Merida, April 25th 2009
(Venezuelanlaysis.com) — A state court in Guarico, Venezuela, put out an
arrest warrant yesterday for the ex-governor of that state, Eduardo Manuitt, for
embezzlement. The ex-mayor of Caracas,
Juan Barretto, has also been summoned over an investigation into corruption.
The whereabouts of Manuitt are unknown, according to Tarek
El Aissami, Minister for Internal Relations and Justice. El Aissami said that as
a result of the arrest warrant, "all national and international mechanisms have
been activated to locate this citizen and arrest him and put him before the
court." He added that Manuitt's travels are being monitored and the
International Police (Interpol) have been alerted.
Manuitt was governor of Gaurico from 1999 to 2008, and
originally a member of the Homeland for All party (PPT) but then joined the
governing party, the United Socialist Party (PSUV). The PSUV later expelled
Manuitt for supporting the gubernatorial candidacy of his daughter, Lenny
Manuitt, who broke from the PSUV ranks and ran on the PPT ticket after failing
to be elected in the PSUV primaries.
On December 16 last year the public prosecutor accused
Manuitt of irregularities in the purchase of 4 air conditioning units for
hospitals in 1999 while he was governor. Manuitt told the press he was innocent and
claimed the accusations were politically motivated.
Embezzlement in Venezuela entails a sentence of
3-10 years in prison. Prosecutors are requesting 60% of the value of the damage
caused, which in this case amounts to BsF227,695 (US$ 106,000).
Investigation of the case began on August 9, 2002 based on a report by
the National Assembly which was sent to the public prosecutor's office.
Caracas Mayor Summoned
The public prosecutor's office has summoned ex-Caracas
mayor, Juan Barreto, on Wednesday, for allegedly being involved in corruption during
his time as Metropolitan Mayor from 2004 to 2008.
Barreto is currently a PSUV legislator in the National
Assembly and is said to have been one of the main promoters of President Hugo
Chavez's presidential candidacy in 1998.
Barreto is summoned for April 29. The public
prosecutor's press release said that the investigation into the case began on November 12, 2007 for
alleged irregularities committed during the award and execution of an air
surveillance system project and another one around LED information displays.
According to the press release, three other people are
also accused, including Jose Iglesias, ex-director of projects and planning for
the metropolitan mayoralty.
Barreto, in a press conference on Wednesday in
response to the summons, said that he wondered how he could be accused when it
was he himself who had solicited the investigation.
In response, the attorney general, Luisa Ortega, said that
Barreto should present himself in court to present his arguments, and that a
summons isn't a pronouncement of guilt.
The investigations of Manuitt and Barreto are the
latest in a series of high profile political corruption cases in Venezuela. On
Thursday, a Caracas court issued an arrest warrant for Maracaibo Mayor Manuel
Rosales on corruption charges, and earlier this month Chávez's long-time ally
and former defense minister, Raul Baduel, was temporarily detained for
questioning about a hole in the Defense Ministry's budget during his term as
Commenting on the strategic direction of the Bolivarian
Revolution led by his administration Friday, President Chávez said, "Every
corrupt official who appears on the radar must be tried and convicted, in order
to continue advancing with solidity and strength."