From the Editors of VenEconomy
Today millions of Venezuelans and the international community are deeply shocked by the unjust sentence that judge Susana Barrientos and the government of Nicolás Maduro imposed on opposition leader Leopoldo López on Thursday. 13 years, nine months, seven days and 12 hours without having been presented a single element of evidence against him on the facts that the Public Prosecutor’s Office charged him with (conspiracy, public incitement, damage and arson during the violent events that took place on February 12 of 2014.)
Barrientos also sentenced Christian Haldock (to 10 years, although he will still benefit from an alternative custodial penalty due to health reasons), as well as Damián Martín and Ángel González (the latter got 4 years and six months with a custodial alternative in his favor.)
This ruling of Barrientos was quite predictable because it perfectly matches the values of the governments of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, imposed for more than 16 years through the so-called "socialism of the 21st century" thought up in the communist-led government of Cuba.
She acted under the same guidelines written by a system of justice modeled after the taste and interests of the government in office, one that sends people to prison without presenting any evidence and violates the constitutional rights of defendants in cases such as that of the police commissioners and Metropolitan Police officers (all of them sentenced to harsh prison sentences for the bloody events of April 2002, in order to exculpate the Government for the massacre of peaceful protesters), or that of Otoniel and Rolando Guevara (sentenced to a prison term of 30 years for the death of the prosecutor of the Bolivarian revolution Danilo Anderson, also with no evidence), or that of judge María de Lourdes Afiuni for discharging a prisoner of the Chávez government conditionally (Eligio Cedeńo, a local entrepreneur.) This is just to mention three of the most emblematic cases.
The court cases of López, Haldock, Martín and González have procedural omissions and violations of due process that resemble other political trials in Venezuela’s socialist era: "custom-made" offenses and evidence, absence of convincing evidence that would prove someone committed a crime, witnesses only in favor of the Prosecutor’s Office, the non-acceptance of evidence and witnesses from the defense, closed processes lacking transparency, violations of the right to defense, among others.
Perhaps the difference in this opportunity is the immediate response of international agencies and personalities, those who spoke out on Thursday night when Barrientos made her ruling.
One of the first persons to do so was José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director at Human Rights Watch, who after rejecting the sentence, claimed that this is a farce evidencing the serious deterioration of the rule of law in Venezuela and said that "in a country without judicial independence, a temporary judge without security of tenure has sentenced four innocent people after a judicial process in which the Public Ministry did not provide any evidence that links them with a crime."
The European Union, which has kept a closer watch on the process, also pointed out that this has "lacked the appropriate guarantees in terms of transparency and due process of law," and demanded "that the available instances for resorting to must revise the severe verdicts in a fair and transparent way."
Meanwhile after learning the sentence, Amnesty International issued a statement citing among other deficiencies: 1) the "absolute lack of judicial independence" in Venezuela; 2) the lack of evidence against the defendants; 3) an absence of judicial impartiality in Venezuela; 4) evidence of a clear political motivation in the trial and sentence, pointing out that with the ruling of the judge Venezuela is "choosing to ignore basic human rights principles and giving its nod to further abuse."
As said by local journalist Leopoldo Castillo in his Twitter account on Thursday night, "Maduro left politics aside and took the path of terror. This is a different game with other rules and consequences."
López is right with the following message he delivered to the people of Venezuela: "Keep calm, maintain dignity, and don’t lose heart not even for a minute."VenEconomy has been a leading provider of consultancy on financial, political and economic data in Venezuela since 1982.
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