|Governor Eduardo Manuitt of the Venezuelan state of Guarico.|
Caracas, Venezuela, June 9, 2005—An eight month investigation conducted by the Venezuelan Nationa; Assembly’s Commission on Policies of the Interior concluded yesterday, establishing the responsibility of the Governor of the State of Guárico, Eduardo Manuitt, for the alleged human rights violations committed by police officers of that State. Although fourteen National Assembly Deputies of the eighteen member Commission, including eight from the pro-government coalition and six from the opposition, approved the 250 page report that establishes Manuitt’s guilt in the case, harsh words across the political spectrum have caused high tensions within the coalition of political parties backing President Hugo Chávez.
The pro-government coalition is dominated by the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), one of, if not the largest political party in Latin America. The MVR is backed by numerous, although significantly smaller parties such as Fatherland for All (PPT), the People’s Electoral Movement (MEP), ‘We Can’ (Podemos), Emerging People (GE), Civil-Military Bolivarian Front (FBCM), and Venezuelan Popular Unity (UPV). PPT, the party of Governor Eduardo Manuitt, has the second largest electoral base after the MVR as well as the second highest number of elected officials and many ministers.
The report documents over 200 murders and disappearances of suspected criminals and convicted criminals and provides evidence that these acts were committed by the Brigade of Intervention and Support (BIA) of the Guárico State Police, a group specifically created by Governor Manuitt.
Under less politically charged circumstances, the next step after presenting the report would be the initiation of a pre-trial to determine whether or not a formal trial is warranted. However, due to the objections of Deputies such as Ismael García (We can), and Cilia Flores (MVR), among several others, National Assembly President Nicolás Maduro (MVR) determined that within the next few days, a new “neutral and objective” commission will be formed with the specific purpose of evaluating the report and quenching any doubt as to its veracity. Indeed Maduro himself has serious doubts about the report and had no reservations in expressing them. “This report is contaminated by personal rivalry, political rivalry, political hatred of some of the members of the Commission that helped to draft it,” he affirmed yesterday.
The idea of a second commission did not go over well with the President of the Commission of Policies of the Interior Nicolás Sosa (MAS), who denounced it and explained that it is not legally plausible to substitute one commission for another.
Governor Manuitt denies the charges and contends that they were fabricated by members of the MVR and the opposition as a way to split the governing coalition. He asserts that the deaths were confrontations with corrupt, wicked people – a version that is vehemently denied by the families of the victims.
According to the Vice President of the Commission of Policies of the Interior, Iris Varela (MVR), the investigation uncovered a series of elements that justify its verdict. Varela has no doubt that the National Assembly will approve its findings. “The establishment of the Governor’s political responsibility is a given because constitutionally, it is he who directs and organizes the police of the state of Guárico and he created the Brigade of Intervention and Support (BIA), which was formed by decree. Therefore, he must respond for the actions of that police,”
Although Varela assured that there is no political strife between the MVR and the PPT that could put the revolution at risk, she rejected the idea of an “evaluating commission” because it undermines the authority of the original Commission and it opens the possibility that other National Assembly Deputies could obstruct the findings of the report.
The Secretary General of PPT, José Albornoz, begged to differ. Albornoz asserted that the report tries to “attack and assault the PPT” and ultimately threatens the revolutionary process. According to Albornoz there is evidence that shows that “the so-called investigation” was influenced by “political motives against Governor Manuitt and against the PPT by some members of the MVR and all of the members of the opposition.”
“We have seen the electoral campaign’s development in the process of this investigation,” he stated, reminding the National Assembly that “everyone is in an electoral campaign because the candidate selection is now towards late August/early September.”
The Albornoz then proceeded to elaborate on each Commission members’ personal political motives, with the exception of Iris Varela. For example, Albornoz accused Deputy Moisé Días of being of possible candidate to succeed Manuitt. He contended that Deputy Miguel Angel Moyetones (Copei) is “the owner of the media in the state of Guárico and even before Manuitt was Governor, has been a feverent attacker of the campaign of Manuitt,” and “has attacked anything that has meant being at the side of President Chávez.” He also accused the President of the Commission, Nicolás Sosa of being “a traitor to the revolutionary process.”According to Albornoz, Nicolas Maduro’s decision to create a special commission that will review the investigation is a “life vest” that the members of the Commission should be grateful for because “you know how ridiculous and irresponsible a report like this is going to be.”