A Few Facts about Recent Venezuelan Laws and the Case of Judge Afiuni

Some of my friends in the States have had some concerns about recent events in Venezuela. From here in Venezuela, however, it seems there may be some misinformation, something common, of course, to media portrayals.

Some of my friends in the States have had some concerns about recent events in Venezuela. From here in Venezuela, however, it seems there may be some misinformation, something common, of course, to media portrayals.

The Venezuelan National Assembly that ends its office on January 5, 2011, has approved various laws to strengthen the revolutionary process. Of course the Assembly is entitled to do this because law making is its mandate till the end of the constitutional period. One of the most recent laws gives extraordinary faculties to the President to create laws by decree on certain matters defined in the same decree that qualifies him to do so, for a fixed time. The right to convey extraordinary faculties is established in article 203 of our Constitution and also appeared in previous constitutions, and has been widely used by congresses and presidents before Chavez took office in 1999 as well as since then.

The most recent delivery of extraordinary faculties was enacted by the government and Assembly because there is a lot of work to be done regarding building housing for the families affected by the recent floods, and because these efforts could meet with serious difficulties in a new National Assembly in which a belligerent putchist opposition, though it cannot prevent new laws from being approved (out of 165 seats, PSUV has 97 and the rest of the opposition has 67), can indeed dramatically delay enactment just by signing itself in large numbers into the list of the right to speak order.

So nothing illegal or against our Constitution has occurred, since these options are established in it and these attributions have been used in the past by the same people that now complain. It is only a political choice made by the leadership of the Bolivarian Revolution that of course we all want to prevail next presidential elections.

Another concern that has arisen is the matter of Judge Lourdes Afiuni, who is proclaimed innocent and a political prisoner of Chavez, plus now the opposition also says she is very ill.

Afiuni was judging a financier named Cedeño who was involved in a few corruption cases. The latest charge was that he and an accomplice deceived CADIVI, our office of currency control, by ostensibly buying computers for almost $30 million but bringing only empty containers to the country. The financier’s accomplice was arrested in Panama more than a year and half ago, and after being turned over to the authorities of Venezuela confessed the whole scheme. His lawyers delayed the trial with legal maneuvers, until about six months ago, when Judge Afiuni herself walked Mr. Cedeño out of the court room and escorted him with two other functionaries of her court to the internal parking lot for judges where Cedeño boarded a motorcycle that was let in to the lot by Afiuni’s instruction. Then Afiuni returned to the courtroom to write the ruling with the decision to liberate Cedeño and afterwards she sat down and said loud and clear that she would sit where she was to wait for the suspension letter to arrive from her superiors. The usual legal practice is that whenever an inmate is freed by ruling of a judge, he is taken back to prison where he waits for the arrival of the release order signed by the judge, something that usually happens in a matter of one or two hours. This was violated to be sure Cedeno would get away.

The judge, suspected of felony, was suspended to investigate further but nobody ever got sanctioned because in cases of bribery people released simply take off to another country to enjoy the money stashed in some bank account of a family member, like to Miami, USA, for example. This explains the approach of Afiuni, but this time things worked out differently because she was arrested and held to trial for bribery under the legal assumption that there is a serious presumption of a runaway.

In our country we have a popular saying: if it has ears and nose of a pig, back and tail of a pork, no doubt, it is a hog.

Additionally, it appears to be a manipulation regarding Afiuni’s state of health. There have been a lot of claims in the mainstream press in Venezuela about the illness of Judge Afiuni. However, she was taken for professional examination with negative results. Afterwards the lawyers said she had a probable breast cancer, so she was then taken for special medical exams and cancer was ruled out. You can see her in pictures and she appears healthy. About a month ago, Globovision had her on the screen for an interview and she not only looked well but said nothing about any illness.

Two reflections:

First, On the first concern about the special legal faculties: In Venezuela we have a very healthy democracy. It is a revolutionary democracy, not Swedish or North American. It is not a representative democracy but it a developing participatory democracy. We have popular elections more than once a year, we voted for our constitution, we had a recall referendum against the president, we have judicial rulings regarding the results of elections and nobody has complained so far. We are building popular power to give participatory substance to our revolution. We are intervening against big monopolistic property and turning it into social property. We have a Bolivarian Revolution which we call socialist also, and all this is being done with civil liberties preserved, free press, and a multiparty system preserved. We battle every day against a fierce and pustchist opposition that is backed up by powerful capitalist countries, starting with the USA. Yet we manage to keep proceeding on a democratic path. But, also again, we remind people abroad that we are not Swedish or English.

On the second concern, I have to say that I find it strange for people abroad concerned with justice and Venezuelan progress, to defend people like Judge Afiuni. I think she deserves to have the same treatment as any other citizen that is being judged for similar reasons and is under custody because there is the expectation of his or her escape. Afiuni already has privileges, including being in a fairly comfortable cell with TV and lap top, plus she enjoys visits at times no other inmate may have.

Since Afiuni knows the judicial position she is in, she keeps on playing the card of being a political prisoner, which of course she is not. We have no news of Afiuni being a political partisan of any group or defender of any ideology. Simply, Afiuni was a judge that received a pay off for the release of Cedeño and now is eager to part the country and enjoy the money. If we had had a violent revolution we could fight corruption with violent means, but since our revolution follows a democratic and peaceful path, we can only put the felons in jail. To forego that option would be to forego law, on the one hand, and open the door to further violations on the other.