VHeadline editor & publisher Roy S. Carson writes: One does not necessarily have to agree or disagree with either side in the current political debate over the implementation of 'inhabilitaciones' (electoral exclusions) ordered by Venezuela's Attorney General Clodosobal Russian. But rather in an effort to seek explanations for why the subject has reared its ugly head in the run-up to November 23 local and regional elections, it has to be recognized that such exclusions are nothing new on the Venzuelan Statute Book, having been part of the legal codex for at least several decades and most definitely way before controversial Hugo Chavez Frias first appeared on the military-political radar in his unsuccessful coup d'etat against President Carlos Andres Perez on February 4, 1992.
Effectively the 'inhabilitaciones' mean that anyone who is charged with a criminal offense (most notably an act of corruption, malfeasance or similar) is prevented from running for political office until such times as the charges are dropped or the defendant has been found 'not guilty' by a court of law.
Confusion, of course, reigns in the political arena with accusations hither and thither that the law is being applied unequally to prevent diehard opposition candidates from standing. Equally it is claimed that President Hugo Chavez himself has ordered the exclusions based on notes in his 'little black book' ... although, quite frankly, it had all the hallmarks of paranoid balderdash.
Elsewhere around the world one would expect a politician, businessman or other person with public responsibility, to simply stand down as a point of personal honor or be forced into enforced suspension from public office as soon as they are charged with any particular public offense and to remain so while investigations continue. The police and other investigative bodies would, of course, make every endeavor to ensure that such investigations be conducted with due observance to the defendant's personal privacy while seeking to protect the interests of the public with due alacrity while not deliberate haste.
But Venezuela is quite another kettle of fish!
The judicial process in Venezuela is painfully slow, despite the best efforts of the central government to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. It is still majoritarily representative of the dreaded 4th Republic (which preceded President Hugo Chavez' ascent to presidential power in February 1999) and one can easily regard the main justices as fuddy-duddies with legal minds and mentalities stuck in the last century and an unwillingness to submit to change. There is also the endemic problem of corruption in the court system with 'dirty deals' often done to evade legal responsibilities and regular trips by some of the judges and other court officials to bank their wads in Miami or elsewhere in Dade County.
The international wire services and opposition journalists incorrectly believe that all that's needed is for President Chavez to wag his revolutionary finger at a vociferous opponent to have him clapped in irons and taken away ... but this is NOT so! In fact, Chavez himself is pretty tolerant of critique although the same cannot always be said for some of the 'primadonnas' in his administration who claim they've been revolutionaries for the last 25 years ... and they're sticking with the self-belief even if their inept actions clearly speak otherwise.
One may and should criticize the tardiness of the Venezuelan legal system which, when it works, easily comes in on the tail of a snail. Dead slow, STOP! seems to describe the legal paralysis at the best of times with corpulent lawyers running up lavish restaurant bills in their favorite Las Mercedes haunts or rubbing shoulders with political pundits and editorial executives at the Lee Hamilton Steak House in El Bosque or at the Country Club.
One could say that the 'usual suspects' -- both in and out of government -- should remain 'innocent until proven guilty' no matter that the fact that the 'sinverguenzas' (those without shame) may be very much 'guilty as hell' and the fact that you're best advised to count which of your fingers is missing after every handshake with them.
So ... until wildly controversial concepts 'judicial alacrity' like 'public honor' are included in the Venezuelan political dictionary, we have to EXcluse any thought that individuals will do the right thing and stand aside pending a properly conducted investigation of the circumstances is so far off-field as to not be worthy of immediate consideration.
Of course, one can opine that 'inhabilitaciones' should be erased from the Statute Books but, until such times as the Legislature arrives at a democratic consensus to repeal the highly-debatable concept and replace it with conventional justice and honor ... there ain't much left but to accept the status quo, and, of course, to man the barricades in peaceful protest until such times as the parliamentarians see sense and implement the much-needed change.
Roy S. Carson
Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own fu