EspañolA security official close to Diosdado Cabello, the president of Venezuela’s national assembly and vice-president of the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV), arrived in the United States on Monday to give evidence that his former colleague is involved in drug trafficking.
Leamsy Salazar arrived in the country on January 26 accompanied by agents belonging to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The US officials had previously convinced the army lieutenant commander and former security chief under late President Hugo Chávez to give evidence before a judge in New York.
“There you have it. Does it sound like Leamsy Salazar to you? His testimony featured in NBC tomorrow.”
Salazar becomes the highest ranking military official to break with Chavismo and come under Washington’s wing, as a witness to a range of charges levelled against senior figures in the Venezuelan government.
Salazar has already testified that Cabello heads up the Soles cartel, a criminal organization that monopolized drug trafficking within the country, according to sources involved in the case.
An post shared on Twitter by Ramón Pérez-Maura, an ABC journalist covering the case, stated that Salazar’s testimony had also linked Cuba with the country’s narcotrafficking trade, “offering protection to certain routes along which drugs were brought to Venezuela from the United States.”
Pérez-Maura‘s colleague in New York Emili J. Blasco added further details that Cabello gave direct orders for the distribution of illicit substances, and that Salazar knew of locations where the accused “keeps mountains of dollar bills.”
Salazar vio a Cabello dar órdenes para la salida de lanchas con droga y visitó lugares donde Cabello guarda montañas de billetes de dólares
— Emili J Blasco (@ejBlasco) January 26, 2015
“Salazar saw Cabello give orders for the launching of drug boats, and visited locations where Cabello keeps mountains of dollar bills.”
Salazar has apparently sought police protection in the United States as he fears for his life, but the former security chief has denied fleeing from justice, asserting that he never participated in criminal activity himself.
Este es Leamsy Salazar, jefe de seguridad de Chávez y Cabello, llegado a EEUU como testigo protegido pic.twitter.com/SEyMmA1hkj
— Emili J Blasco (@ejBlasco) January 26, 2015
“This is Leamsy Salazar, security chief to Chávez and Cabello, arrived in the US as a protected witness.”
Diosdado Cabello was a close colleague of Hugo Chávez, participating in Chávez’s attempted coup d’etat in February 1992 against former President Carlos Andrés Pérez, and later coming to occupy senior posts in successive Chavista administrations.
Cabello has since been identified by the US State Department as the most influential and economically powerful individual in Venezuela, and as “one of the principal poles of corruption” in the South American country, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
EspañolIn October 2011, Bolivia, for the first time in its history, elected judicial officials. But there was a catch: those who ran were selected by the government, with all notions of meritocracy left by the wayside. Bolivians were given only one option in the elections, which proved to a be sideshow, rather than an event that could provide meaningful change. Today, three and a half years later, the inefficiency of the new judicial system has cost the average citizen dearly. Corruption and extortion are endemic to the judiciary: a symptom of its complete subservience to the executive. By preselecting judges, the government made it clear that it was barely concerned with improving justice in Bolivia. Instead, the aim was to provide a veneer of democracy, and improve its ability to remove judges it disliked, as well as prosecute those who seek to gain a crumb of power, teaching them that they have no business entering politics. President Evo Morales and Vice President Álvaro García Linera now say that the time has come for change, promising to usher in a structure that is efficient, transparent, and functions perfectly. Morales has admitted it: “As of today," he recently told reporters, "there has been no change, rather, according to the data we have, justice in Bolivia has worsened.” On January 6, Morales announced that one of the first actions in his new term would be to hold a nationwide referendum, for the country to decide for itself what form the justice system should take. In addition, he mentioned that there should be a further amendment to the constitution, which was already tampered with once in 2009. The government wants a wholesale shake-up to remove its opponents from the ranks of the judiciary. The vice president was quick to give his own opinions on the matter as well, stating that that “there will be modifications to the greater part of the staff that was charged with maintaining the standards of justice, and the first step is reestablishing meritocracy as a fundamental element in the selection of judicial authorities.” Their fine words might, at first glance, seem like an honest attempt to improve the Bolivian justice system. Yet, looking at the broader picture, we see a recent history of many magistrates accusing the government of illegal behavior, resulting in unfair trials and violations of rights against judges themselves. Clearly, the government wants a wholesale shake-up to remove its opponents from the ranks of the judiciary. Many suspect that Morales has designs on running for a third term in 2020, extending his period in office from 2006 until 2025. But to do so will require another amendment to the constitution, which he did in 2008 before securing a second term. It is likely that further judicial reforms would provide cover to new constitutional changes designed to keep him in power well into the third decade of the 21st century. The planned reforms are unlikely to change much. The referendum and its consequences will be stage-managed by the state. And the only skill the new crop of judges will need is being able to hold their tongue in the face of fresh attacks on Bolivia's democracy. Translated by Thalia C. Siqueiros. Edited by Laurie Blair.