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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04CARACAS3395
2004-11-02 20:06:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

VENEZUELAN SUPREME COURT INTERVENES IN SUMATE CASE

Tags:  PHUM KJUS VE 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 003395 

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CBARTON
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2014
TAGS: PHUM KJUS VE
SUBJECT: VENEZUELAN SUPREME COURT INTERVENES IN SUMATE CASE


Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ABELARDO A. ARIAS FOR REASONS 1.4 (d
)

-------
Summary
-------



1. (C) The Penal Chamber of the Venezuelan Supreme Court
November 2 suspended the case against four members of the NGO
SUMATE facing charges of conspiracy to overthrow the
government. The Penal Chamber agreed to investigate whether
the crime the prosecutor alleges that the Sumate
representatives committed is contemplated in the penal code.
The court may take anywhere from hours to months to make its
decision, during which time the case is suspended. Prior to
the Supreme Court's suspension, the lower court handling the
case had postponed a hearing scheduled for November 2 until
November 24. End Summary.



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Penal Chamber Intervenes


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2. (C) Jesus Loreto, one of the lawyers defending
representatives of the NGO Sumate, told PolOff November 2
that the Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court (TSJ) had agreed
to examine a defense appeal submitted on November 1. (Note:
In a meeting on October 29 with CODEL Ballenger, SUMATE
leaders Maria Corina Machado and Alejandro Plaz told the
Ambassador about the planned appeal. End Note). The appeal
asked the court to review whether the actions alleged by the
prosecutors could rightfully be considered criminal. The
TSJ's action suspends the Sumate case until a decision is

SIPDIS
reached. The Chamber decided unanimously to hear the appeal,
with the loan Chavista in the Chamber, Justice Alejandro
Angulo Fontiveros, writing the decision.



3. (U) Machado and Plaz were scheduled to appear before a
lower court November 2. At that hearing, they expected to be
jailed pending trial because under Venezuelan law persons
charged with crimes that carry a penalty of more than ten
years are presumed to be flight risks. On November 1 the
judge postponed that hearing until November 24, and it is now
suspended indefinitely pending the Penal Chamber's ruling.



4. (C) Loreto told PolOff that the Chamber could take hours
or months to reach a decision. He was cautiously optimistic
about the Chamber's decision, and surprised it had acted so
rapidly. Machado wrote PolOff in an e-mail that this was
"definitely good news," and asked that her gratitude be
expressed to all who had shown concern in the case.



--------------------------


Background


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5. (C) The case against SUMATE stems from its activities
during the recall referendum drive, and its receipt of
funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The
prosecutor has accused SUMATE of conspiring to overthrow the
government, focusing on the receipt of international funding
to justify the charges. Several high ranking GOV officials
have testified that the NED is a front organization for the
CIA and the State Department. The defense claims that the
prosecutor is investigating SUMATE for actions which are not
contemplated in the penal code. They claim that all of
SUMATE's activities were legitimate, and that the NED funding
did not go to political work, but to education.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





6. (C) While the TSJ's decision is welcome news, it is much
too early to consider it a victory in the case. The majority
in the Penal Chamber is not Chavista, and they have ruled
against the prosecution in other politically sensitive cases,
only to have the case continue for one reason or another.
The case successfully sidelined Sumate during the regional
elections. Maintaining it alive, albeit in suspense, can
continue to be useful to the GoV.
Brownfield


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2004CARACA03395 - CONFIDENTIAL