President Hugo Chavez has cast his net far and wide in his efforts to socialize the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela. It’s no secret that he uses every branch of government to his advantage in furtherance of his political goals. His abuses against Venezuela’s citizens and its businesses have been well-documented for years. In its 2009 report on Venezuela, The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported that it had “received complaints by persons who assert that they have been subjected to criminal proceedings because of their political opinions,” and that, “[i]ncluded among persons considered by different organizations to be political prisoners are journalists, persons detained in the context of social demonstrations, . . . representatives of political parties, business leaders, and dissidents in general.”
Among Chavez’ most recent efforts to take over much of the private sector is his campaign against the private banking industry. Before banking, it was television, radio, the cement industry, and the steel industry. It has become increasingly evident that when Chavez gets involved with any particular industry, chances are good that someone is going to jail. The trend of jailing people who may become obstacles to Venezuela’s socialization continues with members of the private banking industry in Venezuela.
Despite the widely recognized fact that many of Chavez’ instructions to the judiciary are politically motivated, INTERPOL’s “Venezuela” pages are filled with Red Notices, many of them issued against Venezuelan citizens accused of fraud charges stemming from their connections with a certain industry. Care to guess which one?
That’s right, banking.
The subjects of the red notices have protested publicly and privately that the Notices were illegally issued against them to provide a means to clear the way for their respective financial institutions to be taken over by the government.
Not coincidentally, in 2010, ImpactoCNA reported in its article, “Denuncian que Fiscalia esta fabricando expediente falso para acusar opositores,” that prosecuting attorneys were fabricating cases against political opponents of President Chavez. There also has been widespread criticism of the Venezuelan government based on the idea that certain Venezuelan prosecutors are more subject to influence and corruption because of the instability of their positions in the government. The Venezuelan judiciary is extremely unlikely to provide a potent shield against such abuses, given the fate of those such as Judge María Lourdes Afiun, who was incarcerated for ordering that a banker be released on bond in December of 2009.
In every respect, Chavez continues his drive to control the thoughts, actions, and words of the Venezuelan people, recently going so far as to disallow a television show called Chepe Fortuna which poked fun at his administration via thinly disguised characters and analogies. “Ever since his ascent to power, Chavez has not missed any opportunity to silence whomever did not align with him,” writes Anna Mahjar-Barducci, in her Hudson New York article about Chepe Fortuna, “Venezuela: To Celebrate Free Expression, Chavez Shuts Down Media.”
Venezuela has been a member country of INTERPOL since 1948, and its people deserve respect. Chavez’ police practices, maybe less so.
Perhaps it’s time that INTERPOL’s General Secretariat take a second look at its Venezuelan Red Notices, this time with a more critical eye. Those of us who have challenged Red Notices have seen that it doesn’t take much scratching beneath the surface to see that some of them are blatantly politically motivated and cannot stand up to the scrutiny that should come with a careful INTERPOL screening process.
If we believe Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, INTERPOL is now beginning to do just that. She is reported to have complained recently about Interpol’s reluctance to enforce Venezuela’s arrest warrants, particularly where the Red Notice subjects were in the banking industry.
I’m not so sure about that. A review of INTERPOL’s published Red Notices for Venezuela shows that the vast majority of Red Notices that were posted as of December of 2010, for Venezuelans charged with bank-related fraud, are still present and published. Some were withdrawn, but what of the others?
As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.