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Second part of “Has Human Rights Watch Joined Venezuela’s Opposition?”

By Aleksander Boyd

London 19 June 2004 – Venezuelanalysis is a web site financed and supported by the Venezuelan government. According to one of Chavez’ advocates --Dozthor Zurlent-- said site is “supported by the Venezuelan government.” Greg Wilpert wants to think about himself as an impartial observer who happens to analyse Venezuela. This Full Bright scholar is a sociologist by training. Stasy McDougall from the Venezuelan Information Office seems to have some sort of leverage over Greg Wilpert and Venezuelanalysis; in an email sent January 8, 2004 she had Mr Wilpert post articles on Venezuelanalysis.

Mr Wilpert’s latest piece on the report produced by HRW provides us, yet again, with ‘insightful and unbiased critique’ about the partisan character of the said report. His sudden profound knowledge of legal matters comes as a shock for I have requested him to forward me coherently legal interpretations of the utterly unconstitutional behaviour of the board of directors of the National Electoral Council, just to name an example, to no avail. Moreover when I challenged him to debate about the legitimacy of the Chavez’ regime, he explicit wrote “…I should inform our readers that I am not a legal expert and will thus leave some of the detailed legal issues you raise to a debate amongst them.” Notwithstanding, the latest extraordinarily clever analysis of this defender of Hugo Chavez is to date his most appalling piece for not only he pretends to convince readers about the malignity of the opposition, he goes beyond and affirms that HRW has joined the Venezuelan opposition. In his article Mr Wilpert says about the report:

“It ends by making demands that are typical of Venezuela’s opposition—demands that the government cannot possibly fulfil, such as suspending the new law, which has already taken effect. Then, since such a demand will not be fulfilled, the report, just as is typical of Venezuela’s opposition, takes the issue to international bodies, such as the World Bank and the OAS.”

Tell us Mr Wilpert, is it not a generally known fact that Hugo Chavez’ ruling party MVR has a simple majority in Venezuela’s National Assembly, and as latest sessions demonstrate, that is all that is needed nowadays to pass or amend laws in Venezuela, even when these laws have organic character? How come Mr Chavez could utilise his executive powers to pass, via presidential decree 49 laws, but is now impeded to safeguard the balance of powers of the highest court of the land?

Another pearl in Wilpert’s analysis:

“Also, the report implies that the situation was no better before Chavez came to power, since only 40% of judges held permanent appointments then. So why does the report’s title then say “Judicial Independence under Siege in Venezuela,” as if this were a recent development under Chavez?”

Is it not true, Mr Wilpert, that the whole idea of augmenting the number of justices to 32 and modify appointing mechanisms comes from the chavista camp? Can you responsibly blame the opposition for it? In your view “the report does not have a single word of praise for the reform effort,” what reform effort would that be Mr Wilpert? I know you are likely to come up with all sorts of nonsense about community participation and land reform, however you can not dare to accuse HRW of being partisan for having said that the Judicial Independence is under Siege in Venezuela. The judiciary is indeed under ominous siege in Venezuela for we have a Constitutional chamber that continuously oversteps its legal attributions to prolong the political survival of your idol. Prime example of it is, as you may be aware, the signature issue between the Electoral and the Constitutional chambers, violating the constitution and precedent.

So HRW has call it by its name; the report refers to the ‘judicial reform’ as “the new court-packing law.” Why is there the urgent need in naming new justices Mr Wilpert? As far as I know the current ones were appointed by the Constituent Assembly, abundantly praised by you I must add, in December 22, 1999 for a period of 12 years. Could it be that since Chavez does not have the absolute control of the Court, rather former aide Miquilena seems to be calling the shots, the situation needs be ‘resolved’? When you write the following “…no one should be surprised if readers mistake such a report for an opposition document” to which readers you refer? Those of your government sponsored site? For I have no compunctions of mind in saying that all of the readers of my site, and a considerable proportion of my fellow countrymen, welcomed the report for what it is, i.e. a clear cut example of the awakening of international bodies to Venezuela’s reality.

