The swirling political and financial chaos in Venezuela has been closely coupled with the ongoing desecration of judicial independence by President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.
Now the evidence of that desecration is starting to gush out. Toronto’s Globe and Mail has published a story on Venezuelan judge Ralenis Tovar, who fled to Canada with her family in July and is now claiming refugee status there. Judge Tovar alleges that as a judge in Caracas, she was forced to sign arrest warrants for Maduro’s political enemies. She further claims that the Maduro government tapped her phones and even attempted to kidnap her daughter from school.
From the Globe and Mail interview:
On her way home from work on Feb. 12, 2014, Ms. Tovar received a series of phone calls from an unknown number. Assuming it was an inmate, she didn’t answer. Then the president of Venezuela’s Supreme Court phoned and told her to pick up the calls. She did and was told to head back to the office.
Ms. Tovar said the court was surrounded by the National Guard and military intelligence officers when she arrived. She was greeted by four public prosecutors, who guarded her office’s door as she sat down.
She was given a folder with three arrest warrants inside. She said she didn’t recognize the first two names, but was shocked when she read the name on the third warrant: Leopoldo Lopez.
“I felt petrified because internally I knew what was the purpose of that warrant, which was to silence a political leader who was an obstacle for President Maduro,” Ms. Tovar said.
Given that it was 2 a.m., Ms. Tovar asked the prosecutors if she could review the warrant the next day. She said they laughed sarcastically and told her that if she didn’t sign it, she would end up like Maria Lourdes Afiuni, a Venezuelan judge who was allegedly raped in prison in 2010.
Terrified, Ms. Rovar signed Mr. Lopez’s arrest warrant.
Judicial independence and political freedom go hand in hand. When one erodes, the other cannot be far behind.