Post Date: 7th Oct, 2009 - 4:26am
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You know the hard thing about men like Hugo Chavez to figure out is the true interest. Can he be the Robinhood of his people and yet take away basic freedoms and rights? Will making everyone 'equal' financially and academically by teaching one doctrine help a people to progress?
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Post Date: 27th Apr, 2010 - 3:19am
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It seems like Chavez has a very tight control over the Judicial System in Venezuela. Truly scary!
LOS TEQUES, VENEZUELA -- Sitting in the tiny jail cell that has been her home for months, Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni said she knew a ruling she handed down in December might incense Venezuelan President Hugo ChÃ¡vez.
But she was astonished when intelligence agents arrested her and the entire courtroom staff 15 minutes after she freed a prisoner the government wanted in jail.
"I never thought -- never -- that the violations would get to this point," said Afiuni, 46, who is being held here in a cellblock filled with women charged with drug trafficking and murder, some of whom she sentenced.
The jailing of a tenured judge who angered the president has brought into sharp focus the increasingly tight control ChÃ¡vez exerts over the judiciary, a situation condemned by legal watchdog groups and constitutional experts across the Americas.
Advocates for an independent judiciary in Venezuela also say the judge's plight, along with the arrests of dozens of government opponents in recent months, demonstrates how far the ChÃ¡vez administration will go to quell dissent.
"The message from the Afiuni case is very clear: If a judge doesn't do what we want, you go to jail," said Carlos Ayala, a constitutional lawyer and former president of the Andean Commission of Jurists. "Judges are scared out of their wits. Before, they got fired for these decisions. Now they go to jail."
Afiuni was charged with corruption and abuse of authority after she conditionally freed Eligio Cedeño, a banker who had run afoul of the government and was accused of evading currency controls. Cedeño waited in jail nearly three years for his first court hearing, which exceeded legal limits, Afiuni said in a recent interview. He fled the country and is seeking political asylum in Miami.
The Venezuelan attorney general's office said it could not comment on Afiuni's case. But in an interview, Carlos Escarra, a pro-ChÃ¡vez congressman and legal expert, said "there's a series of actions that show a bribe was paid" to Afiuni, a charge she denies. In a speech the day after Afiuni was arrested, ChÃ¡vez accused her of crimes "more serious than an assassination."
"I call for 30 years in prison in the name of the dignity of the country," he said. ...
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