…like a freakin’ fox.
The move that puzzled and angered so many of his supporters (read Aporrea.org if you don’t believe me; the right-hand column is full of them lately), turns out to be not only not outrageous, but in a strange way, ingenious:
More than 60 people will be covered by the amnesty, some of whom are imprisoned, Chavez said. They include opponents accused of taking over Venezuela’s state television channel during the coup, and others who sought to sabotage the oil industry during an opposition-led strike that followed, he said. It was not immediately clear when they could go free.
The amnesty will not apply to fugitives who have fled charges in Venezuela, and will not cover “crimes of the homicide sort, or proven assassination attempts,” he said.
Prosecutors in 2002 and 2003 initiated legal proceedings against a long list of people who allegedly supported the failed coup. Three police chiefs were jailed, along with a handful of officers and others. An unknown number of suspects fled the country or went into hiding.
The amnesty is expected to nullify charges recently brought against opposition politician Enrique Mendoza for taking over the state TV channel’s studios during the coup. It also covers all those accused of civil rebellion in other cases through December 2007, Chavez said.
Considering that justice moves a lot slower in Venezuela than in Canada, and that in many cases charges have not yet been brought for crimes committed more than five years ago, that amnesty is hardly a blanket immunity for golpistas. The worst suspects are, in fact, not covered, since they’re out of the country, as they have been since almost immediately after the events of ’02.
So that means the rabid oppo-journo Patricia Poleo, who is widely believed to have ordered the assassination of federal prosecutor Danilo Anderson, is not immune. Neither is Pedro Carmona, the “dictator for a day” who fled to Miami (via Colombia) after breaking house arrest. Nor is Carlos Ortega, the unelected Jimmy Hoffa of the discredited CTV union. Neither are any of the high military commanders who are also skulking around in Miami to this day.
It’s not known yet whether the Amnesty Law covers Ivan Simonovich, Henry Vivas and Lazaro Forero, the police chiefs who collaborated with the coup conspirators and ordered their troops to fire on the Chavistas on Baralt Avenue and Llaguno Bridge. But as I’ve blogged already, all the shooters who fired back at police from the bridge are definitely covered, as they were firing in self-defence and their actions do not, unlike those of the police chiefs who ordered the cops to shoot at them, constitute “crimes against humanity”. (This is important to remember, since opposition mayors were the ones who persecuted them; they were snatched from their homes with blank arrest warrants, they and their family members were brutally beaten, and some spent more than a year in captivity, unable to communicate with family or supporters. They definitely deserve amnesty, particularly since their rights were so badly abused–and on the grounds of a completely phony video that was passed off as “news” by Venevision.)
In the end, this is going to do more than just relieve some tension and appease the opposition. Some unjustly imprisoned Chavistas are going to be exonerated. And the worst criminals of the coup of ’02 and its aftermath will NOT go free. They remain wanted, and if they ever show up in Caracas again, all bets will be off.
Crazy like a fox, that Chavecito!
Crazy Foxy Update: Looks like police chiefs Simonovich, Vivas and Forero are NOT covered by the amnesty. According to Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, they and eight “lesser functionaries” are guilty of crimes against humanity and were delinquent in their duty to uphold and protect the rights of citizens, because they fired on unarmed peaceful demonstrators on Llaguno Bridge. This should help set at ease the minds of victims like Yesenia Fuentes, who feared that those who injured them and killed fellow Chavistas would be freed to kill again. Likewise, Carlos Ortega is not covered because he is a fugitive from justice. Pedro Carmona isn’t mentioned, but I imagine it all applies double and triple to him, because he was the designated de facto coup leader AND is a fugitive. Meanwhile, victims’ association ASOVIC has come out against the campaign of lies spun by advocates of the three delinquent police chiefs, who deny that their actions constitute a crime.