Saturday, June 9, 2012

Defense Lawyer for Judge Afiuni under Arrest

Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, a judge in Caracas, Venezuela has been held in detention in Caracas for the past thirty months, accused of such crimes as "spiritual corruption" and "assist a prisoner's escape." The latter charge arose when, while sitting as a judge, she granted bail pending trial for a political prioner who had himself spent thirty months in jail, without trial. While her decision was clearly legal, it led to President Chavez denouncing her as a "bandit" on national tv, and demanding thirty years in jail for her. Calls for an end to her sufferings have spanned the political universe, from Noam Chomsky on the left to Conservative members of the European Parliament. She has been represented in court hearings by Jose A. Graterol, a well-respected and experienced criminal defense lawyer. On June 2, 2012, Afiuni's lawyer, Graterol, was himself arrested after giving a television interview critical of the Venezuelan justice system. This unprecedented arrest was immediately criticized in the strongest terms by the Venezuelan Federation of Lawyers, the International Commission of Jurists, and Human Rights Watch, which stated that the arrest appeared to be an act of retaliation for Graterol's aggressive defense of Afiuni, both within the Venezuelan court system, and internationally. The Venezuelan Justice system has recently suffered the defection of two members of the Supreme Court, both appointed by the present Chavez government, and both of whom have made grave accusations which, if true, would entirely undermine the integrity of the judicial system. For example, the Chief Justice of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court, Justice Aponte Aponte, revealed that each week's "judicial" decisions were actually made by the Executive, not the judiciary, in earler weekly meetings presided over by the Vice President. As well, Aponte said judges were routinely threatened with violence to insure "politically correct" rulings, both in political cases as well as in cases involving drug trafficking. In these latter cases, he said, he would be instructed by calls from the President and his staff as to which accused should be acquitted, and which ones to be found guilty and sentenced. A second Supreme Court Judge independently confirmed most of these points. When these allegations became public, the Attorney General of Venezuela announced they did not merit any investigation whatsoever. It is this system of "justice" which Jose Graterol is now accused of obstructing. It is this system of justice which Judge Afiuni refused to accomodate, a decision which caused her to be pulled from the bench by secret police and kept in custody two and one half years to date, without any trial. The proceedings against Graterol (as with Afiuni) thus far have been rife with lawlessness. Deadlines which insure that pretrial incarceration be limited, have not been met. The Criminal Code infraction with which he is charged requires proof of threats, fraud, or violence, but no specific threat, fraud, or violence has even been alleged. However, a gag order has been imposed which would limit press access, and which prevents any travel. Given that Afiuni's case has been taken up in the UN General Assembly and other international bodies, the travel restriction is particularly onerous, even if Graterol can obtain bail. Finally, it appears that the charges against Graterol will limit Justice Afiuni's right to be represented by the lawyer of her choice. There have been previous attempts to have Graterol disqualified, and to impose a state employee "duty counsel" to represent her. These lawyers, often inexperienced, are far from independent and can lose their jobs whenever the government wishes. Even if Jose Graterol is given bail pending his trial, it is likely that Judge Maria Afiuni's trial will either occur with no lawyer representing her, or will not occur for many years, due to the removal of Graterol. For this reason, the InterAmerican Federation of Lawyers called the arrest of Graterol "frightening" "arbitrary", and "a clear departure from the rule of law guaranteed by the Constitution and the norms of international law."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Venezuela Government Media in AntiSemitic Attack

On Sunday, three million Venezualans went to the polls to select an opposition candidate for President. They chose Henry Capriles Radonski, governor of a state and one-time elected representative of the Social Christian Party.

Capriles is of Jewish background. He has said that because his mother is Jewish, Jewish people consider him Jewish, "and I embrace that, but my personal convictions are Christian."

While Capriles has positioned himself in the centre-left, evoking Lula, and saying that Venezuelan oil must remain a state enterprise, he is probably more centre than left. During the campaign, as far as I can tell, he said nothing whatsoever about the State of Israel or its policies.

That didn't protect him from this attack, which skips over his religion to claim that he "incarnates" Zionism.

Since none of the debates leading up to the primary were covered on state radio or television, most Venezuelans outside the big cities knew little of Capriles until Venezuelan State Radio broadcast the following introduction yesterday. It is quite long, but provides a good sense of how Hugo Chavez uses the government media against his enemies. This is a "news backgrounder", but none of Capriles campaign promises or policy positions are mentioned, only that he "incarnates" Zionism.

