Venezuelan Mayor Conditionally Released From Prison

Henrique Capriles Radonsky, the mayor of a wealthy Caracas district, was conditionally released from prison on Monday, while he awaits trial for the attack against the Cuban embassy that took place over two years ago during the coup attempt against Chavez.

Caracas, Sep.8, 2004—The mayor of Baruta, a municipality of Caracas, Henrique Capriles Radonsky, was released Monday after four months in jail for his part in a violent demonstration at the Cuban embassy in Caracas, during the April 2002 coup against Chavez.

Capriles Radonsky, was released on conditions that prohibit him from leaving the country or speaking about what happened the day of the incident on April 12, 2002. He must also appear in court every 15 days.  

The mayor faces six charges as a participant and accomplice to the violation of international conventions, illegal confinement, public threats, destruction of private property, civil violence, and breaking and entering by public employees.

The mayor is implicated in these incidents that occurred at the Cuban embassy during the brief coup because, among other reasons, as the lead authority of the city in which the Cuban embassy is located, Capriles Radonsky failed to enforce the law when demonstrators used violence against the embassy, mostly by destroying embassy cars parked outside, cutting off water and electricity to the building and by threatening to forcibly enter the embassy and harm its occupants.  Demonstrators alleged Chavez government representatives were hiding inside.

Capriles Radonsky was videotaped during the incident, asking to inspect the Cuban embassy on behalf of the enraged crowd. Embassy officials hold Capriles Radonsky responsible for the incident. “The immediate responsibility of Mr. Capriles Radonsky and other Venezuelan state authorities was demonstrated when they failed to act diligently in order to prevent an increase in the aggression to which our embassy was subjected, causing serious damage and endangering the lives of officials and their families in clear violation of national and international law,” reads a document issued by the Cuban embassy in Caracas. The Baruta Mayor, however says that he says that he was merely trying to defuse an explosive situation. 

Venezuela’s opposition to President Hugo Chavez declared that the former president of the House of Representatives and leader of the U.S.-financed party, Primero Justicia (Justice First), is a “political prisoner.”

“Everyone here knows why I am imprisoned.  The noble worker that daily brings me newspapers; the police that fulfill their duties, and the other prisoners.  They know that the law was twisted and strayed far from justice.  They know that the judge was not capable of looking at me in the eyes when I was in front of him and I signed the dirty paper, devoid of justice, that the Disip [investigative police] sent me and converted me into a political prisoner,” Capriles said. 

Defense lawyers for Capriles Radonsky say that that the case is political rather than judicial.  “We have an investigation without proof … even the accusation is unfounded,” defense lawyer, Arturo López said, adding that the state prosecutor has not provided a case against his client. “He has presented practically no evidence of proof.  There is only one declaration from one expert about one video of the state TV channel.”

Meanwhile the government wants Capriles Radonsky to face up to the charges against him. “The truth of this matter,” said Jesse Chacon when he was the Minister of Communication and Information, “is that Mr. Crapiles Radonsky, leader of the Primero Justicia party, allegedly committed a crime as stated in law, when on April 12, 2002, he accosted a diplomatic delegation that is legally accredited in the country and he attempted to inspect their installation, forgetting that in the entire world diplomatic headquarters are territories of those countries,” Chacon said.  Chacon has recently been appointed Minister of the Interior and Justice.

Shortly after his conditional release by Judge Dayva Soto, Capriles Radonsky, said that he would participate in upcoming municipal elections and that he would continue his duties as Mayor of Baruta. 

Capriles Radonsky’s release may be contested if state prosecutor, Danilo Anderson decides that his release will endanger the case.  Anderson’s main concern is that the mayor of Baruta evaded the law when he was summoned to appear in court initially in March.  It was nearly two months later, in May, that Capriles Radonsky turned himself in to authorities.  Anderson said yesterday that he had not been legally notified of the decision to release Capriles Radonsky and that once he is provided notification, he has five days to appeal the decision.