Public Prosecutor Formally Charges Rightwing Ex-Mayor Antonio Ledezma

The Venezuelan Public Prosecutor's Office formally charged the former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma yesterday with supporting groups intent on violently destabilizing the country and has requested that the case proceed to trial.

By Lucas Koerner

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A notorious figure in Venezuela's right wing, Antonio Ledezma played a key role both in the 1989 massacre known as the "Caracazo" as well as the 2002 US-backed coup against president Hugo Chavez.  (Correo del Orinoco)
A notorious figure in Venezuela's right wing, Antonio Ledezma played a key role both in the 1989 massacre known as the "Caracazo" as well as the 2002 US-backed coup against president Hugo Chavez. (Correo del Orinoco)
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Caracas, April 8, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - The Venezuelan Public Prosecutor's Office formally charged the former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma yesterday with supporting groups intent on violently destabilizing the country and has requested that the case proceed to trial.

In a formal declaration presented before the Sixth Court of the Caracas Metropolitan Area, Prosecutor Jose Luis Orta charged the right-wing ex-mayor with conspiracy and association under the Law Against Organized Crime and Financing Terrorism and solicited that the case be brought to trial.

Ledezma was procedurally arrested by Venezuelan authorities on February 19 in connection with the thwarted February 12 "Blue Coup" attempt against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The ex-mayor was indicted in an initial hearing on February 23 in which a judge found sufficient evidence to justify his detention while he awaits trial.

Ledezma was one of three signatories of a "National Accord for Transition" issued by prominent opposition leaders just 24 hours prior to the thwarted coup, which calls for the ouster of the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro, described as a "regime" facing "inevitable collapse."

The other two signatories were former legislator Maria Corina Machado, whose various NGOs have received millions in funding from the U.S. government, and rightwing party leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been charged and currently awaits trial for his role in leading violent opposition protests last year that took the lives of 43 people.  

All three signatories were protagonists in the 2002 U.S.-backed coup against then president Hugo Chávez, which saw the Venezuelan leader ousted for 48 hours before being restored to power by a popular civil-military uprising.

In issuing the charges, prosecutors have cited the ex-mayor's links to a small group of far-right anti-government militants, including Lorent Gómez Saleh, Gabriel Valles, Ronny Navarro, Gerardo Carrero and Renzo Prieto, all of whom have been charged and are facing trial for violent conspiracy plans.

Saleh, who was extradited from Colombia for his links to right-wing paramilitaries, repeatedly named Ledezma in a series of intercepted Skype conversations, describing him as the key political backer of the anti-government resistance.

Venezuelan authorities have also released further evidence they claim links Ledezma to the alleged coup plotters, including repeated phone calls to the same U.S. number dialed various times by officers implicated in the plot.

While applauding the mayor's indictment as a blow to upper-class impunity, some human rights groups have called for the politician popularly called "the vampire" to be tried additionally for his role in the 1989 Caracazo riots.

At that time, Ledezma, then governor of Metropolitan Caracas, presided over the killing of up to 3000 protesters by police and military in a brutal massacre that shattered the facade of Venezuela's pacted democracy and made way for the emergence of the Bolivarian Revolution.

On the other hand, Ledezma together with Leopoldo Lopez has become something of a cause celebre for right-wing leaders worldwide, who hail them as "political prisoners."

Various foreign political leaders and governments including President Obama's State Department, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso have called for the ex-mayor's release without trial.