Judge and be Judged

Acclaimed author and intellectual Luis Britto Garcia provides a critical look at international attempts to discredit the Venezuelan judiciary.


After 12 years in office, Chavez remains overwhelmingly favored for reelection in October. Given the alternative, most Venezuelans have a clear choice.

In this timely piece translated by Correo del Orinoco, acclaimed author and intellectual Luis Britto Garcia provides a critical look at international attempts to discredit the Venezuelan judiciary. Britto Garcia, who was recently invited to join the country’s Council of State by President Hugo Chavez, is an advocate of Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Iachr) which he asserts “serve only to legitimize imperial actions”.

The Repetitive Script

Comedies don’t exist without pre-written scripts. It’s quite rare to find a brilliant improviser – and the mediocre man doesn’t go much further than the autocue and teleprompter. In the great farce that has been set up by the opposition, used to condemn Venezuela within international courts, the scripts have also been written, with their snares and all.

Such was the case on September 25, 2009, in direct violation of the American Convention’s Article 46 (which prohibits the consideration of cases which have yet to be resolved by a country’s internal judicial mechanisms), when the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights (Iachr) formally accepted a complaint by Allan Brewer Carias.

To justify this gross violation of its own statutes, the Iachr recommended that Venezuela “take measures to ensure the independence of the judiciary, making reforms that would serve to strengthen the procedures for naming and removing both judges and prosecutors, thus ensuring stability in their positions and eliminating the provisional situation in which the vast majority of judges and prosecutors find themselves, with the overall objective being to guarantee judicial protection established in the (American) Convention”. In other words, the Venezuelan judiciary would not be independent but instead be replaced by the Inter-American Commission and its Court.

Editor’s Note: Article 46a of the American Convention on Human Rights stipulates “that the remedies under domestic law have been pursued and exhausted in accordance with generally recognized principles of international law” before any case by considered by the Iachr.

Is it then just a casual coincidence that the opposition’s Diego Arria repeated a “special mention to the judicial branch, which now stands on bended knees when facing the Head of State (Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez) and Government, as has been certified by recognized organizations dedicated to defending Human Rights” when he submitted his November 21, 2011 complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.

That same day, following the poorly-rehearsed script, Arria also affirmed to (right-wing Venezuelan journalist) Roberto Giusti, “even the Criminal Division of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) Court has elaborated legislation by which drug trafficking is considered a crime against humanity”. Diego Arria, both a lawyer and a “thinking being”, should know that the TSJ does not write “legislation” but instead issues sentences. It would appear that some blind-eyed undergrad of the School of Law writes up the opposition’s allegations while pre-candidates and international courts repeat them with any indication of reflective thought.

Aponte Aponte

Given all of the aforementioned, it also doesn’t seem to be mere coincidence that Eladio Aponte Aponte, the Venezuelan judge who fled the country so as to avoid charges of criminal misconduct, repeated similar claims on US television network Soitv last month: “The judiciary gives autonomy where none exists, that is, it acts like an independent branch – and this is a fallacy”.

Asked about the independence of the different branches of government in Venezuela, he had it memorized: “I don’t think there’s that much independence”. His declarations fit like a glove for the international entities affirming that our tribunals aren’t autonomous, the same international players who feel they should draw up sentences against us.

A statement, or testimony, is worth as much as the witness that makes it. And in the case of Aponte Aponte, it’s worth less than nothing. A judge flees the country, in his own words, “to clear out”, or in other words, so as to avoid being charged with crimes he committed.

He admits to having issued a military identification card to known drug trafficker Walid Makled. He also admits to manipulating decisions while serving as President of the TSJ Criminal Division “when there was money on a certain side of things. What happens is that I was asked favors and I carried them out”.

When asked if he had supported the removal of judges who didn’t consent to such conduct he responds, “yes, I did”. Asked if he ever made decisions that favored drug trafficking, he confesses, “only in one case that I can think of at this time”. He alleges that Venezuela’s current National Anti-Drug Office (ONA) Director supports drug trafficking, but when it comes to evidence, says “I don’t have it with me, right now”. He warns that he will soon write his “memoirs”.

Granting the Gavel

These are confessions that would merit a lengthy conviction if presented in a Venezuelan court. But in a US or international court, where testimonies are purchased like stocks in the market, his confessions are to be awarded with immunity, impunity, and protection from extradition.

What are we doing submitting ourselves to courts that the United States does not submit itself to and which serve only to legitimize imperial actions? And what are we doing systematically granting power to unpatriotic, delinquent defectors who lack ideology, works, and/or trajectories?

The fault is not of the judge, but of he who grants him the gavel.

*Luis Britto Garcia is an award winning Venezuelan author, playwright, lawyer, and constitutional scholar. Translated by Correo del Orinoco International.