Not A Dictatorship, Eh?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on April 21, 2009

Isn’t it funny how political opponents of Hugo Chavez always seem to find themselves the targets of anti-corruption probes:

Venezuelan opposition leader and Maracaibo Mayor Manuel Rosales, who was scheduled to appear in court yesterday on corruption charges, has left the country and is seeking political asylum in Peru.

The mayor is being “politically persecuted,” said his wife, Eveling Rosales, in comments broadcast by CNN’s Spanish- language channel. Manuel Rosales, 56, lost the 2006 presidential election to President Hugo Chavez.

“The fundamental problem is that there’s no credibility in the judicial system, which is a system that’s been completely politicized,” said Leopoldo Lopez, a member of Rosales’s Un Nuevo Tiempo party and former mayor of the Caracas borough of Chacao, in a telephone interview. “This is retaliation and selective repression.”

Opposition leaders say the Rosales case is the result of Chavez’s opponents winning elections in the country’s biggest cities and states in November, when Rosales took the mayor’s office in Maracaibo, the country’s second-biggest city. In addition to Rosales, former Defense Minister Raul Baduel, who turned on Chavez in 2007, has been detained in connection with a corruption probe, prosecutors said.

Examining Chavez’s record on the issue of political freedoms, one does not blame Mayor Rosales in the slightest for his decision. He would have been foolish not to flee. Any political defendant who places his/her trust in the Venezuelan judicial system is due for a nasty shock.

Something to bear in mind, perhaps, the next time Hugo Chavez seeks a handshake.

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