Venezuelan Official Refutes Myths

Congressman Carlos Escarrá Denounces Distortions About Supposed Political Prisoners

During a trip to Washington, D.C., Carlos Escarrá, the vice-president of the Permanent Commission on Foreign Policy, Sovereignty and Integration of the Venezuelan National Assembly, refuted accusations by the country’s political opposition that civil and political rights have been weakened in Venezuela.

The congressman specifically denounced distortions made by the opposition to misguide the international community and make them think that there exist “political prisoners” in Venezuela.

Escarrá, who is also a member of the leadership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), visited Washington, D.C. to attend a series of hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), amongst other events.

During diverse interviews and meetings, Escarrá clarified that those Venezuelans that the oppositions “attempts to present to the international community as political prisoners” had been sentenced for a variety of crimes not related at all with their political views.

He cited, for example, the evidence against two brothers (Juan and Otoniel Guevara) charged with the killing of District Attorney Danilo Andeson, whose car was bombed. Additionally, he pointed to the significant amount of evidence against the former police officers Lazaro Forero and Ivan Simonovis, who were charged with homicide for killings that took place during the April 2002 coup in Venezuela.

“The Enabling Law Does Not Affect the Functioning of the National Assembly”

Escarrá also responded to criticisms of the Enabling Law that was granted to President Hugo Chavez as a means to respond to the emergencies produced in the wake of torrential rains in the closing months of 2010. He stressed that the Enabling Law, a legal mechanism that allows Chavez to decree laws in specific areas, does not take powers away from the National Assembly.

In fact, he said, “The National Assembly maintains its capacities to legislate on the same matters that the Enabling Law is limited to.” Escarrá clarified that the law is limited to those areas that need to be addressed to resolve structural deficiencies exposed by the rains.

Escarrá insisted that it is not valid to argue that the National Assembly could not pass laws beyond 2010, seeing as “the institution is one thing, and should not be confused with the periods served by the members within it.” He added, “That would imply that laws passed when Democrats had the majority were no longer valid when Republicans took the majority.”

Escarrá, who is also a constitutional lawyer and distinguished professor at various universities, emphasized the advances that have been made in civil and political rights since President Chavez’s first election in 1998.

Among other examples, Escarrá pointed to the strengthening of the country’s electoral system (which has overseen 16 transparent and fair elections since 1998), the increase in participation in elections and public affairs and improvements in social indicators for traditionally excluded groups such as indigenous and Afro-descendent groups and women. “Through last year, four of the five branches of government in Venezuela were led by women; currently, three are led by women,” he stated.

Speaking on his visit to Washington, D.C., Escarrá explained that it had been “very intense and productive,” including meeting with a cross-section of society that operates in the city. Escarrá congratulated the work of ambassadors Roy Chaderton and Bernardo Alvarez and their respective teams.

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