Monday, April 02, 2007

On the lam in Venezuela: Lapi's escape reveals a lot about the type of country we have become

Watching TV and reading the press today tells us a lot about how important the Lapi escape of Saturday to Sunday night is. (summary note in English courtesy of the International Herald Tribune, which shows you the repercussions of the case)

The first observation is that after 8 years of glorious bolivarian revolution such high profiles political prisoners such as Ortega and Lapi can escape with internal complicity. The implications as to corruption and loyalties to the revolution are self evident and I do not need to insult, again, the intelligence of the reader.

But it goes further. The government sensing how ridiculous it is looking in front of public opinion is taking certain steps, or rather missteps, that betray its inner workings in a way that it would be funny if it were not so grave and sad.

Item 1: the lawyer house is searched. A search warrant was issued fast enough to search the home of Lapi main lawyer, former National Assemblyman Alejandro Arzola. Nothing we are not used to in Venezuela. In fact what is worrisome is that everyone finds it normal. I do not know about searching lawyers homes when the client does something that is not kosher, but at least on US TV movies I have not seen much of that. But what is more offensive in this incident is to consider that the prosecutor expected s/he would actually find evidence as to the whereabouts of Lapi. I mean, Arzola must have been waiting for moths to be searched!!!!!

For good measure the home of Lapi was searched for the 5th time since the whole sordid affair began. 5th time, that is right.

Item 2: jail breaks now the big opposition sport? After the spectacular escape of Ortega et al. from the military jail of Ramo Verde, the press has sensed an Achilles heel for the government there. To the point that in an unusual step El Universal publishes an escape route for Lapi. When you look at the diagram it is really not very helpful, what is meaningful here is that now newspapers are getting ready to treat jail breaks as entertainment...

Item 3: is a jail break a real jail break? The other worrisome thing is that if Lapi has indeed escaped, no one knew (at least they swear) he was planning such escape. And thus, since Lapi has not contacted anyone from his lawyer to his relatives, Lapi's wife is worried that there might not have been any escape at all but instead foul play. After all there was a grenade tossed INSIDE San Felipe jail a few days ago. If such a thing could happen, you can imagine what people can speculate about! It is amazing that in a country such discussion are considered normal and to be expected from the people who rule us.

Item 4: the judge? she judges! As far as I am concerned this is the very worst item in this short list: this morning, ON STATE TV VTV, the TSJ president stated that Lapi had committed another crime by escaping. Hummm... Let's go over that a little bit.

To begin with, Lapi, as an ex governor, still harboring political ambitions, still in the country sleeping peacefully at night at home the day break he was arrested, is entitled to some respect by the judicial system. It is implied in the constitution where certain magistrates are required certain proceeding before they can be sent to trial (article 266). Even if Lapi is not anymore a sitting governor he deserves speedy justice from whatever crime he might have committed while he was a governor. This has been violated repeatedly since the prosecution on Lapi has started. Not to mention his arrest before trial cannot be justified because, well, the man could have left the country long ago. In fact he did take a very long vacation after losing office and he came back to renew his political activities. Hardly the stuff of avowed criminals.

But what did Luisa Morales said this morning, barely 24 hours after Lapi escaped, when in the past months any consultation to the TSJ by the Lapi team had to wait for weeks before the TSJ even acknowledged discussing it? Because the first obscenity of this woman is to go on TV so fast to discuss a matter she should not be discussing in public. Well, she said that whomever was criticizing the detention conditions of Lapi and his trial procedures was doing so for political motives. That is right, she said that, not realizing, the poor soul, that she was herself making a totally unacceptable political statement from her position as the head of the judicial power. Because with her interview this morning, as a judge she already stated that Lapi was guilty and as the Supreme Court of the Land she can never make such a statement on case that could eventually end up on her deck.

How could she? Well, if the reader forgives me from repeating this last word over and over, Luisa Morales is from Yaracuy and she probably has a personal thing against Lapi (who admittedly was not the nicest and polite and diplomatic of governors). So we see that a judge is taking probably her personal affairs to the high court of the country. As a judge from Yaracuy she is very far from having had a stellar career, but then in all fairness almost none of the current 30 top judges is: they all got there because someone thought that they would never rule against Chavez, not because they got famous from some scholar work or a solid judicial reputation. Luisa Morales is a mediocre woman and she showed it today. In a normal country Lapi lawyer now can inhibit her from any case involving Lapi, but this being Venezuela where thugs appoint thuggy judges, do not expect this to happen.

As for the speed of her declaration? Could it be that she feels kind of trapped now that she is discounting her taxes on specious rulings? That the N.A. is on her case? Naaahhh... this blogger is just bad mouthing her.

And with these four items I will leave the reader to wonder about the judicial system of Venezuela.

-The end-

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