Venezuela’s Attorney General Asks Court to Review Exoneration of Coup Plotters

Venezuela's Attorney General says that the August 2002 Supreme Court decision which exonerated the military officers accused of plotting the coup against Chavez was unconstitutional. The court's Constitutional Chamber should thus reverse the decision.

Caracas, December 3, 2004—Yesterday, Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez asked the Constitutional Chamber of Venezuela’s Supreme Court to reverse a ruling it made on August 14th, 2002, that had released the military officers who were accused of organizing the April 2002 coup against President Chavez. According to the Supreme Court, the events of April 2002 constituted a “vacuum of power” that military officers legally filled and not a coup. Reversing the court decision would open legal avenues necessary for prosecuting the generals and politicians who were involved in the attempt to depose President Chávez.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court consists of five Chambers, each with different areas of responsibility. The full Supreme Court, however, is responsible for impeaching high-ranking government officials, such as the military officers who are accused of plotting the coup.

“The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) made a grotesque mistake in ruling a power vacuum after the coup d’état in April, 2002” asserted Rodríguez while explaining the motives behind the reexamination of decision Number 38.  “The judges of the Supreme Court unduly ruled on totally unrelated aspects of the pre-trial. The account constructed by the decision was carried out against all of the empirical evidence and the judicial rules.”

According to the 184 page petition submitted last Thursday, “The account constructed by the decision of August 14th, 2002, against judicial rules, led the majority of the Constitutional Chamber to deny that in Venezuela, on April 11th, 2002, President Chávez was ousted by a military coup.  The following day, the military named a de facto president to pronounce a decree of a de facto regime and all of the democratic institutions were destroyed and all of the power was concentrated in the hands of the usurper of power.” 

The Constitutional Chamber of Venezuela’s Supreme Court has the authority to review cases in which a ‘grotesque error’ has been committed with respect to the interpretation of the Constitution.

Should the coup case decision be reversed, this would allow legal actions to be filed against four high-level officials of the military; Efraín Vásquez Velazco and Pedro Pereira Olivares of the Army and Héctor Ramírez Pérez and Daniel Comisso Urdaneta of the Navy, for participation in overthrowing the Chávez administration and its institutions. 

In addition, several hundred people who supported the interim government of Carmona may face legal recourse. 

CIA foreknowledge of the coup

Within the past month, new evidence has emerged that shows that the CIA and the State Department knew of the coup shortly before it happened.

Eva Golinger, a New York lawyer, who acquired CIA documents through a Freedom of Information Act request said, “The CIA knew that a coup attempt would take place soon after April 6, 2002…One could assume that if the CIA had the detailed plans in their possession in the weeks prior to the coup, it was because they were associating and conspiring with the coup plotters…The top secret documents that prove this information and show they were sent to the U.S. Statement Department and the National Security Agency, which means frankly, the White House, knew what was happening all along.”

In an attempt to clarify why the CIA had failed to warn Chávez about the upcoming coup attempt, a CIA spokeswoman  in a statement with Long Island Newsday explained, that warning Chávez “would suggest that we would meddle in the affairs of another nation.”

Since 2001, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have funneled over 20 million dollars to opposition groups committed to removing Chávez from power both legally through the recall referendum or illegally through the coup attempt. 

Although NED president Carl Gershman denies these accusations, insisting that the funds were used only for ‘electoral education workshops’, Attorney General Isaias Rodríguez maintains his claim that the money was illegally used to undermine the government and influence internal affairs.

During a two-day diplomatic visit to Spain made by the Venezuelan President on November 23-24, the recently elected Spanish government of José Zapatero’s Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) admitted that the previous government under former President José María Aznar had supported the unsuccessful coup attempt against Chávez.  “Although it was never published, under the previous government, in an unprecedented move for Spanish diplomacy, the Spanish ambassador (in Caracas) received instructions to support the coup,” said Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain’s Foreign Minister.