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News: Law and Justice

Victims of 2002 Coup in Venezuela Seek Justice

Demanding justice for the families and friends of those murdered during the Venezuelan opposition’s attempted overthrow of President Hugo Chavez nine years ago, thousands of residents took to the streets last Monday to commemorate lives lost and celebrate the popular uprising that derailed a right-wing dictatorship in the country.

The march began at the Llaguna bridge where more than a dozen people were killed on April 11, 2002 by snipers stationed in the high rise buildings that surround the streets near the presidential palace of Miraflores in the capital of Caracas.

The deaths, part of a calculated plan to fabricate a violent government crackdown on peaceful marchers, provided the impetus for the Venezuelan private media to incite a rebellion against the democratically elected Chavez administration and lend legitimacy to the coup leaders.

Although the opposition succeeded in occupying the presidential palace for some 24 hours, the efforts to mislead the public eventually failed as thousands of ordinary Venezuelans descended upon Miraflores, demanding Chavez’s return to power.

Through a combination of street and military action, the ousted president was re-installed as the nation’s head of state on April 13th, in a turn of events unparalleled in Latin American history.

Yet, despite the Venezuelan people’s victory over the repressive and authoritarian opposition supported and financed by Washington, the deaths that occurred on April 11 have yet to see closure.

INJUSTICE PREVAILS

The Association of Victims of the Coup D’Etat of A-11 (ASOVIC), has headed up the efforts of family members and friends of those killed and injured to seek justice for the murders that have remained unpunished.

“Nine years ago we were here defending the revolutionary process and today we commemorate the fallen and ask for justice for them”, said ASOVIC spokesperson Yessica Fuentes from the Llaguna Bridge on Monday.

According to some residents, the violence that took place on Llaguna Bridge also extended to other areas of the capital and lasted for a number of days.

“The repression wasn’t just the 11th of April, but it also went on until the 14th in [the Caracas] sectors of Catia, Petare, Agua Salud, 23 de Enero. The security forces repressed demonstrations of citizens who were demanding the restitution of President Chavez”, said Jorge Rodriguez, resident of the 23 de Enero neighborhood.

During Monday’s march, organized by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) under the banner “Against Impunity and Forgetting”, members of ASOVIC presented their demands to the Venezuelan National Assembly where they were received by Assembly President, Fernando Soto Rojas.

“We are asking that [the National Assembly] discuss article 30 of the constitution so that family members of the dead can have a better quality of life”, Fuentes, who was also shot during the coup attempt in 2002, told Rojas.

Article 30 of Venezuela’s constitution obliges the state to indemnify victims of human rights abuses, including payment for damages and suffering.

AGAINST IMPUNITY

In their fight against impunity, members of ASOVIC have also demanded the prosecution of current opposition legislators who were involved in the planning and carrying out of the actions of April 11th.

“The opposition constantly talks about the violation of human rights in the country when it’s they who have violated constitutional order like what happened in 2002 and continues to happen in the country”, said Antonio Molina, lawyer of the victims’ association. As such, an appeal has been made to indict National Assembly representatives who not only walk freely on the streets but are carrying out the functions of lawmakers in the country’s highest legislative body.

“We can’t allow for people like [congress members] Enrique Mendoza, Maria Corina Machado, Julio Borges, and Miguel Angel Rodriguez, who actively participated in the coup d’etat where innocent people lost their lives, not to be in prison. They are enjoying parliamentary immunity when they should be punished”, Fuentes said.

Monday’s march ended at the offices of the Public Attorney, the government institution in charge of investigating and prosecuting in the courts, where a document was presented to the Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz.

“I am receiving this document with much love and I promise that I will continue with the investigation. But it has to be remembered that the state granted amnesty in December of 2007 [to some of those accused of perpetrating the coup]”, Diaz said.

Although the main political and military actors behind the events of April 11, 2002 have remained free, 9 members of the recently disbanded Caracas Metropolitan Police were convicted in 2009 for their role in carrying out the massacre.

MEDIA RESPONSIBILITY

A recent lawsuit in the state of Aragua, where the members of the Metropolitan Police were convicted, may also see proceedings carried out against private media outlets that colluded with the Venezuelan opposition to deliberately mislead the public on the events taking place between April 11th – 13th.

Hamos Ramos Allup, leader of the opposition party Democratic Action (AD) and a key player in the coup, affirmed during a recent interview with the newspaper Ciudad CCS that private television, print and radio outlets had been involved in the planning of the coup for weeks before its execution.

With reference to the events in the lead up to April 11th, Allup stated that “there had not been a single important event that didn’t have the participation of the owners of the [private] media”.

The 4th Tribunal Court in the State of Aragua, the Venezuelan News Agency reports, will continue with its investigations of the media’s role in the coup and Attorney General Diaz announced the creation of a special commission to receive and process complaints of human rights violations that occurred as a result of the violence on April 11th.

Published on Apr 15th 2011 at 1.03pm