She is the judge who set free a man who had been held for three years in jail without a trial, without the Fiscal (prosecutor) being able to submit enough evidence for a trial. She found that he should be released because he had been held prisoner longer than what the law permits if a trial is not going on. For that she was promptly arrested, thrown into a dangerous jail and we heard Chavez publicly asking that she be given the maximum sentence: 30 years. This in a country where criminals with established murder records end up in the streets in a matter of months if not weeks.
The case has been so outrageous, has displayed so clearly the abuses committed by a judicial system at the service of the regime that it transcended borders loudly, all the way to the IACHR, newspapers, bar associations, etc.... The latest example is a major article in the Washington Post signed by Juan Forero, a former, long ago, apologist of the regime who has turned himself in one a strong critic of Chavez.
Clearly this has upset Chavez and the sycophants that dispense "justice" to his liking. So yesterday Judge Afiuni was dragged from her cell, as a dangerous criminal, hand cuffed all the way through the proceedings, bullet proof vest and dozens of guards around her. For what? To be notified of something that could have been notified to her lawyers.
All a gorilla show of force to demonstrate that Afiuni is a prisoner of Chavez and that he does not give a shit about her rights and those who defend her rights. By extension he also gives his opinion about our own human rights, in particular those of due process.
I may treat this case second, but it is in fact more important short term because it could actually threaten the nation's food supply. Empresas Polar is the largest Venezuelan private company, the largest beer maker perhaps but also the largest food maker, by far, by very far. And also the one that produces quality food at prices the masses can still afford. Harina P.A.N. is its flag product, the special type of corn flour to make our national bread, Arepa. There are other corn flour producers in Venezuela but no one does it as good as Polar, and I have tried them all (I use the yellow corn flour or the whole grain one). In eleven years of rule, and all sorts of attempts at producing a flour of comparable quality, the government has miserably failed, as it has failed in producing any type of food in significant amount at a reasonable price, of decent quality without major subsidies.
Because of my job I have Polar as one of my clients. I can vouch that it is one of the most serious companies of Venezuela where people seem to enjoy working and to be satisfied with their paycheck, inasmuch as one can be satisfied with our paycheck in today Venezuela. I have even attended scientific reunions where the staff I dealt with was of the highest quality. In addition Polar is a tireless promoter of cultural activities, from the indispensable Dictionary of Venezuelan History to the production of decent wine in Lara. Amen of all the social programs and foundations Polar is involved with.
A few weeks ago Chavez decided to expropriate some warehouses of Polar in Barquisimeto. And while he was at it he expropriated the neighborhood. The excuse was to create cheap housing in the area and send the industries far away- In Urban design it would be a tremendous mistake because Barquisimeto is for Venezuelan standards a rather well planned city and further West there is all the cheap but good land one could hope for in building massive housing. You just need to build a public transport system and the normal stuff associated with habitations creation. Expropriating these warehouses and industries of Barquisimeto would be expensive, tearing them down would be expensive, redoing the infrastructure for housing would be expensive, and congestion inside Barquisimeto would increase dramatically. Amen of the ability of Barquisimeto today to be able to plug the new housing complexes to its services as they would consume more water and produce more garbage and human waste at the very least. And of course the commuting of these people to their job would not improve since instead of coming to town they would have to leave town.
That decision of Chavez was the breaking point with PSUV governor Falcon. Indeed, as an ex mayor of Barquisimeto and current governor of Lara Falcon knows very well that such changes cannot just be decreed and that at the very least preliminary studies are needed. And of course he also knows the consequences of such a change for Barquisimeto, and that the local jobs would be lost because the companies that move would either close up or lay off their workers or move too far away for them to follow. Assuming of course they can afford the cost of moving because the government would certainly not pay for that expense, nor for the construction of new workhouses. Falcon knew very well the cost to Lara of such a whim of Chavez and he simply could not go along.
But no one else involved went along either. Workers were quick in protesting and organizing themselves in putting law suits to stop it, and try to call for a local referendum. Chavez was of course infuriated. The new mayor of Barquisimeto, who ironically was Falcon chosen successor but broke with him within weeks of her election, decided to throw her lot fully behind Chavez. Amalia Saez is yet another one of those women who have accepted to work for Chavez as his personal maids to do his dirty jobs and thus with this event she joins with merits the ranks of the like of Cilia Flores and Luisa Morales. Soon she signed the expropriation decree but that decree at least made some sense at some level as it allowed for the business involved enough time to go out, buy land and build something where they could move into. That decree had also an undesirable collateral effect: it gave the legal basis for people to put legal challenges, including the Polar group. Amalia Saez sensing the wind quickly announced that she would love Chavez to overrule her and make his own decree. This was done yesterday.