My capacity of amazement reaches new levels with each of your op-eds and I feel compelled to express publicly my utmost gratitude towards you. For instance it is in your view questionable in regards to the passing of the new law “the opposition’s role in these circumstances, of a minority attempting to block the functioning of the legislature at any cost is conveniently omitted from the report.” One of the most salient characteristics of your writings, as a good exponent of that taxonomic Germanic culture where you were educated up to a point in your life, is that you try to establish patterns between Venezuela and other democratic systems. As such you always avoid answering directly to questions posed by saying: 1) it has happened before and 2) it has happened somewhere else. In many occasions I have noticed this behaviour, although I owe the simplicity in summarising it to Mr Colin Forbes. The opposition is in fact a minority and the only democratic way in which they can oppose legislation is by trying to not vote or delay –you call it ‘to block’—the passing of controversial new laws that will render their legislative rights ineffective for, as it happens, new justices appointed by chavistas will be able to prety much do what they please. Thus to give you a hint of what happens somewhere else, in England the opposition camp arrests the passing of controversial laws using dilatory tactics in both the Commons' and Lords' Houses. Years can elapse in such occasions. Similar antics are applied in civilian systems; I believed it is called democracy.

I am happy to see that you have quoted Art. 203 of the constitution and have also stressed upon the “Organic” character of the law. The latter, as you have rightly pointed out, need a 2/3 majority of votes of the Assembly to be passed or amended, which is the case. You are also correct in mentioning that Art. 203 does not explicitly say that it is a 2/3 majority of all members of the National Assembly but of those present in the session where the law is to be discussed. Either way the ruling party (MVR), controlled by Hugo Chavez, did not meet the constitutional criteria for the amending of the Supreme Court’s law. Constitutional lawyer and Assemblyman Gerardo Blyde, whose knowledge in these matters is a tad bit greater than yours, wrote an excellent analysis vis-à-vis the unconstitutional and illegal character of this new law. Furthermore I recall having sent a copy of his article for your opinion, which to this date you have not answered. The MVR never counted with a 2/3 majority (a.k.a. qualified majority) of present assemblymen when the law was amended; it was passed by a simple majority when some opposition members left the session to go to the toilets. Therefore your interpretation of the constitution is absolutely irrelevant in this subject.

“Second, the Supreme Court law allows the Chavez government to “pack” the court by increasing its members from 20 to 32. Here it is important to note that the number of judges is slightly arbitrary. That is, the constitution does not specify how many judges should preside over the Supreme Court. The ability of the legislature to specify the number of judges is something that is completely within the realm of the legislative power, just as it is in the U.S.[1] While it certainly will tip the balance of power towards the government in terms of the judges’ sympathies, this, by itself, is not an undermining of judicial independence, as the report suggests. Criticizing this aspect of the Supreme Court law, places Human Rights Watch squarely in sympathy with Venezuela’s opposition, in its effort to make sure that the opposition does not lose its balance of power in the court” Wilpert dixit (underline added by me). No comments…

Your second and third “exposition of motives” is nothing but a repetition of your customary apologetic style aforementioned. Moreover Chavez supporters are indeed committing illegal acts when they pass organic laws with a simple majority; or when they disregard rulings from the Supreme Court (CNE board); or when the bypass financial controls and spend the nation monies disrespecting all legislation.

Mr Wilpert said:

“Except, there is a catch: under Venezuela’s new constitution, the prosecutor’s office is completely independent of the executive – it constitutes an additional fourth power, besides the judiciary, legislature, and executive (as does the electoral power). HRW should be congratulating Venezuela for having just about the only constitution in the world where the public prosecutor’s office is a wholly independent position. No doubt, the opposition says that this independence is a sham, since the public prosecutor was appointed by the president (and ratified by a two-thirds majority of the legislature)” (underline added).

Again I hereby declare that you are a pathological liar. The public prosecutor is one of Chavez’ staunchest supporters; he intended to initiate legal proceedings against Electoral justice Marini for having ordered the CNE to add 847.000 illegally disputed signatures to the ones already validated and no, Isaias Rodriguez was not ratified by a two third majority of the legislature. On the contrary he was appointed, illegally, by the Constituent Assembly in December 22, 1999.

I consider pointless to continue calling off your ignorant bluffs, and for that reason I would like to respectfully ask you to do us and yourself a favour Mr Wilpert: shut up. Refrain from commenting about Venezuela, just pick a different subject. Translate your staggering sociological humbug elsewhere to, I don’t know, Zimbabwe or Cuba perhaps. You write for the government and your credibility equals theirs. It is a known fact that most of Chavez’ advocates are doing it for the money, if such were not to be your case (which we are yet to discover) why are you doing it then? What’s the gain? Notoriety certainly isn’t and convince yourself that concluding your writings with observations about bias when you are an active member of the chavista inanity propagating machine does your discourse a great deal of damage. HRW has not aligned itself with the opposition Mr Wilpert, they have just realised the immensity of the failure of the Bolivarian project and the danger that the advancement of such project constitutes for Venezuela’s democracy and the stability of the region. Fortunately they are not the only ones ‘aligned’ with the opposition; the world has seen Chavez for what he is and not for what your beliefs of him are.

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