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Opinion and Analysis: Bolivarian Project

Venezuelan Victim’s Association Opposes Pardon Requests for Perpetrators of 2002 Coup

In recent days, opposition spokespeople who participated in and supported the 2002 coup d’état have been persistently demanding a pardon for those convicted of crimes during the coup attempt. In response, the Association of Victims of the Coup D’état (ASOVIC) has published a communiqué to express their complete repudiation of any possible concession for the Metropolitan Police agents who were convicted of crimes against humanity. The members of ASOVIC have become increasingly concerned in light of recent court rulings that have allowed several corrupt bankers to be freed, and in light of a proliferation of comments from the political right calling for the liberation of Iván Simonovis, head of the Metropolitan Police force responsible for killing nearly twenty people and seriously wounding many more during the 2002 coup attempt.

Chris Carlson of translates the full statement from ASOVIC below:

Victims of the April 11th Coup Against a Possible Pardon for the Perpetrators of the Llaguno Bridge Massacre

Dialogue cannot be the price of impunity

The calls for “dialogue” and “reconciliation” by opposition spokespeople have increased lately with the declining health of the President of the republic. They demand “absolution” or “amnesty” for the so-called “political prisoners”, several of whom were incarcerated for crimes against humanity. Opposition representatives have presented a formal request to the national government and there have been conversations with them, but the surviving victims, the widows and widowers, orphans, wounded and permanently incapacitated as a result of these crimes have not been consulted. Some of the perpetrators paid for their crimes in jail; others remain in their homes for health reasons, while still others enjoy complete freedom after having fled the country to evade justice. Now the opposition and their international allies are advocating for these wicked individuals, using the holiday season as a pretext.

State terrorism and human rights violations do not qualify for “reconciliation”

Those who used state terrorism during the years of the 4th Republic (1830-1999), and later shook the democratic foundations of the new Venezuelan state with the events of 2002, are now asking to be pardoned for the terrible and monstrous attacks against the human rights of a long list of Venezuelans, victims of massacres, forced disappearances and attacks. They want us to pardon the murderers of the April 11th, 2002 coup, the murderers of Danilo Anderson… but they will not pardon Chavez and the Venezuelan people for their revolution, as they demonstrated in 2002 when they trampled on the constitution and hunted down the officials of the legitimate government as well as the people who came out to defend them. For this reason we feel it is time to make this public statement, so that the government authorities and the general population know why the opposition calls for amnesty are both illegal and unconstitutional.

Respect for the constitution and the victims

The Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (1999) reflects the historic experience of the Venezuelan and Latin American people, who for decades have advocated for the recognition, respect, and defense of human rights, especially in the recent decades of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s when student and popular movements were victims of practices like forced disappearances, torture, military trials, targeted assassinations, and massacres, among other horrible human rights abuses.

It was for this reason a new constitutional assembly, as part of the re-founding of the Venezuelan Republic, gave priority to the protection of human rights. The new constitution severely penalizes the commission of these grave crimes through the respective penal laws, and leaves it very clear in Article 29 that the granting of any concessions like amnesty for these crimes is impossible. Likewise, this comes out of the Latin American experience in which any efforts for silence or forgetting the past have been rejected both by internal courts as well as regional human rights courts, as well as the recent proliferation of truth commissions across the region to investigate the human rights abuses that were covered up by the repressive regimes of past decades. Venezuela has been a part of this initiative with proposals such as the “Law to punish crimes, forced disappearances, tortures and other human rights violations of the 1958-1998 period”.

Cases in which granting amnesty would be illegal and unconstitutional

For this reason, it is worth reviewing some of the cases in which granting amnesty or any other measure in favor of the perpetrators would be illegal and unconstitutional.

Cases like the Llaguno Bridge Massacre, which occurred on April 11th, 2002 after careful planning and plotting by the opposition to forcefully overthrow the constitutional government, resulted in hundreds wounded and dozens of deaths. Likewise, we must remember the horrific murder in 2004 of the attorney general Danilo Anderson, who was carrying out the investigations of those involved in the 2002 coup d’état.

We cannot forget the massacres of Liceo Sanz, La Victoria, Cantaura, Yumare, El Amparo, El Caracazo; the forced disappearances of people like Alejandro Tejera Cuenca, Victor Soto Rojas, several members of the Petit family, as well as the approximately three thousand crimes that have been documented by the investigations of the human rights violations during the so-called “democratic period”.

The Constitution and Jurisprudence make the attempts for amnesty or pardons for the perpetrators of the Llaguno Bridge Massacre impossible

The above-mentioned Article 29 of the constitution establishes clearly and unequivocally that “…human rights violations and crimes against humanity will be investigated and tried by the court system. These crimes are excluded from measures that could render the offenders immune from punishment, including pardons and amnesty.”

In the case of the Llaguno Bridge Massacre, the sentence given for those responsible for the murders in downtown Caracas on April 11th, 2002 included the ruling that the Metropolitan Police officials were guilty of severe human rights violations, and they were also declared guilty of human rights abuses by the Supreme Court in ruling number 05-1899 on 4-13-2007, which makes the attempts for pardon or amnesty for the police officials impossible.

The motivation of those who write this text is not revenge nor retaliation, but rather the hope that our country will not undergo another episode of impunity in the search for justice, which was one of the factors that our “Liberator” Simon Bolivar pointed to in analyzing the causes of the fall of the First Republic: “each conspiracy was followed by a pardon, and each pardon by another conspiracy”.

We make this statement in the spirit of the process of unity called for by President Chavez, which must unfailingly listen to all sectors of society that can be affected by government measures, especially those sectors who have spilled their blood in defense of the revolutionary process.