Inter-American Court’s Ruling on Leopoldo Lopez “Means Nothing”, Says Chávez

Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, dismissed a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) this Saturday, after the body tried to override a decision by Venezuela’s judicial authorities to ban an opposition politician from holding public office.

By Rachael Boothroyd - Venezuelanalysis.com

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The Inter-American Court of Human Rights this week backed opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez in his bid to stand as a candidate in the 2012 presidential elections (democraciaenjuego.org)
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights this week backed opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez in his bid to stand as a candidate in the 2012 presidential elections (democraciaenjuego.org)
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El Tigre, September 18th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, dismissed a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) this Saturday, after the body tried to override a decision by Venezuela’s judicial authorities to ban an opposition politician from holding public office.

A former mayor of the wealthy Chacao district in Caracas, politician Leopoldo Lopez of the “Popular Will” party, was banned from holding public office for five years in 2008 after the Comptroller General said that a political party he had helped found received an illegal donation of US$ 106,000 in misappropriated public funds in violation of the country’s anti-corruption laws. On Friday, the IACHR issued a ruling ordering the Venezuelan government to lift the 2008 ban on Lopez and allow him to run for president in the up-and-coming 2012 elections.

“What value can that Court have? For me, it means nothing, zero to the left” said president Chávez in reference to the IACHR, an organ of the Organization of the American States (OAS).

The Venezuelan president accused the court of hypocrisy, and highlighted that the body had remained silent during the short-lived 2002 coup against the elected Chávez government, which resulted in over 60 deaths.

“This is the same court that has still not commented on the coup of April 11th. We are still waiting. A request for protection was presented to that court when I was kidnapped. They never responded, their response was to call [coup leader] Carmona,” continued the president.

In 2008, 271 Venezuelans – including Lopez - were temporarily banned from holding public office due to charges of corruption or administrative irregularities. The ex-mayor claims that his right to run for political office were "violated" by the ruling and he has consistently petitioned the Costa-Rica based IACHR to intervene on his behalf.

Venezuela’s representative at the international court, Gérman Saltrón, confirmed that the IACHR’s ruling would now be submitted to the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice, where it would be decided whether the court’s decision would be upheld or not.

In comments to regional news channel teleSUR, Saltrón accused the IACHR of failing to remain impartial with regards to its dealings with Venezuela.

“[The IACHR] is totally biased against the Venezuelan state. It's not objective in its analysis and its positions are more political than legal,” said Saltrón.

Venezuela’s representative stated that whereas the Chávez government had received 58 accusations of human rights violations from the IACHR since 1998, only 6 were brought against the Venezuelan state between 1967 and 1998; figures which Saltrón cites as indicative of the international court’s bias.

For her part, regional representative of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) Yamma Martinez, said the court had shown itself to be “complacent with delinquents”.

Ex-Mayor Lopez played an important part in the 2002 coup and signed what is known as the “Carmona Decree”, a document which dissolved the Venezuelan constitution and disbanded the country’s democratic institutions, such as the National Assembly and the Supreme Court.

In statements to the press, opposition parties COPEI (Christian Democrat Party) and the UNT (A New Era) welcomed the court’s decision and applauded Lopez’s defence of “human rights”.

“Bravo Leopodo, the position taken by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is a reward for your courage in defence of your rights and those of Venezuelans,” said Roberto Enrique, National President of COPEI.

During a ministerial a meeting with his Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales, Chávez stated that the IACHR was an organisation of “the past”, and said that regional bodies such as the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) should set up an alternative organisation to monitor human rights abuses.

Similarly, the Bolivian president called for the establishment of a regional alternative to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which last week listed Venezuela and Bolivia as countries that had “failed” to collaborate with the U.S. agency in its fight against narcotics trafficking.