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Minister of the Interior and Justice Miguel Rodriguez Torres announced earlier today that “some names” connected to yesterday’s announcement of an alleged coup will be handed over to the judicial system shortly. Torres said:

We’ve been carrying out investigations on this subject since 2010. Soon, it will be the Venezuelan justice system’s turn to bring those who are guilty to trial.

Torres also said that the government is tracking an alleged group of individuals it claims is responsible for financing the protests in San Cristobal, Tachira.

Taking a more defensive tone in reaction to Maria Corina’s filing of a lawsuit against him yesterday, Jorge Rodriguez – the man who made the accusations against Maria Corina yesterday – said that he had not “violated any law” by revealing the alleged evidence against Maria Corina and the supposed conspirators. He also reiterated that the Attorney General’s office is in possession of all of the evidence, and that they will begin to make it known publicly soon.

In Other News

Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz gave an interview this afternoon in which said

In Venezuela there were no peaceful demonstrations or protests. In Venezuela events took place that constitute criminal acts.

This stunning assertion was followed by a statement in which Diaz said that all of the human rights complaints received by the Public Ministry had been processed, and that there are currently 160 open cases examining alleged human rights violations since the start of the protests. She also said that – contrary to the findings of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – no one had been the victim of torture.

Commentary

Torres’s choice of words when discussing the next step in the investigation of the alleged coup announced yesterday is interesting. He said that the Venezuelan courts would soon be able to “bring those who are guilty to trial”. These seemingly innocuous words say a lot about the government’s understanding of its relationship to the Venezuelan justice system.

It almost goes without saying, but I must make this point very clear: in a democratic society where the rule of law exists, everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Up until the instant that a judge and/or jury find a defendant guilty of a crime, that defendant is 100% innocent. Being considered innocent until proven guilty is one of the foundations of a democratic society. This point must be stressed: regardless of what anyone says, no matter what position they hold in society, if you are accused of a crime, you are innocent until proven guilty in a courtroom.

By saying that “those who are guilty” will soon be brought to trial, Torres is up-ending the relationship between the state, the judicial system, and the citizen. Torres is declaring the defendants guilty before they have their day in court. He is acting as the judge in this case. For reasons not yet explained, Torres has had access to the alleged evidence against the accused, has evaluated it, and found the defendants to be guilty. These comments are extremely irresponsible, as they taint public perception of the trial even before it is announced. To Torres – and I would argue, the government – you’re guilty by virtue of being accused of a crime. Maria Corina Machado and the other conspirators are in a de facto state of “guilty until proven innocent”.

In Venezuela, the government is the judge and the jury, and the courts have the simply task of catching up to the verdicts at their leisure.

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