Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Law? What law? 

One of the most common opposition complaints that you will come across is that there is supposedly no rule of law in Venezuela. How can we call Venezuela a democracy if there is no rule of law? How can we accept this government as legitimate if there is no rule of law? These are two common rhetorical questions posed by opposition supporters.

Now the question of whether there is rule of law in Venezuela is an involved topic and that isn’t what I’ll address in this post. But the question I want to pose is does the opposition really care about rule of law or is it something that it simply uses to make to score anti-Chavez propaganda points.

Now how are we going to figure out if the opposition itself really cares about the rule of law you ask? Well, the idea I have its lets look at whether they themselves obey the law. After all, if the rule of law is important to them then shouldn’t it follow they themselves actually obey the law? Sure sounds reasonable to me so lets have a look.

We don’t have to look very far to get answers. For example, several opposition supporters are wanted in connection with the assassination of the government prosecutor Danilo Anderson last year. Patricia Poleo ,a journalist, Nelson Mezerhane, a part owner of the Globovision TV network, are wanted by authorities as possible intellectual authors of Anderson’s murder. So have these members of the opposition who presumably care about the law turned themselves in to the authorities as they are supposed to? No. Right now these fugitivies are breaking the law by ignoring a warrant for their arrests. So I guess we can say these two members of the opposition aren’t big on obeying the law.

But maybe they are just an isolated case – a couple of bad apples amongst an otherwise law-abiding opposition. In thinking about it though I realized they were anything but an exception. For example, Carlos Ortega and Carlos Fernandez, the two leaders of the oil strike/sabotage of 02/03 were wanted by authorities to face charges in relation to that strike. Ortega never turned himself in and fled to Costa Rica. Apparently he didn’t respect Costa Rican laws any more than he did Venezuelan ones and they requested that he leave. He re-entered Venezuela illegally and lived as a fugitive (he actually attended the closing rally of the oppositions campaign to revoke Chavez and no one, out of hundreds of thousands of people, had him arrested) until he was captured in a bingo parlor. Carlos Fernandez was arrested but then let out of prison because of an alleged heart condition. He fled to Florida and hasn’t been seen since. Clearly these two opposition members are not model citizens.

And then there is Pedro Carmona of “dictator for a day” fame who fled to Colombia to avoid facing the Venezuelan justice system. So it does seem there are a lot of “bad apples” in the opposition. But maybe that’s just the leadership. Maybe your average member of the opposition IS law abiding and can’t be held responsible for what its unethical leadership does. After thinking about it for a minute though I realized that wasn’t the case. After all how did the “dictator for a day” get in power? Wasn’t it an ILLEGAL march by hundreds of thousands of opposition members who in spite of not having a permit decided to march to Miraflores (with completely innocuous intent though – even I am not such a cynic to think they were actually going there with the intent of throwing Chavez out of office).

I have to say this sure isn’t looking good for the opposition believing in the rule of law as we have clear examples here of both the oppositions leadership and rank and file openly and willing violating the law. And these are but a few of numerous potential examples such as the one on Intesa I wrote about a few months back. So clearly the opposition doesn’t really care about the law – they themselves violate it consistently and flagrantly. The only conclusion I can draw is that all the hot air that gets expended by them on this issue is just more of a seemingly endless stream of anti-Chavez propaganda. And if they want me to believe otherwise then they should show some adherence to the law and stop acting as common criminals as two of them are famously doing at this very moment.


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