Venezuelan Supreme Court Judge Impeached for Corruption

The National Assembly permanently removed former pro-Chavez Supreme Court Judge Luis Velásquez Alvaray after he refused to present himself to the assembly to defend himself from corruption charges.

Caracas, Venezuela, June 9, 2006—After Supreme CourtJudge Luis Velásquez Alvaray refused to present himself before the NationalAssembly to defend himself from corruption charges, the legislative bodypermanently removed him from his post.

Insteadof appearing before the Assembly, Velásquez sent a five page letter to thelegislative body reportedly explaining his refusal to answer to it. “I will not present myself to give a show inwhich you want to display my head on a plate like an electoral trophy. I am notavailable to legitimize with my presence a new collective lie,” said theletter, according to El Universal.

Velasquez also said heknew of the existence of an arrest order out against him.

InMarch, Interior and Justice Minister Jesse Chacón accused Velásquez ofmismanaging money of the Executive Directorate of the Judicial System (DEM)used to start up a judicial complex. Among other allegations, Velásquez standsaccused of failing to allow for a bidding process, and instead, illegallygiving a no bid contract to a private company.

Lastmonth, Velásquez was temporarily suspended when the attorney general, publicdefender, and comptroller general announced that there were enough elements ofevidence to declare that Velásquez had seriously mismanaged the money. 

Theformer magistrate has repeatedly denied the charges, saying that Chacón, VicePresident José Vicente Rangel, and President of the National Assembly NicolásMaduro, have instigated the proceedings because he would not let them controlhim in the Supreme Court.

Velásquez was appointed to the Supreme Court in2004, when the court was expanded from 20 to 32 magistrates. The expansion wasseen by government supporters as a move to counter the influence of pro-coup judgesand by government detractors as an executive branch attempt to gain controlover the judicial system. Previously Velásquez had been a deputy for thegoverning coalition and fervently pro-Chávez, in one instance getting rebukedby Chávez for suggesting an end to presidential term limits.