The National Republic of Venezuela: News


Capriles Radonski, son of Henrique Capriles Garcia, descendant of a group of Sephardic Jews from Curacao, mothered by Monica Radonski, a Russian-Polish Jewess. Both families are related to the entrepreneurial oligarchy of the country (numerous companies are then listed).

Capriles Radonski participated in various courses in Europe, and of course in American imperialism, at Columbia University, in New York. He participated for a certain time in the private sector, in law firms (two names given). Both firms are associated with the interests of the Zionist bourgeoisie.

He was part of a paramilitary fascist sect called Tradition, Family, Property, where perverse religious rites were practiced, and where they planned selected crimes, none of which represented the national Aryan race, nor even the Venezuelan bourgeoisie. This group was directed by Alejandro Peña Esclusa, a confessed CIA agent.

In 1998, he was elected by COPEI, Social Christian Party, itself the offspring of the Spanish Falange group, Opus Dei, which arrived in Venezuela and put down roots in the 1950s.

Capriles Radonski participated in the coup of the bourgeois state in 2002, against the bolivaran revolution, along with the Baruta police chasing the bolivaran people in a fascist attack, which though of short duration, showed the lengths that the bourgeoisie would go to to defend their interests.

On April 12, 2002, he and other enraged bad actors led an attack on the Cuban Embassy in violation of all intenational norms, Putting the lives of people in danger, people who were within the sovereign Cuban space.

This Zionist was acquitted in December 2006 by the court of appeal.

In order to understand the interests which are incarnated in this candidate of the international and Venezuelan oligarchy, you have to understand Zionism, an Israeli ideology which he represents in an underhanded manner.

Zionism hides behind a religious and national discourse, while wishing to hide its colonial and political goals, those of racial superiority and hegemony. Zionism was born as a plan by imperialism to place strategic bases in the arab world, bases of operation in the area. it is the ideology of terror, the ideology of the most putrid sentiments humanity can conceive of, a supposed patriotism based purely on avarice, which proves the logic that "all nationalism without a national home is of necessity, an enterprise of conquest."

And so it is. They have murdered millions of Palestinians and have constructed a concentration camp in the middle of the 20th century, which they then bombard and force into overcrowded conditions.

The Gaza strip is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, one and one half million Palestinians living in 360 square kilometers, which the Israeli Zionists then force into isolation, terror, poverty, persecution, and abandonment.

Zionism heads the majority of the financial institutions of the world, controls almost 80% of the world economy, as well as almost the whole of the world's media of communication, as well as having postions of decisionmaking in the US State Department and European powers.

Capriles Radonski met recently with the Confederation of Societies of Israelites of Venezuela, where they talked, among other things, of Venezuela's relations with Iran, the reestablishment of relations with the state of Israel, and the supposed antisemitism of the Bolivaran Revolution. This Confederation though, shows no shame in admitting Zionism as its ideology. Here is what an article on their website says: "Zionism is our identity, it unites us and makes us brothers, and it is our responsibility, to the extent each of us can, to contribute to its strengthening. The Zionist ideology is not only the largest political manifestation of Modern Judaism in full vigor, but it is also a valid means of helping with existential problems faced by the Jewish people today."

The rational struggle against poverty, racism and antisemitism makes no sense if it is not directed against Zionism and capitalism, representatives (sic) of 90% of world poverty, of imperial wars, of the deaths and misery of millions of persons, and the growing threat of extinction of all the species of the planet and the planet itself.

This is our enemy, represented today by Capriles Radonski, which has nothing to do with a national, or independent choice. There are two choices in October, either the Bolivaran Revolution, which comes demanding Latin American unity and the interests of the people, or international Zionism, which threatens the destruction of the planet we live on."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Afiuni Released under House Arrest

On February 2nd, the Venezuelan government released Justice Afiuni under house arrest, with a condition that she grant no interview to any international or national media.

Justice Afiuni's health has been deteriorating following fourteen months detention at the Prison for Women. Because of her status as a Criminal Court Judge, who had sentenced several inmates, her life had been threatened, and she was kept in an isolation cell for the whole time.

While the details of her medical status have been declared secret by the Judge presiding over her case, it is thought that an absolute inability to walk or exercise other than within a three by four meter cell, was a contributing factor to this deterioration.

