Caracas, Venezuela, April 28, 2005—The Attorney General’s office announced today that Luis Abelardo Velásquez, the Attorney General of the metropolitan area of Caracas, was commissioned on Tuesday, April 26th, to investigate the use of the “Tascon list” as a means to discriminate against members of the Venezuelan opposition.
The “Tascon list” is a list of approximately three million Venezuelans who signed a petition in December, 2003 to initiate the recall referendum against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. After much wrangling over the legitimacy of the signatures, a recall referendum was convoked, which Chávez defeated in August 2004, with 59% of the vote confirming his mandate.
The list had been posted on the website of National Assembly deputy Luis Tascon, in order to allow Venezuelans to see if their name appeared on the list illegitimately, in which case they could remove it from the petition. However, after the referendum, the list was said to have been used by both state officials and private businesses to selectively hire and fire employees and prospective employees, in accordance with the employers’ political preferences.
Although Chávez has called on Venezuelans to stop using the list for political motivations and to come together for the good of Venezuela, opposition organizations have announced that they will seek justice for those who have been denied jobs or fired based on this list.
Evangelina García Prince, an expert in women’s rights and a former advisor to the United Nations on gender policy, spoke of her personal experience with the list. “I have worked in Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua and Spain fighting for gender equality but I am unable to work in my own country because I signed the petition and I do not support Chávez,” García lamented.
As a result of the number of complaints filed, the Attorney General’s Office has opened an investigation designed to ascertain if crimes, discrimination, or irregularities were committed, by both state institutions and private businesses, in the use of the list.
Yet today’s press release clarified that nowhere is it is specified that “no one can publish the list of signatures; on the contrary, one of the reasons for publishing it is precisely to avoid the improper use of signatures that could have damaged the authenticity and transparency of the [recall referendum] process.”
According to public prosecutor Abelardo, “the diffusion of [the list’s] contents is within its political character and is linked in a special way to political participation. Therefore, the collection [of the signatures] is not an electoral process and consequently it is not subject to the electoral crimes commission contemplated in the Suffrage and Political Participation law.”
The Attorney General stressed the importance of verifying whether or not each individual case is marked by “evident political discrimination” or “a form of exclusion for political motives or reasons of opinion.” Even though Abelardo acknowledged that this behavior is illegal and that in some cases these crimes could constitute civil, labor, and administrative violations, he denied that there is any basis of comparison with the concept of apartheid and pointed out that classifying the situation in these terms will only “deepen the confusion in some sectors of the country.”
Responding to declarations in which political leaders have threatened to appeal to the Rome Statute, Abelardo pointed out that any international penal law is a complementary jurisdiction to the Venezuelan jurisdiction and is applicable only in certain conditions.
The Attorney General assured that he would fulfill his constitutional obligations and guarantee that human rights are respected.See also: Venezuela’s Chavez Says Blacklist must be “Buried”