Caracas, March 25th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Oswaldo Alvarez Paz, an opposition-aligned former governor of Zulia, Venezuela, was arrested last Monday by orders of a Caracas court and charged with conspiracy, public instigation to commit a crime and disseminating false information.
The charges are related to comments Paz made on opposition-aligned television channel Globovision on March 8, where he said that the Chavez government has converted Venezuela into an operational base for drug trafficking and terrorism.
Álvarez Paz referred to an indictment by Spanish Supreme Court Justice Eloy Velasco, who accused the Venezuelan government of cooperating in alleged joint actions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Basque independence group, ETA.
Velasco’s “evidence” came from a laptop computer allegedly belonging to FARC leader Raul Reyes, who was assassinated during an illegal military raid by Colombia into Ecuadorian territory in 2008. An Interpol report later found that Colombian authorities manipulated the computers and storage devices and that the information is inadmissible in any judicial procedure.
Venezuela says the charges, which coincided with similar claims and counter claims by U.S. State Department and U.S. Southern Command officials, are completely false and part of a broader political campaign to isolate and politically undermine the democratically elected Chavez government.
In particular, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro criticised Judge Velasco’s links to the right-wing Popular Party (PP) of former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who supported the April 2002 coup against the Chavez government.
The allegations sparked a controversy in Spain, with the PP calling for President José Zapatero, of the Socialist Worker’s Party, to break off of diplomatic relations with Venezuela as a result of the Judge Velasco’s indictment.
According to an EFE report today, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos rejected the PP’s claims, saying that the Venezuelan government has collaborated with the Spanish government. “The enemy is not Venezuela, its ETA,” Moratinos argued.
Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El-Aissami said that Alvarez Paz must prove the allegations made against the Venezuelan state and will remain in custody because he is considered at risk to flee the country.
Alvarez Paz’s lawyer, Omar Estacio, argued the charges amount to “political persecution,” and said he would appeal the decision.
Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega said Alvarez Paz would have the same rights as any other citizen and that after a preliminary hearing, “it will be for the judge to decide whether to keep him in custody.”