It is expected that she will be seen at a hospital within hours of her release.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Venezuela's Case Against Afiuni Falls Apart


Justice Maria Lourdes Afiuni remains in custody at the prison for women in Caracas, Venezuela. She was charged with "corruption" and "assisting in an escape" because, while a sitting judge, she granted an accused bail to await his trial on criminal charges. That person, one Cedeno, had been in custody for 34 months awaiting trial. The Constitution of Venezuela stipulates that no person be detained before trial for a period longer than two years.

In Cedeno's case, trial dates had repeatedly been adjourned because no prosecutor appeared; by April 2009, the prosecution had caused no less than four trial adjournments by the simple expedient of not showing up, with the result that the accused remained in jail with no need for the prosecutor to prove the allegations against him.

Finally, Justice Afiuni ruled that the Constitution required that he be released on bail. She required Cedeno to report to police twice weekly.

Within one hour of her decision, Security Police entered her courtroom and pulled her down from the bench, placing her in custody.


The day of her arrest by Security Police, President Chavez went on national tv to denounce Justice Afiuni as a "bandit" and demanded that she receive 30 years in prison for her crimes, "in the name of the people." In Bolivaran times, he said, she would have been shot.

The next day, Justice Afiuni was denied bail, even though a person with no previous criminal record is entitled to bail, to ensure that punishment does not precede proof.


The corruption charge against Afiuni requires a showing by the prosecutor that the judge received a benefit in exchange for her decision to release Cedeno on bail.

Justice Afiuni was given a preliminary hearing on May 17th,2010. On that date, the prosecution admitted that it had no evidence that Justice Afiuni had received money, or the promise of money, or any other goods, for releasing the prisoner; but argued that "anything" can be a benefit pursuant to the criminal Code. The preliminary hearing judge agreed, stating that the benefit received by the accused, Afiuni, need not be a "material" benefit, but includes "an emotional or spiritual benefit" (afectivo o espiritual). Thus, the international approval which the judge received for her decision to grant bail could be the basis for trying her for corruption, since she likely benefited spiritually or emotionally from this approval.

She was sent on to trial on this charge on the basis of this reasoning, which was termed "absurd"
by one of the authors of the Venezuelan Criminal Code, Professor Alberto Arteaga. He noted that any important judicial decision will likely receive approval from someone, including correct legal decisions. Presumably, the more correct and courageous the decision, the more approval it will receive. Such approval will not render the decision "corrupt" without proof of a promise or delivery of a tangible benefit reducible to money or property, he said.


Judge Afiuni was also charged with assisting an escape. According to the Chief Prosecutor for Venezuela, a person released on lawful bail requires a "certificate of release", which, she said, had not been signed by Judge Afiuni in the case of Cedeno. Such a certificate ought to have been on the file, and it was not there, leading to the conclusion that the release had been extra-legal, she said. Any act not done through proper channels is illegal, and therefore criminal, she added. The critical nature of the absence of this certificate was repeatedly mentioned by the Chief Prosecutor, on national television interviews and elsewhere. The same argument was relied upon at the preliminary hearing by the local prosecutors.

Justice Afiuni was sent on to face trial on the "assisting an escape" charge, due in substanial part to the absence of the signed Certificate of Release (Boleto de Excarcelacion).

The Certificate has now been found. It can be viewed online.

It is appropriately numbered and bears Afiuni's signature and judicial stamp, which was seized by prosecutors at the moment of her arrest. The certificate simply mysteriously reappeared in the file, six months after Justice Afiuni's arrest, and subsequent to her preliminary hearing.

Although it is undeniable that Afiuni has a right to at least a modified jury trial--with two jurors and one judge--pursuant to s. 62 of the Code of Criminal Procedure--she has been denied this right by the assigned judge. That judge, one Ali Paredes, had written to the governing party prior to being assigned the case, but while a sitting judge, to tell them that:

"I am very proud to have some family members who are forerunners of this grand revolutionary process which we are living in. And also let me say that I will never commit treason against this process end especially against my comandante because I bear the revolution in my blood."

Paredes refused to allow jurors to be selected for participation in the trial, without giving any reasons.

Afiuni's lawyers appealed this decision, arguing that Chavez's earlier intervention, coupled with the judge's view that Chavez was his comandante, created a reasonable apprehension of bias. They also argued that Paredes has no juridiction to try Afiuni alone, since the Code requires two jurors, when, as here, a "mixed" trial has been selected by an accused.

