Tomorrow it might be Leopoldo Lopez who takes the witness stand at the Inter American Court for Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica, but the one on trial is Chavez and his methods of destroying democracy.
The Chavez system to use democracy to install his rule for life includes many facets, from cheating in elections to plunder the public treasure to run his "electoral campaigns". But perhaps the most offensive one is a novel strategy of simply banning folks from running for office, the more popular they are the better to ban. This is "legally" but unconstitutionally done by simply finding any minor fault during the public office tenure of an opponent and thus have the General Comptroller of Venezuela,. Clodosvaldo Russia, ban that person for a certain number of years from seeking any elected office. Banning someone from running for office is something that exists in many countries, and justifiably so. However such political bans are ALWAYS preceded by a fair trial and the ensuing condemnation were the persons involved found guilty.
In Venezuela the novelty was to give that power of diminishing political rights to an appointed crony of Chavez who can ban whoever he wants, even if that person has not stolen a paper clip, even if the state has not suffered any prejudice. It is is enough in Venezuela that you used money allocated to buy pencils to buy paper instead and off you go into political oblivion. This of course does not apply to Chavez who can steal, mishandle, give away whatever he wants from the public treasury and Clodosvaldo Russian will make sure that any accusation will never prosper.
This not only happened to Leopoldo Lopez in 2008 but also to hundred of other people, by and large anti Chavez, and I am sure that if we were to look into the few chavistas banned we would probably find a fair percentage of these to be victims of some political motivation rather than any actual stealing. But Leopoldo fought all the way to the Venezuelan high Court who ruled against him and the other hundreds of guys. So they went to Washington, the the International Commission of Human Rights where they won their case. And it is the IACHR who is suing the Venezuelan government in Costa Rica, not Leopoldo and the victims he now represents.
Unless something major happens it is more than likely that the Venezuelan government will lose its case: after all the point here is that no one can be barred from any civil or political rights without a fair trial in a court of justice. That is not in question. What the Court in San Jose will settle is that the Venezuelan government can ban from political activity only those who were sent to a court of justice and lost their case, something that did not happen in the hundreds of cases for which the Venezuelan Government is sued for this week.
For one, I cannot see how the Chavez regime can wiggle its way out this time around and that is what makes this case even more interesting: what will the regime do once it lost the case?
The first thing to notice is that for all of its propaganda the regime is taking this case seriously and even as it tries to disqualify the court it is still sending a high ranking commission of lawyers and representatives of Clodosvaldo Russian to defend it. It is possible that a regime that has become so disconnected from international reality and which lives in an ideological bubble might think it can win. But what will happen if it loses?
In other cases treated at the commission or the OAS court, the regime has simply refused to abide by the ruling. But that was then and in an era where the MENA countries are walking fast toward democracies and where the star of Chavez is fading, refusing to acknowledge such a major case will come at a high price for the regime, a regime already highly questioned for its lack of independent judiciary. It is important to notice that if the hunger strike of the students succeeded in one thing last week, it was in exposing that the judicial system of Venezuela obeys the wishes of the regime. For all the separation and independence of power propaganda, when the regime decided to release political prisoners to end the strike it did so and we never saw a judge visiting the striking students to "negotiate". The regime is thus reaching San Jose in a very weak position, but also at a time where it is scared and losing control of the situation.
I suppose that the calculation of the regime is that right now, still fresh from the legislative coup d'etat of last December, it needs to save time and refurbish its image and thus plays the game of going and defending its case. But the verdict will come at the earliest in three months from now and by then the regime will decide whether it is convenient to accept the Court decision. And I need to yet stress this once more: and adverse decision by the court will be very, very damaging for chavismo and Chavez, whether they accept the ruling or not. Which means that the calculations of accepting the ruling will be solely based on internal politics at the end of the year as to which affects the most Chavez reelection bid of 2012. By the end of this year Chavez will not care anymore about international opinion at all, only about what pays off internally. His cynical calculation is that with oil back at 100, once he is reelected he will try to pull a Qaddafi and "reconcile" with the West, and maybe then accept the negative verdicts he received in international courts. That is the ways thugs operate.
You read it here first, remember.
I have summarized many of the elements on the above text, but if you want to check it out you can go to the web page that Leopoldo Lopez set on this subject, in English, with plenty of details on that matter.
You can still sign the petition in support of Leopoldo and the hundreds of people that are deprived of their political rights.