Venezuelan National Assembly Finds Rosales Responsible for Fraud

Manuel Rosales, a key opposition leader, was charged with illegal enrichment by the Public Ministry last Thursday, while the National Assembly declared his political responsibility for fraud.

Mérida, December 14, 2008 (– Manuel Rosales, a key opposition leader, was charged with illegal enrichment by the Public Ministry last Thursday, while the National Assembly declared his political responsibility for fraud.

Legislator Mario Isea, of the governing party PSUV and president of the special commission of the National Assembly that has been investigating corruption charges against Rosales, said that their investigation has found Rosales to be politically responsible in the case of irregularities in the local lottery of the state of Zulia. The national assembly approved the commission's report on Thursday, December 11.

Rosales lost against Hugo Chavez in the 2006 presidential elections, was governor of Zulia state from 2000 to 2008 and was recently elected mayor of Zulia's capital of Maracaibo in the regional and local elections on November 23 2008. He also founded the party "A New Era" in 2000 and was a youth leader of the former governing party "Democratic Action" (AD).

According to the legislature's special commission, Rosales was complicit when he re-contracted with the local lottery after this lottery was proven to have committed fraud. Isea has also accused him of various instances of corruption, including the channeling of public funds into private accounts, and hoarding land and capital in the name of front people.

Isea declared, "We've arrived at the conclusion that for actions and omissions, ex-governor Rosales … has violated the law as it relates to the mechanisms of bidding or selecting companies to award contracts."

He explained that Rosales, having it in his power to control and supervise the running of the lottery, did not do this, a failure that was not in his favor according to the commission.
A range of other officials were also found politically responsible, including Zulia's comptroller, a state lawyer, the president of Alfa Lottery and Playtex C.A, the members of the boards of the companies, and the president of the Income for Public Benefit Institute of Zulia.

Isea said the commission will forward the findings to the General Prosecutor's office and asked the Superintendency of Banks and Other Financial Institutions (Sudeban) to intervene and to check bank accounts and other aspects that have to do with the dealings related to the lottery case.

According to article 222 of the Venezuelan constitution, the National Assembly, through a process of research and questioning, can find a person "politically responsible" and then request that the public ministry (which includes the attorney general's office) take action.

Meanwhile, in a parallel action, the public ministry has charged Rosales with illicit enrichment, under article 73 and in accordance with article 46 and the Law Against Corruption. The crime entails a sentence of 3-10 years in prison.

Initially, the Comptroller General conducted an investigation between 2002 and 2004, and then issued a report on July 19 2007, on which the current charge is based.  The report showed that Rosales had registered funds that he could not justify.

The president of the Intergovernmental Fund for Decentralization, José Villalba added the allegation that Rosales was awarded a large sum of money for the construction of social works in Zulia that were never realized.

Private media response

Omar Barboza, president of the A New Era party, told Union Radio, "The obsession with re-election, the ambition for power …brings [president Chavez] to this state terrorism."

The daily newspaper El Universal quoted Rosales as calling the charge by the Public Ministry nothing more than "pay back" after his victory as mayor of Maracaibo in the recent elections on November 23. He called it a "political trial" to try to "stain our image, intimidate the Venezuelan people and box in those who are opposed to this regime and to indefinite re-election."