These arguments were rejected on appeal. No substantive reasons were given, though the Appeal Judge noted that Paredes' decision had been xeroxed, and therefore was not "the original decision being appealed." No one had ever heard of this doctrine before.

As of this writing, Justice Afiuni has been in custody for one year. No trial date has been set.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The reform of the Cuban economy proceeds. After an announcement in August by the Labour Central that 500 thousand jobs would be shed, a New Economic Policy Discussion Paper has been published.

The French paper Le Monde Diplomatique published a fine discussion of the paper, (behind its subscription firewall).

An excerpt:

"The ruling group, partisan of liberal reform, has been rejuvenated by Raul Castro. Many of its positions are held by managers who came from the military, and for them "egalitarianism" and "paternalism" (understood to mean excessive social welfare provisions and not the seizure of power) are the root of all evil. Now they seem to have the de facto support of Fidel Castro. They do not analyse the causes of Cuba's low productivity and systemic inefficiency but blame a lack of worker motivation. When Raul Castro said that "Cuba cannot be the only country in the world where you can live without working", he made people profoundly unhappy, since absenteeism is often due to workers engaging in illegal activities vital for their survival. Military men who are also company directors say Cuba has no choice and, "like Vietnam or China", must adapt to globalisation, yet remain distinctive."

Since Cuban workers average a wage of $20.00 per month, it takes gall for the leadership to talk about "a lack of worker motivation." It takes even more gall to pretend that Cuba's military leaders--who double as factory managers--are doing anything progressive here.

Those who have unthinkingly supported Cuba over decades must now wish they had insisted on real democracy in Cuba, not the patently authoritarian system now in place. If they had, the workers of Cuba might have some avenues to object to what is happening to them.

As it is, two "pillars of the revolution", guaranteed employment and guaranteed food by rationing card, are being removed, and replaced with nothing. Cuba's workers are exposed as never before, while the regime's reforms are directed at saving its own privileges, not the working class.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fidel Castro's Gorbachev Moment

A week ago, Fidel Castro told a reporter for the Atlantic Monthly, in response to a question as to whether the Cuban model could be exported to other countries, responded that "the Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore." It was reported yesterday morning
on the Atlantic website.

This is pretty big news in Latin America, particularly on the left, where support for Cuban Communism remains fairly strong. For example, the Mexican left newspaper "La Jornada" has a full page article on it: It's all over the Brazilian papers, the Argentine, the Ecuadorean.

In Venezuela, the anti-Chavez opposition thinks it's a pretty relevant statement, since Castro has said he sees no difference between Chavez's policies and communism in Cuba.

The left websites in Venezuela are also discussing the statement: they express the wish that Cuba release the official transcript of Castro's remarks.

Cuban papers haven't mentioned it to Cubans yet. The official Communist Party daily, Granma, has not reported:, nor has Prensa Latina, or Juventud Rebelde, the "youth" paper.

Twenty-five years ago, Fidel Castro conducted a purge of the Communist Party of Cuba and of public employment, getting rid of "Gorbachevites", who believed in the need for perestroika, a rebuilding of Soviet Communism--for Cuba.

Fidel Castro was the prime author of the "Cuban model" over a fifty year period, and certainly its most famous exponent, world-wide. If he has decided it doesn't work, shouldn't people in Cuba be allowed to find out?

Friday, July 30, 2010

The judicial system has now refused a jury trial to detained Venezuelan Justice Maria Lourdes Afiuni . Legally, Justice Afiuni has a right to be tried by a jury; however, the government has claimed this to be administratively impossible. Justice Afiuni's legal team then elected a "mixed trial", which means that the two laypersons are included as finders of fact. While this system is a far cry from an actual jury trial, it does mean that someone other than a state employee will decide on guilt or innocence.

On Wednesday, July 28th, Judge Ali Paredes decided that Justice Afiuni's trial will take place on August 10th, 2010, and it will be a "judge alone" trial, despite the fact that the law supposedly insures that she be able to elect the mode of her trial.

Justice Afiuni is in jail because she granted bail to a political prisoner, contrary to the desires of President Hugo Chavez. Even though the Venezuelan Constitition mandated release, Justice Afiuni was arrested within the hour and pulled down from the bench by security police.

Since the charges--"aiding an escape" and "corruption" allow a possible sentence of life imprisonment, the right to a jury trial is guaranteed by the COPP, or Criminal Procedure Statute, Article 62.