he is wanted for specific illegal actions of violence in front of the Cuban Embassy during the short-lived coup of Pedro Carmona, April 11-13 , 2002. García stressed that as the primary authority in the municipality of Baruta, Capriles is responsible for guaranteeing the security of all diplomatic missions within his jurisdiction. “If he doesn’t guarantee the security of the Embassies located in his municipality, he is committing a flagrant crime against accredited diplomatic missions in the country,” explained García.

In an official statement sent to Venpres, the official news agency of Venezuela, the Cuban Embassy denied allegations by Primero Jusicia deputy Julio Borges that the Cuban Ambassador had asked Capriles to mediate the situation at the Cuban Embassy on 11 April, 2002. Directly contradicting Borges, the press release stated, “Mr. Borges assertion that the Embassador Germán Sánchez Otero solicited the mediation of Baruta Mayor Capriles Radonski regarding acts of vandalism by groups of terrorists and fascist instigators directed by the counter-revolutionary Salvador Romaní (a Cuban journalist alleged to be working for the CIA) and Venezuelan lawyer Ricardo Koesling (far-right member of opposition with ties to cuban exile groups in North America) is absolutely false, and these actions occurred with impunity in the presence of the Baruta Police who had instructions not to impede these actions.” The statement continued, noting, “Furthermore, the Cuban Embassy wishes to clarify that the methods adopted by the Public Prosecutor Danilo Anderson and the are legal accions and decisions of the Venezuelan Judicial System and their authorities.”

Chacao residents march in support of Capriles Radonski

Leopoldo Lopez, the Mayor of the also upper-middle class Caracas municipality of Chacao, which borders Baruta, headed a march of Chacao residents to the town hall of the Mayor of Baruta, Wednesday, in support of Henrique Capriles Radonski. “We want to show the employees and neighbours of Baruta that they are not alone. We will always help in this fight,” said Lopez, declaring that the Government is ‘kidnapping’ the country’s institutions in order to make “political persecutions.” Lopez rejected the charges against Capriles and insisted that Venezuelans be outraged against what he referred to as “undemocratic manoeuvers.” To this end, he asked mayors all over Venezuela to denounce the outrage that this action represents to the institutions of the State.

Freddy Bernal supports ruling against Capriles

According to Freddy Bernal, mayor of the working class Caracas municipality Libertador, the ruling against Henrique Capriles Radonski is not only completely correct and just, it’s also late. “I consider the measure to be late, since the case has been in the tribunals for over a year, I don’t understand why they hadn’t acted, when everyone knew that mayor Capriles didn’t act alone in the assault on the Cuban Embassy, but rather, as part of a plan to arrest deputy Tarek Wiliam Saab (deputy of Chavez’ MVR party), who has parliamentary impunity and the mayor knew the laws and was present and approved the decision,” explained Bernal.

When contacted Saturday to reflect further on the issue, Bernal noted “the tribunals are competent and fair, they are part of our democracy. There are decisions that some may not like, and there are decisions that do not appeal to others, but every decision the tribunals make strenthen the rights of the state which strengthen our democracy.”