Hugo Chávez continues his assault on political and legal protections in Venezuela. In a move that has been denounced internationally, including by Amnesty International, Chávez demanded the arrest of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni after she granted bail to an accused banker. He is demanding 30 years in prison even though his prosecutors could find no bribe (as he originally alleged on the radio). Instead, they found “spiritual corruption” and threw her in jail with many convicts that she previously incarcerated.
Afiuni’s life is in obvious danger in the Los Teques women’s jail. Various Human Rights groups have denounced the arrest as one more example of the growing authoritarian rule in Venezuela.
Afiuni’s health is poor and many fear that she could die in prison. Many judges have been horrified at the loss of their independence and the obvious threat to anyone disagreeing with Chávez.
Supreme Court justice Blanca Rosa Mármol de León stated “before there was a lot of fear on the bench but now there’s panic. In 35 years in the judicial system I’ve never seen judicial power so submissive.”
I continue to be baffled with some in the United States continue to make excuses for Chávez, who has shown himself to be a petty dictator and a committed enemy to civil liberties. Obviously, there are many who Chávez would consider “spiritually corrupted” in his distorted view of society and the law. The attack on the independence of the judiciary was an inevitable step for Chávez in his consolidation of authoritarian powers.