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Cablegate: Dueling Expectations Regarding Cedeno's Return

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EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 001597

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/12/23
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV VE
SUBJECT: Dueling Expectations regarding Cedeno's Return

REF: 09 CARACAS 1569; 09 CARACAS 1589

CLASSIFIED BY: Robin D. Meyer, Political Counselor, State, POL; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

Foreign Minister Maduro: Expect Cedeno's Prompt Return

1. (U) During a December 22 press conference to discuss the
results of Copenhagen-15, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said that
all the documentation required under the U.S.-Venezuela Extradition
Treaty to request fugitive banker Eligio Cedeno's return had been
provided to the United States so that Cedeno could be returned in a
"expeditious and transparent" manner (see ref a for background on
the Cedeno case). He said they expected Cedeno to be returned
very soon and warned that, if the United States did not comply with
the treaty, "it could involve a revision of the treaty in the
future" since the United States would be acting in an
"irresponsible manner" with regard to its international agreements.
He recalled that the United States had permitted Manuel Rosales to
enter the country despite an Interpol Red Notice and then had
denied having any knowledge of his presence.

2. (U) Maduro also characterized as "dirty maneuvers"
("vulgares maniobras") the efforts to portray Cedeno as politically
persecuted. He said the Venezuelan opposition should be "ashamed"
that many people who have joined its ranks as leaders are
"delinquents." "If the United States does not return this fugitive
[Cedeno], it will put the Venezuelan opposition and the cooperation
mechanisms with regard to judicial matters in a bad light ["mal
parados"]."

Attorney General Ortega: Don't Expect Cedeno's Extradition

3. (U) In contrast, Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said
on December 22 that she did not expect the United States to return
Cedeno to Venezuela, noting that it was the right of states to make
their own determinations regarding the deportation of individuals
inside their territory. However, she said that "without a doubt,
the United States has a duty, a moral commitment, to do so, but if
they do not want to [deport him], they are not obligated to do so."
She recalled that the United States has still not provided a
response to the Venezuelan government's request three years ago for
the extradition of accused terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. In
response to a question about Cedeno's reported petition for
political asylum, Ortega only said that "it was up to the United
States to concede it [asylum] or not."

4. (U) Ortega reiterated that Cedeno was a fugitive and
said she presumed that he was being detained in the United States
pursuant to the Interpol Red Notice. She also said that all the
information required for Cedeno's extradition had been provided to
the United States, including the criminal charges against him, the
dates and nature of his alleged criminal acts, the potential
sentences for each of the charges if convicted, details of the
judicial proceedings against Cedeno to date, and his recent
"escape" from justice.

Expert Lawyer: Cedeno Likely to Get Asylum

5. (U) Daily El Universal cited a Dominican legal expert,
Madeleine Garcia, with experience handling U.S. immigration cases,
who assessed as high the likelihood of Cedeno being granted asylum
because of both President Chavez' statements about him and his
prolonged detention without a conviction. However, she noted the
extended timelines involved in asylum cases - 180 days if the
person is not detained, sooner if the person is detained. In
either case, however, she cautioned that the timeline could be
extended. She also commented that if Cedeno's asylum claim were
denied, he would not necessarily be deported to Venezuela but could
be sent to a third country.

Judge Afiuni: Insists She Is Being Threatened

6. (U) Judge Afiuni, who ordered Cedeno's release on
December 10, remains in detention at the women's detention facility
(INOF) (ref b). Despite assurances from the prosecutors that Judge
Afiuni was not facing any threats to her life by being detained in
that facility, the judge, through her attorney, reportedly said
that "I told them that I have not been physically assaulted, they
have not injured me, but they come to the doors of the cell where I
am locked up and shout that they are going to burn me alive. I
told the prosecutor [who visited her over the weekend] that if they
throw an explosive or incendiary device inside, I will die they
like did at 'La Planta' [Note: 'La Planta' is a prison in Caracas
where about 30 inmates died in 1996 in a fire allegedly set by a
National Guardsmen. End Note.] ... I have four witnesses. I will
soon issue a public letter denouncing this."

7. (U) The press reported also that the International
Commission of Jurists asked the Venezuelan government on December
22 to guarantee Judge Afiuni due process, including her right to be
released pending trial, and to guarantee her safety while detained.

Comment

8. (C) The dueling expectations of Maduro and Ortega - of
a quick return and of no return - tend to give some support to
rumors that Chavez and members of his inner circle view the Cedeno
case with different levels of interest. Chavez and Maduro are
taking a hard line. With regard to Maduro's linkage of Cedeno
with the political opposition, Embassy is not aware of any ties
between Cedeno and opposition political parties. Some members of
the opposition have publicly expressed concern about the lack of
due process in Cedeno's and Afiuni's cases, but the opposition has
not championed his cause, although some had included Cedeno in
their list of political prisoners held in Venezuela. There are
unsubstantiated rumors that Cedeno has been funding the element of
the student movement led by Julio Rivas; the law firm representing
Cedeno has been providing pro bono legal assistance to Rivas.

9. (C) On the other hand, before Cedeno's imprisonment, he
was closely linked with Chavez' inner circle and was doing business
with the Chavez government. Indeed, Chavez' daughter was
supposedly romantically linked to Cedeno's former partner. Such a
link may contribute to the adamancy of Chavez' views on the Cedeno
case.
DUDDY

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