The point is not that Chavez gleefully signed the decree, it is that he took the opportunity to threaten Polar through direct threats to Lorenzo Mendoza, its CEO and one of its main stockholders (it is still a family business, not for public trading). The words of Chavez come with an absolute lack of respect for Lorenzo Mendoza who at his relative young age has done more for the good of Venezuela than Chavez, if anything by keeping Polar viable to feed the country, something that Chavez has failed miserably by damaging our agriculture and bringing our imports of food to more than half of what we eat.
"Con qué moral vas a estar tú (Lorenzo) Mendoza, chico, reclamando. Quédate tranquilo más bien, quédate tranquilo, dile a tus abogados que se queden tranquilos (...) No me provoques compadre, que tienes bastantes cosas por allí"
With what moral right are you going, you Mendoza, man, protest. You better stay quiet, stay quiet, tell your lawyers to stay quiet (...) Do not provoke me Compadre, because you have a lot of stuff around the place.
That is right, not only Chavez treats Mendoza like a kid, using the familiar "tú", but he also threatens to take his other belongings if he does not behave to his wishes. There is blackmail, thuggery, plain abuse, simmering hatred and what not in these words of Chavez, of public notice; and in my opinion of judicial value if someday we can bring Chavez to the trial he so richly deserves as a criminal.
And which are these properties that Chavez has his eyes on? The Polar Complex in Caracas, at Los Cortijos, the old industrial zone of Caracas that includes also Los Ruices. They are smack in the valley of Caracas and thus Chavez commented also that the bourgeoisie used the flatland of Caracas to make money forcing people to live uphill.
What Chavez in his extraordinary bad faith forgets to mention is that when Polar built its brewery, half a century ago, there few people lived around and that it is certainly not Polar who is responsible for the shanties that grew on the hills thereafter (1). At least Polar gave them jobs which is more than what can be said from all the government since Polar exists, including the Chavez one.
As a not too distant neighbor of Polar there, and as an occasional visitor for work reasons I can assure you that Polar has invested massively to diminish noise and pollution as much as possible. The facilities are impeccable, spotless, safe and include the research laboratories of Polar, the project development plant, the financial building, the building managing the diverse cultural and scientific foundations of Polar. In addition a large amount of space is now dedicated to storage rooms for a significant supply of food for a very vulnerable city where the supply of food can easily be interrupted through a variety or natural catastrophes for which the regime has done nothing to protect us since it is in charge. Eliminating the Polar storage space and production facilities for subsidized housing would actually worsen the condition of Caracas, from food distribution to its price. And never mind again all the lost jobs that chavismo will be unable to replace while not solving the housing problem anyway, no matter how many cheap towers Chavez has them built there, at a huge cost because destroying the complex installations will not come cheap, you know....
If you want to know what chavismo will do with the Los Cortijos complex you only need to look across the highway from Polar, at the La Carlota Airport. A few years ago Chavez ordered the end of its services to all, that it should become a park and a sports area. Today flights have resumed but only for the government. A helicopter school trains there plaguing all of us around with noise and threatening us with a mortal accident at any time. There is no park in sight, nor even a jogging track and in fact Chavez started building houses there which created a major uproar that stopped the construction. Today these unfinished building stand in a wasteland which only sees a continuous series of private overflights for the government officials, as their own private airport where no one can land, and even less complain about the noise.
If Chavez was not able to build ANYTHING positive on a piece of perfectly flat land, I let you imagine what he will be making out of Polar property (and other business included n the lot that no one talks about, by the way). He cannot build anything but he sure can destroy everything.
Why is Chavez so willing to risk such an essential component of Venezuela's economy. Very simple. Chavez is a mediocre bitter individual, resentful of his past failures and he cannot stand the success of anyone, the more so as it is the one of Polar who has managed to resist all of its attacks so far. Thus Chavez cannot contain himself anymore and acts as the true thug he is, planing take over and blackmails to spread the loot around.
Afiuni and Polar are thus the same thing as far as Chavez is concerned, a sick desire to prove that he is the one in charge, to prove that he controls everything, that he can do anything he wants even if it risks destroying the country. All totalitarian leaders ended up the same way even when they managed to escape the bitter end by dieing in their bed like Mao or Stalin. Their legacy was a ruined country in all and every single place, from Havana to Rome and soon enough Caracas.
1) bad faith or crass ignorance from Chavez who does not know much of Caracas history while he rewrites the national history as he pleases. Bad faith or ignorance, your pick!