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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04CARACAS3618
2004-11-23 18:34:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

SUMATE CASE TO GO FORWARD, BUT SLOWLY

Tags:  PHUM KJUS VE 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 003618 

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CBARTON
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2014
TAGS: PHUM KJUS VE
SUBJECT: SUMATE CASE TO GO FORWARD, BUT SLOWLY


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

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



1. (C) A ruling by the Penal Chamber of Venezuela's Supreme
Court November 16 is likely to result in a long delay in the
case against the NGO Sumate. The Chamber's ruling requires
the lower court to admit several pieces of evidence into the
case prior to a preliminary hearing, including testimony by
four National Endowment for Democracy (NED) officials, which
according to defense lawyers may take over a year. The Penal
Chamber decision forbids the lower court from detaining the
leaders of Sumate, determining that they are not a flight
risk, or dangerous. End Summary.



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


Penal Chamber Ruling


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





2. (U) The Penal Chamber of the Venezuelan Supreme Court
ruled November 16 on various issues in the case against
directors fo the NGO Sumate. The Chamber ordered the lower
court hearing the case to admit 3 of 13 pieces of evidence
the defense had requested, and which the prosecutor, Luisa
Ortega, and the control court had rejected. The Chamber
ordered the court not/not to order pre-trial detention for
the suspects, ruling that they were neither dangerous, nor a
flight risk. Justice Alejandro Angulo Fontiveros, considered
a strong Chavez supporter, wrote the decision.



3. (U) The Penal Chamber ordered the court to admit as
evidence transcripts Chavez' weekly television program Alo
Presidente where he accused Sumate of receiving funds from
the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to overthrow the
GOV, financial records which the defense claims prove that
Sumate used the NED funds for licit purposes, and the
testimony of 4 of the 32 NED officials the defense had
requested. These are: President Carl Gershman; President of
the Board of Directors Vin Weber; Vice President of the Board
of Directors Thomas Danahue; and Treasurer Julie Finley.



4. (U) The Chamber instructed the prosecutor to question
the NED officials on four points, which the Chamber indicated
demeaned Venezuela's democratic institutions. The first is
Carl Gershman's statement, while visiting Venezuela, that
Venezuela is "neither a democracy nor a dictatorship, but
something in-between." The second is whether the NED
considers democracy to be government by the majority. The
third is whether the NED believes the mandates of the UN
should be obeyed by member states. The fourth is exactly how
Sumate spent the NED money it was given.



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


Defense Reaction


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





5. (C) Sumate defense lawyer Jesus Loreto told PolOff
November 19 that the defense would request the testimony of
the NED officials through letters rogatory. He said that in
his experience this process could take a year or more. He
noted that the ruling was not clear on whether the ten other
pieces of evidence were disallowed, or just not specifically
authorized.



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


Comment


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





6. (C) This ruling kicks the case against the Sumate
directors down the road several months, at a time when the
USG and others were exerting heavy pressure on the GOV and
the Supreme Court to do something about the case. The
Supreme Court has an independent interest in maintaining its
international standing, and the case was endangering it. The
ruling delays, rather than solves the problem, but that may
be the best the Supreme Court can do, given the obvious GOV
interest in the case.
Brownfield


NNNN
2004CARACA03618 - CONFIDENTIAL