As el Presidente Chávez of Venezuela recovers, or doesn’t recover, from Cancer in Cuba, Norm Chomsky has urged the release of a Venezuelan judge imprisoned by the Chávez regime. Mr. Chomsky has supported Chávez slavishly and has expressed his wishes for Chávez’ recovery and return to Venezuela.
The judge, Maria Lourdes Afiuna, had been “arrested in December 2009 by the president’s secret intelligence police. At the time of her arrest, Mr. Chávez said on national television that she would have been put before a firing squad in earlier times.”
The N.Y. Times article notes,
Judge Afiuni, 48, spent more than a year in a women’s prison where other prisoners threatened to kill her and tried to force her into sex.
In February, she underwent a total abdominal hysterectomy at a cancer hospital here and was moved to house arrest. She is still prohibited from speaking to the news media.
Judge Afiuni’s arrest increased concern here over the intimidation of judges and the nation’s lack of judicial independence.
Mr. Chomsky’s decision to go public with a request for her release came after months of quiet mediation on the case between the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, which asked Mr. Chomsky last year to intervene, and senior government officials.
“We’re just requesting clemency on humanitarian grounds,” Mr. Chomsky, a prominent left-wing political commentator, said in a telephone interview. “She was treated quite badly; there’s no real dispute about that.” While Mr. Chomsky said her living conditions had improved under house arrest, he cited the “fragility of the charges” against her and called for her release.
Mr. Chávez ordered Judge Afiuni’s arrest after she freed a businessman jailed on charges of circumventing currency controls. His pretrial detention had exceeded Venezuela’s legal limits, and the judge said she was following United Nations guidance.
According to this article from last year, again in the N.Y. Times,
LOS TEQUES, Venezuela — When Judge María Lourdes Afiuni issued a ruling in December that irked President Hugo Chávez, he did little to contain his outrage. The president, contending on national television that she would have been put before a firing squad in earlier times, sent his secret intelligence police to arrest her.
Then the agents took her to the overcrowded women’s prison in this city of slums near Caracas. They put her in a cell near more than 20 inmates whom Judge Afiuni had sentenced on charges like murder and drug smuggling.
“I’ve received threats from inmates telling me they will burn me alive because they see me as a symbol of the system that put them in prison,” said Judge Afiuni, 46, in her prison cell. “I’m in this hell because I had the temerity to do my job as a judge in a way that didn’t please Chávez.”
Since Judge Afiuni’s imprisonment, a dizzying sequence of other high-profile arrests has taken place, pointing to Mr. Chávez’s recent use of his security and intelligence apparatus to quash challenges to his grip on the country’s political institutions. The arrests come at a time of spreading public ire over an economy hobbled by electricity shortages and soaring inflation.
Such is “justice” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Even not long ago, Venezuela was not quite a happy place. I wrote a humorous article here about a good time I had there, one of many, about a decade ago. It has ceased to be a pleasant place; until the death or other disposition of Chavez, it will not once again be one.