US Diplomats, Legal Experts Discuss Political Prisoners in Venezuela
by Jim Kouri, CPP
Diplomatic leaders and legal and human rights experts presented unique perspectives on Latin America's political landscape and democracy during a recent academic discussion held at the University of Miami, according to a report submitted to the 14,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police.
Among topics discussed was the state of political prisoners in Latin America, in particular the corrupted case against Eligio Cedeno, the Venezuelan banker imprisoned more than 505 days ago and still awaiting a fair trial after months of unfounded judicial delays.
Participants contributed to a political discussion about the lack of transparency found in many Latin American judicial systems, the recent politicization of legal cases, and the lack of autonomy that exists in the judicial branches of those governments. They called attention to the growing number of political prisoners in Latin America, the numerous human rights violations and assaults to democracy, and the unjust treatment of political prisoners, like Eligio Cedeno, and their experiences during 'so-called' impartial legal hearings.
The Cedeno case which began in Venezuela in March 2008 was again postponed earlier this month, marking the 5th time the case has been delayed due to a prosecutor's unsubstantiated allegations against the presiding judge. This most recent development is yet another example of the irregular profile of the case against Eligio Cedeno, the government's lack of evidence to uphold the charges of Cedeno facilitating the illegalexchange of U.S. currency to a local businessman, and the failure of the Venezuelan judicial system to expeditiously rule and bring the Microstar case to a close.
"This panel emphasizes the need for reform of the judiciary systems in Latin American countries, including in Venezuela. Hopefully our discussions here would lead to a point where all individuals receive due process in South and Central America," said U.S. Ambassador Cris Arcos, former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for International Affairs, during the symposium.
"The panel was balanced and all the angles of the state of rule of law in Latin America were observed," said Patricia Andrade, founding member of Venezuela Awareness Foundation, a U.S.-based human rights organization. The discussion was an x-ray of the governments who have increasingly turned towards left-wing regimes, including Venezuela with Hugo Chavez, and its allied countries, such as Ecuador and Bolivia.
Furthermore, the participants in the discussion presented a deeper look into other countries, such as Chile, Argentina, and Colombia, who have embraced firm democracies."
"The dialogue was an enriching experience from the political point of view in Latin America," said Yuri Lopez Perez, a past-presiding judge in the Microstar case in the Metropolitan Area of Caracas, Venezuela.
From the judicial point of view, the political situation in Latin America is clearly exposed, as well as the absence of autonomy and independence of the powers of the State, fundamentally the Judicial Power where the judges are restricted and pressed to act in open and flagrant form against the preexisting legal norm, receiving their orders directly from their hierarchical superiors-habitually intertwined with a revolutionarygovernment."
Other contributing members present were Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under the George W. Bush Administration, Manuel Rocha, former U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia, and event emcee Jaime Suchlicki, director of the University of Miami's Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies.
To date, Eligio Cedeno has been denied his right to an impartial trial, right to reasonable bail, right to seek medical treatment, and now, the right to have an independent judge rule on the prosecutor's presented case. Mr. Cedeno will remain unjustly detained in a detention center for political prisoners while he awaits a date for a new trial to be set.
Eligio Cedeno is a Venezuelan banker and a well-respected bank president. He also gained a reputation as a compassionate philanthropist.
On February 8, 2007, Cedeno was arrested and imprisoned by Hugo Chavez's government under charges of circumventing government currency rules to gain US dollars. In spite of repeated calls for his release, Cedeno remains in a Venezuelan prison cell.
Cedeno's case is but one example of the rampant corruption of Hugo Chavez's neo-Marxist government.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.