Carlos Sánchez Berzaín
september 21, 2017
(Interamerican Institute of Democracy) The United Nations` convention on “Transnational Organized Crime” (the Palermo Convention) is amply applicable to the criminal holders of power in Venezuela. Its objective, definitions, circumstances wherein it may be applied, enforcement, and ratification, make it the ideal instrument to prosecute, capture, and punish Nicolas Maduro and his “group of organized crime” for the “felonious crimes” through which they gain “financial and material benefits”. It is time to pursue criminal charges in all countries where the crimes of Nicolas Maduro and his group have effects. It is time to prosecute them and issue arrest warrants for their day in court.
The start and conduct of the prosecution can be in any of the countries in which the crimes were planned, committed, or had substantial effects. The Palermo Convention determines that “the crime shall be considered of a transnational nature if: a) It is committed in more than one country; b) It is committed in only one country, but a substantial part of its preparation, planning, direction or control takes place in another country; c) It is committed in only one country, but it involves the participation of an organized criminal group that is involved in criminal activities in more than one country; or d) It is committed in only one country, but it has substantial effects in another country”.
The Penal Code of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela establishes in its Articles 174 through 181, aggravated by Article 203, punishments involving incarceration from 4 to 6 years by government officials, abuse of inmates, and other crimes, establishes in its Articles 405 to 414 punishments involving incarceration from 5 to 18 years for homicide, premeditated homicide, serious bodily harm, and other more aggravates, imposes punishments involving incarceration from 20 to 30 years for crimes against the independence and security of the Nation, such as an association in order to betray the homeland.
Additional crimes, such as narcotics trafficking, corruption, bribery, illicit enrichment, money laundering, simulation of contracts to commit crime, are also addressed in the Penal Code and include; Article 286 that deals with the formation of criminal associations or gang styled mafias and imposes punishment by incarceration of up to 5 years; Articles 316 to 322 that deals with the commission of deceptive acts and the counterfeiting of documents and the taking of advantage from these by government officials and imposes punishment by incarceration of up to 12 years. The repetitive commission of these and other crimes in Venezuela has resulted in a social, economic, political, and humanitarian crisis that is known worldwide and has been corroborated by the existence of persecuted, imprisoned, and politically exiled Venezuelans and by the “forced migration” of tens of thousands of Venezuelans who leave their country by the fear and insecurity caused by organized crime who hold de-facto power of government.
Venezuelan`s migration –forced by Maduro and his transnational criminal organization- has caused the massive fleeing of Venezuelans to bordering countries such as; Colombia, Brazil, and Panama, but also to other countries including; Peru, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Spain, France… and these are “the substantial effects on another country” that give competence and empower the authorities of those countries to apply on behalf of their government or at any citizen`s request the terms of the Palermo Convention.
Authorities from any of the countries that suffer “substantial effects” who are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes may proceed to open legal cause for any of the crimes committed by Nicolas Maduro and his group in Venezuela. An important precedent on the application of the Palermo Convention is the sadly famous case of corruption of the FIFA, investigated by authorities from the United States in New York who, with the assistance of Interpol, arrested and prosecuted in several countries, citizens from several nations of the world that had committed crimes in different countries, but with “substantial effects” in the United States.
If, for political or any other kind of reasons, the case of transnational crimes committed in Venezuela did not warrant their prosecution on behalf of any government, they can still be subject to the right of “denouncement and petition” in the countries in which “substantial effects from transnational organized crimes” are made evident through situations such as the presence of Venezuelan forced migrants or exiles. The investigation of crimes is based upon common and ordinary legal proceedings “of internal law” in each country. Citizens and civilian organizations can request the prosecutors, or Attorney Generals, from; Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Spain, the capture and apprehension of Nicolas Maduro and the members of his group.
The philosophy and objective of the Palermo Convention is for the authors of transnational crimes not to be able to evade justice in any part of the world, and for them not be able to safeguard the illicit benefits gotten under the protection of government, state, or sovereignty issues. Sovereignty cannot protect neither the crime nor those who committed it because this is a legal matter. The commission of and the judgments for, crimes perpetrated by Maduro and his group are not a Venezuelan “internal issue” because the principle of non-intervention does not apply here, since these are transnational crimes and many of them against humanity.
Given the fact that in Venezuela internal law issues are in the hands of criminals who remain in power to secure their impunity, the situation is very serious and clear as far as the urgency with which to apply the Palermo Convention from third countries. Maduro and his group manage force and the formal justice system because they manage them on the basis of fear and have supplanted it, jailing and exiling any member of the legitimate power, such as the magistrates of the Supreme Justice Tribunal, the Attorney General, and members of the National Assembly.
Published in Spanish by Diario las Américas on Sunday September 17th, 2017
Translated from Spanish by: Edgar L. Terrazas, Members of the American Translators Association, ATA # 234680.