Earlier this month the European Parliament adopted a statement regarding Venezuela, and in particular the case of judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, who has spent the last 7 months in jail totally against the law.
The statement, available in all EU languages, is largely devoted to the case of judge Afiuni, who was imprisoned just because Chávez said so, in his TV program. He made it clear that he wanted her in jail for 30 years, and that he wanted the Congress to retroactively change the law so she could be convicted to a longer penalty. The fact that no evidence has been found for her alleged crime has not motivated her release.
The European Parliament made it clear that they consider the rule of law in Venezuela to be suspended, and goes as far as to use the word condemn. The parliament “Condemns the public statements made by [Hugo Chávez], insulting and denigrating the judge, demanding a maximum sentence and requesting a modification of the law to enable a more severe penalty to be imposed; considers that these statements are aggravating the circumstances of her detention and constitute an attack on the independence of the judiciary by the President of a nation, who should be its first guarantor”.
In the statement the body also “Calls on the Venezuelan Government, with a view to the parliamentary elections on 26 September, to respect the rules of democracy and the principles of freedom of expression, assembly, association and election, as well as to invite the European Union and international bodies to observe these elections.”
It is not likely Hugo will comply. Just four days later, July 12, Chávez sent a, shall we say, diplomatic signal back to the EU, by having his political police arrest a man who has been his political opponent ever since Chávez was released from prison after his failed military coup in 1992: Alejandro Peña Esclusa.
Perhaps the neo-communists thought Mr Peña would be an easy target, given how he has been the victim of a slander campaign by communists for years. However, his arrest may have backfired, giving much increased global publicity about the true nature of the regime.
One year ago, when president Zelaya was deposed in Honduras, the star of Chávez was still high in Europe. Europeans in general (including media) did not believe the statements from Honduras that Chávez was behind the illegal plans of Zelaya, which is what caused the Supreme Court to order the arrest of the latter.
However, on July 26, 2009, I published an article on this blog that, it appears, brought a news story from Colombia to the attention of media in Sweden. The Swedish title of the article was, in translation, Chávez’s generals gave Swedish anti-tank weapons to terrorists. It was based on an article in Semana that cited facts found on the infamous FARC computer, and verified with the Swedish authorities, proving that weapons type AT-4 sold from Sweden to Venezuela had ended up in the hands of FARC, by the help of Venezuelan generals.
My modest contribution was simply to put this explosive news (pardon the pun) under the nose of the Swedish editors. Within hours all media had the story, and before lunch the government had taken the decision to stop indefinitely the export of Swedish weapons to Venezuela.
Today the star of Chávez in Sweden is decidedly much closer to the ground, if not already below it. The politically motivated arrest of judge Afiuni and Mr Peña Esclusa are perhaps the most visible cases, but they are just two out of many political prisoners in Venezuela today. Another problem is that the “arbitrary confiscation and expropriation, involving more than 760 enterprises since 2005 … undermine the basic social and economic rights of citizens” as the EU parliament put it.
Alejandro Peña Esclusa has argued since last year that the Venezuelans should learn from Honduras, that it is possible to peacefully stop a developing dictatorship by applying the laws and follow the constitution. Indira Ramirez de Peña has said in the TV program LA NOCHE in Colombia, after her husband’s arrest, that the example of Honduras scares Chávez, and that this is the reason her husband was arrested; to stop him from spreading the knowledge to the Venezuelan people of how they can defeat Chávez peacefully. Personally I would suggest that they also study and learn from how the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania made themselves free from the Soviet Union in the so-called singing revolution.
Venezuela is increasingly developing into a totalitarian state. Although it is not there yet, the developments and signals this summer have been very worrisome. If Chávez looses control over the parliament on September 26, he will no longer be able to rule as a dictator. There is nothing that indicates that he is prepared to take that risk. He is refusing to allow election observers from Chile, for instance. He has made it clear that he intends to exercise control over the only remaining opposition TV news channel, Globovision. Furthermore, even if the opposition wins, Chávez has already prepared to castrate the parliament by not giving them budget responsibility.
There is thus not much that speaks for Venezuela being a democracy today.
As if all this is not enough, Colombia has now presented evidence for large guerilla bases in Venezuela, belonging to FARC and ELN, organizations that are classified as terrorist groups by the EU and US, and which are major players in the smuggling of cocaine to Europe and North America. Chávez reacted with fury to the news, rather than – as a democratic leader would have done – promise to rout them out. This shows that beyond reasonable doubt Chávez is in cohorts with those narco-terrorists. In other words, Venezuela is a state sponsor of terrorism.
It would not surprise me if those who defended Chávez in relation to the crisis in Honduras last year are now mighty red-faced. Unless, of course, they already were red… If you go back and read comments on this blog, you may get a good laugh.