Cablegate: Capriles, Cne and Cev: Venezuela Political Update

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A
-- APRIL 2, 2004



1. (U) The Criminal Chamber of Venezuela's Supreme Court
(TSJ) dismissed on procedural ground the order to detain
Baruta Mayor Henrique Capriles April 1, and ordered the case
sent to a new court. Supporters of President Hugo Chavez
objected to the possibility National Electoral Council (CNE)
alternate director Miriam Kornblith assuming the role CNE
Vice President out on medical leave. The National Assembly
(NA) fired its chief economic advisor, Francisco Rodriguez,
after he publicly accused NA President Francisco Ameliach of
unduly pressuring the semi-autonomous analysis economic
analysis. The Episcopal Council of Venezuela (CEV) denounced
the GOV for blocking the "democratic and peaceful" path of
the presidential recall referendum and for violating human
rights. End Summary.

TSJ Annuls Capriles Detention Order


2. (U) On April 1, the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court
(TSJ) struck down the order to detain Baruta Mayor Henrique
Capriles for alleged crimes perpetrated during the April 2002
siege of the Cuban Embassy in Caracas (ref). The Chamber, in
a 2-1 decision, annulled the March 16 order, saying it did
not adequately specify the nature of the crimes, among other
procedural flaws. The Chamber ordered the case be reassigned
to a new court and, addressing one of the principal stumbling
blocks in the case, instructed the lower court to give
Capriles' lawyers access to the investigation file. Capriles
appeared publicly for the first time since the warrant was
issued the same evening to declare that "justice is not lost
in Venezuela." Capriles condemned the GOV for using public
institutions to intimidate political opponents. Minister of
Communication Jesse Chacon decried the decision as engineered
by magistrates with ties to opposition parties and asked why
Capriles received "privileged" treatment by the Chamber when
thousands of Venezuelans were awaiting trials.

CNE Alternate Opposed

3. (U) National Electoral Council (CNE) Vice President
Ezequiel Zamora (pro-opposition) requested a medical leave of
absence for 15 days from the CNE on March 29 (rumored to be a
controllable type of cancer). Zamora requested that his
alternate, Miriam Kornblith, replace him on the board during
his temporary absence, according to press reports. CNE
Director Jorge Rodriguez immediately assailed Kornblith, who
has been an outspoken critic of the GOV's handling of the
referendum, saying her political statements disqualified her
from serving on the board. Chavez's campaign committee, the
"Comando Ayacucho," requested that the Constitutional Chamber
of the Supreme Court (TSJ) name a new alternate. The Chavez
supporters cited Kornblith's links to a project carried out
by the NGO Sumate, and funded by the National Endowment for
Democracy, as evidence of her political bias. Kornblith
attempted to attend a CNE meeting April 1 to insist she be
allowed to substitute for Zamora, but the other members of
the CNE reportedly refused to receive her.

National Assembly Economic Advisor Sacked

4. (U) The National Assembly (NA) its chief economic advisor,
Francisco Rodriguez, after he publicly accused NA President
Francisco Ameliach of denying the Assembly's Office of
Economic and Finance Counsel (OEAF) its budget for four
months and of withholding financial information. Rodriguez
claimed that the OEAF, a semi-autonomous economic analysis
shop within the Assembly, is being persecuted because it has

warned the NA's Finance Committee of imprudent spending
within the budget. Rodriguez was suspended on March 29 for
"questioning the honor of the President of the National
Assembly." The pro-GOV majority voted on March 30 to dismiss
Rodriguez along with his deputy and six other economists.
The debate turned blatantly political as pro-Chavez deputies
accused Rodriguez of working for the opposition and
supporting the April 2002 "coup" against President Hugo

--------------------------------------------- ------
Catholic Bishops Call For Referendum, No Repression
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. (U) The Episcopal Council of Venezuela (CEV), composed of
Venezuela's Catholic bishops, held an extraordinary session
to discuss the political crisis and recent allegations of
human rights abuses. The CEV released a statement April 1
supporting the presidential recall referendum. CEV President
Baltazar Porras told reporters that the referendum was the
"peaceful and democratic" path out of Venezuela's political
crisis. If that path is closed, he said, violence will
result. The CEV denounced violence whatever its cause, and
specifically criticized the GOV for a disproportionate
response to opposition demonstrations. The CEV also
condemned polarizing rhetoric that classifies people either
as "patriots" or "coup-plotters."



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