Law to combat corruption in Venezuela, in question

By Saraí Coscojuela |

Caracas (BLAZETRENDS) attack, persecute and threaten” any person whose property has been obtained illegally or not.

This law was approved by Parliament, with an overwhelming Chavista majority, in the midst of a scandal over recently revealed corruption schemes, involving the PDVSA oil company and other State institutions, for which 61 people have been arrested, including several officials. .

Jorge Rodriguez, president of the National Assembly, participates in a session in Caracas (Venezuela). BLAZETRENDS/ Miguel Gutierrez

The executive director of the NGO Transparencia Venezuela, Mercedes De Freitas, explained to BLAZETRENDS that freezing and recovering assets and resources related to corruption is an “important” issue, which is why, previously, the judicial system should have been modified.

“It does not mean that any law can be approved or in any condition of the country. In order to have an asset forfeiture law, the first thing we need is an autonomous, independent and capable Justice system, ”he added.

For De Freitas, the Venezuelan Justice does not have any of these three characteristics, an affirmation collected in reports from the UN, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the International Criminal Court and the Fact Finding Mission.

The expert also recalled that on the list of those recently arrested for corruption plots, there are judges of a “very high level.”

systemic corruption

Photograph of a debate session in the National Assembly in Caracas (Venezuela). BLAZETRENDS/ Miguel Gutierrez

On April 28, the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) declared the Asset Forfeiture Law constitutional, arguing that “it contains regulations that seek to strengthen the capacities of the State to efficiently combat these criminal practices.”

De Freitas argued that, in Venezuela, corruption is systemic “and it occurs because there is no separation of powers, because there is no judicial system that does its job independently or a comptroller’s office that does its job independently.”

“The problem is changing the system that is allowing these cases to occur, and adding the Asset Forfeiture Law to this permissive system and guaranteeing impunity for corruption means one more element that increases the risk of power abusing the public and the private, at this time, for their personal benefit”, he added.

Jorge Rodriguez, president of the National Assembly, participates in a session in Caracas (Venezuela). BLAZETRENDS/ Miguel Gutierrez

For its part, the NGO Access to Justice expressed its fear that the regulations would be used to “attack, persecute and threaten” any person whose assets are obtained illegally or not.

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“Despite the fact that the proposal presented by the Venezuelan government is a copy of the UN Model Law, it is dangerous in a country like Venezuela and can very easily be applied for purposes other than those for which it was conceived,” he said.

Delivery of resources without guarantees

Photograph of a debate session in the National Assembly in Caracas (Venezuela). BLAZETRENDS/ Miguel Gutierrez

The pro-government deputy Diosdado Cabello, the main promoter of this law, explained that the recovered resources will be allocated to the social protection system, public services, public infrastructure, care and reparation programs for victims of illegal activities and the institutions in charge of combating the corruption.

The organization stressed that the text does not indicate the mechanisms that will be used to guarantee that the recovered assets are actually delivered to the benefit of the population.

“It must be remembered that in Venezuela the public budget is not even known and the powers of the State are not accountable, so it is worth asking how it is guaranteed that these assets are really invested in the country,” he added.

In this sense, De Freitas recalled that for at least seven years, management reports from State bodies have not been published, which is also an element that can lead to corruption.

He pointed out that the management of public resources is done with “absolute opacity”, therefore, he said, there are no guarantees that the recovered assets will be used to meet the “urgent” needs of the population.

“The list of needs is urgent, it is infinite, it requires attention, but State funds are required to be managed without discretion, effectively, with transparency and with anti-corruption control systems,” he added.

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