VENEZUELA: IS THE NEW CITIZENS' POWER (THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR, THE OFFICE OF THE COMPTROLLER AND THE PEOPLES' ADVOCATE) CONTROLLED BY THE EXECUTIVE?
Report from Sumate.org
1. Before his appointment as Public Prosecutor, Isaías Rodríguez held the following posts: (1) member of President Chavez's campaign command for the 1998 elections, (2) Senator for the State of Aragua, elected in November 1998 on the ticket of Movimiento Quinta República, the government's main party, (3) member and First Vice-President of the National Constituency Assembly, elected in April 1999 again under the government's ticket and (4) and Vice-President of the Republic, appointed on January 23, 200, by the President. In December 2000 he resigned from the post of Vice-President and was later presented to the National Assembly as candidate for the post of Public Prosecutor.
2. On December 26, 2000 , the National Assembly appointed Rodríguez Public Prosecutor of the Republic, thus violating Article 145 of the Constitution which establishes the principle of impartiality and independence of the branches of government. It is precisely the Public Prosecutor's responsibility to insure legality and the rule of law. 3. Under Isaías Rodríguez the Office of the Public Prosecutor (FGR) has initiated 400 legal proceedings against the political opposition. However, very few proceedings have been initiated against public officials. The following are some of the most notorious cases undertaken against the opposition:
4. Nevertheless, regarding the April 11, 2002 events, neither the National Assembly nor the Office of the Public Prosecutor have taken any initiative to shed light on what really occurred at the time, in spite of the fact that the establishment of a Truth Commission Issue 11- was one of the agreements reached at the Negotiating Table coordinated by the OAS Secretary General.
5. Recently, the Venezuelan Penal Forum, which represents a large number of lawyers, presented report on “…the numerous irregularities…and the initiation of countless procedures and penal investigations of a political nature in relation to the regrettable events that occurred in Venezuela on April 11, 12 and 13 of the year 2002”. The report points out that: “…9 judges and 10 prosecutors are processing the cases against 400 political suspects.”
6. Similarly, the Andean Commission of Jurists issued a communiqué in which it strongly criticizes Venezuela's Office of the Public Prosecutor was In 1999 the National Constituent Assembly appointed Clodosbaldo Russián Comptroller General. In 2000 the National Assembly ratified the appointment for a period of seven years.
7. Even though the Public Prosecutor has rejected some of these criticisms, the critical position voiced by the Venezuelan Penal Forum and the Andean Commission of Jurists coincides with a Memorandum by the Public Prosecutor Isaías Rodríguez published on June 8, 2005 on the web page of the Office of the Public Prosecutor. The Memorandum, titled Bureaucratic Obstacles in the Public Prosecutor's Office, strongly criticizes the working of this institution that Mr. Rodríguez has presided during the last six years. Recently a second section of the Memorandum also signed by the Public Prosecutor, was published.
8. In 1999 Clodosbaldo Russián was designated Comptroller General by the National Constituent Assembly and in the year 2000 the National Assembly ratified the appointment for a period of 7 years. Mr. Russián was an active member of one of the parties that supported Chávez for President and to this date has not brought corruption charges against any of the regime's officials.
9. Germán Amundaraín was appointed the People's Advocate by the National Assembly on December 26, 2000 . Before that he had practiced law and had held some third level public positions. According to Article 280 of the Constitution, his main responsibility is to defend the legitimate, collective and general interests of the people, yet he has dedicated a great deal of his time to defending the government's record in national and international fora. For example, when in February 2004 several cases of police brutality were reported in Caracas against demonstrators the People's Advocate declared: “…in Venezuela we do not have political prisoners but rather politicians who are imprisoned”. Recently, in a speech before the 61 st Session of the United Nations' Human Rights Commission, meeting in Geneva on April 11-16, 2005, Mr. Amundaraín echoed President Chávez' campaign denouncing an alleged intervention by the USA in Venezuela.