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Venezuela's Attorney General should withdraw from BBVA case

By Juan Francisco Alonso, El Universal

Arguing failure to act by the Attorney General's Office, the lawyer Tulio Álvarez is formally requesting the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) to order Attorney General Julián Isaías Rodríguez to withdraw from the case against Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez for presumably accepting illegal funding from the Spanish bank Bilbao-Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) for his 1998 electoral campaign. Evidence links Chávez to illegal campaign funding.

Álvarez also mentioned that the National Assembly is paying an insurance company that does not serve legislative workers "Rodríguez sponsors and defends Chávez by obstructing justice and every investigation requested against the President," attorney Tulio Álvarez said.

Álvarez, who is presenting his request Tuesday, will also demand the Tribunal to set a deadline for Rodríguez decide whether or not he is going to file an accusation against Chávez.

To that end, Álvarez said in a press conference Monday, he will submit a failure to prosecute appeal before the Constitutional Court, as the Public Ministry, which is the institution that should guarantee legality in the country, has failed to undertake any action in this case for as long as six months.

Álvarez has submitted to the Tribunal evidences obtained from Spain's Anti-Corruption Attorney's Office, which is studying an alleged connection between the BBVA and the funding of several electoral campaigns in Latin America.

"Mr. Rodríguez is sponsoring and defending the President by obstructing justice and every investigation requested against the President," he said to the journalists. Álvarez urged the magistrates of the TSJ to transfer the case - first initiated both before the country's top court and Public Ministry by mid 2002 - to Rodríguez' deputy official

"I am terrified as a citizen and as a lawyer by the absolute impunity fostered by the Attorney General, who is obliged to fight crime and injustice," Álvarez said.

A new fraud

The lawyer also protested against "a swindle" that the top authorities of the National Assembly are about to commit by renewing the insurance policy with the firm Más Vida & Salud, which has been questioned by the Association of Retired Employees of the Legislative Power. "Just as happened last year, billions of bolivars are going to be paid to this company and the workers will get no answer," he commented.

To back his statement, Álvarez showed a resolution of the Superintendence of Banks issued on December 26, 2002, clarifying that Más Vida & Salud is not authorized to operate in the insurance industry. Accompanied by a group of retired workers, Álvarez ratified his long-sustained accusations against the former president of the National Assembly, Willian Lara, about the latter's failure to report on his two-year administration.

In contrast, Deputy Lara said that the TSJ rejected the case last year after "concluding that it was implausible."

"These statements are part of a plot to discredit me morally and politically," Lara said.

Translated by Edgardo Malaver



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