Ex-Governor Mendoza Charged with 7 Crimes in Venezuela

Former state governor and opposition leader Enrique Mendoza was charged with having committed seven crimes during the April 2002 coup against President Chavez. Mendoza insists on his innocence and says that the charges are further proof of the Chavez government's authoritarianism.

Opposition leader and former state governor Enrique Mendoza was cheered by supporters as he entered the Attorney General’s office.
Credit: Jorge Santos

Caracas, Venezuela, March 15, 2005—The ex-governor of the Venezuelan state of Miranda, Enrique Mendoza, reported to the Attorney General’s office yesterday where he was charged with seven crimes, including civil rebellion and treason, for his participation during the coup d’état against the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in April, 2002.

According to National Assembly President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuelans hope that these investigations are conducted in one transparent open-to-the-public trial. Once that the TSJ rules on the charges, Maduro explained, society will then be able to draw its own conclusions, turn to the page on the events of the 11th of April, and make sure that this never happens again. “The application of justice by the majority of the people is the only thing that can guarantee stability before the pretensions of crazed sectors, with financing from the United States,” he affirmed.  

On April 11th, 2002, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was briefly ousted in a coup d’état, the Constitution was suspended, and all democratic institutions were dissolved.  Though the coup was reversed 48 hours later by massive popular mobilization in support of Chávez and a military counter-coup, a Supreme Court ruling on August 14th, 2002 allowed key officers involved in the coup to go free.  According to the Supreme Court ruling, the events of April 11-13th were not a coup, but rather a “power vacuum,” thus absolving military officers who had participated from blame. This ruling was recently overturned; “the judges of the Supreme Court unduly ruled on totally unrelated aspects of the pre-trail,” thereby re-opening legal avenues for the prosecution of coup-participants.

To date, travel bans have been issued against thirty of the coup supporters and arrest warrants have been issued for leaders of the oil industry shutdown in December, 2002-February, 2003 led by business leaders and the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV).  Carlos Ortega, the former president of the CTV, was arrested two weeks ago on charges of treason and civil rebellion for his actions during the oil industry shutdown. Pedro Carmona, president of the ‘interim government’ during the coup, fled to neighboring Colombia shortly after the coup, where he was granted political asylum. Over 400 individuals are currently under investigation.

Maduro asserted that Mendoza inflicted a lot of damage during not only during the coup, but also throughout 2003 and 2004. The National Assembly President recalled that the ex-governor was responsible for the closing the state television channel, Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), during the coup. According to Maduro, it is due time that Mendoza is held accountable for his actions.

Mendoza‘s Fight Continues

Mendoza arrived to the Attorney General’s office a little before 9am, where a small group of people had gathered to show their support for him.

Upon exiting the Attorney General’s office, Mendoza declared that he will continue this fight, a fight that is not only his, but also is the fight of millions of Venezuelans living in a country where totalitarianism has taken over all of the government structures. “We are going to continue; the Venezuelan opposition can be sure that we are going to continue,” he announced, promising never to yield in the fight “to rescue the country from autocracy.”

The ex-governor appeared convinced that the charges brought against him are unjustified. “They are practically trying to establish crimes through affirmations.  They will go to the extreme of establishing that the [opposition coalition] Democratic Coordinator’s December 24th communiqué has a criminal character,” he speculated.

Mendoza has been summoned to go before the Attorney General again, ironically, on April 11th.

The investigation into the actions of several military officers and civilians began on July 17th, 2002, with a report filed by National Assembly deputies, including Tulio Jiménez and others, through which they appealed to the Public Ministry to hold coup leaders responsible for the damages inflicted upon the State. 

See also:  Venezuela’s Supreme Court Nullifies Sentence that Absolved Coup Organizers