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Venezuelan GAO denounces former Mayor Leopoldo L?pez's subterfuge

It is an administrative and not a political case, affirms Venezuelan GAO lawyer

A lawyer from the General Accountability Office of Venezuela (GAO), Mónica Misticchio, explained the legality of sanctions applied against Leopoldo López, who was found guilty of influence peddling and embezzlement, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  Her speech was made during the IACHR’s 134th period of sessions as part of a session convened by the commission and not by a party, as is usually the case.

Misticchio highlighted that the sanction Mr. López received is not only in line with the Constitution of the Republic and the Organic Law of the General Accountability Office of the Republic—approved in 2001 by opposition parties—it is also based on the American Convention on Human Rights.  In this sense, she denounced Leopoldo López’s attempts to confuse public opinion by subterfuge in attempting to present an administrative sanction as a political case.

Leopoldo López, a member of Un Nuevo Tiempo (a political party in Venezuela), insisted that his political rights were disenfranchised and that the sanction is illegal because it was not the result of a judicial sentence.  Nevertheless, Misticchio revealed the subterfuge in explaining that the exercise of a public office can carry penal, civil and administrative penalties for corruption; as such, processes and sanctions can be established for any of these instances. 

“Political disenfranchisement has different consequences than disqualification to run for public office.  Mr. López continues to vote, he continues to be part of political organizations, he can manages his goods, he can inherit, he can marry,” Misticchio indicated.  She further clarified that the process followed to determine corruption charges complies with the Law, allowing for the right to due process.

Misticchio also explained that “the sanction dates to 2005 when Mr. López was still Mayor of Chacao; in fact, because of a ‘right of protection’ issued by the Supreme Court, the sanction was applied as soon as his term as Mayor ended.”  “So under no circumstances can it be said that the disqualification is related to his desire to run for the Metropolitan Mayor’s Office in 2008,” she added.

The session about the case of Leopoldo López was the last of a series of public sessions in which non-governmental organizations, such as CEJIL, presented accusations against the state of Venezuela.  With respect to this, the State Representative for the Defense of Human Rights, Germán Saltrón, refuted the accusations and highlighted the bias of the IACHR.

“As of 1999, when Venezuela democratically established a government that does not bow to the interests of the major funder of this Commission, an avalanche of cases has been produced,” Saltrón stressed.

Between 1977 and 1999, just 4 cases were admitted to the IACHR against the state of Venezuela.  Since the election of President Chávez, 52 cases have been admitted. Furthermore, the IACHR recognized the de facto government that came about as a result of the April 2002 coup that broke with Venezuela’s constitutional law for 48 hours.

Paulo Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Venezuela, responded that “there will be no self-criticism about this event.”

At the end of her speech to the IACHR, the lawyer for Venezuela’s General Accountability Office insisted that it is evident that Leopoldo López has turned to the commission for political purposes, given that the case has been duly tried by the Venezuelan state.

To read the full Spanish text of the government's speech to the IACHR, click here.

To read a Fact Sheet about the Myths and Realities on the Disqualifications from Holding Public Office, click here

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Press Office / March 24, 2009

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