A judge refused to accept Leopoldo Lopez’s defence, including evidence and witness testimony, effectively rendering him unable to legally contest the charges against him. Carlos Gutierrez, one of Lopez’s lawyers, called the judge’s decision an “aberration“, since it means that Lopez is not allowed to defend himself at his own trial.
The judge said that it was not within her power to admit the evidence presented by the defence. She said that she cannot receive [the evidence] unless she is ordered to do so by the Court of Appeals. That was her argument. Our last recourse is that the Supreme Court grants us an avocamiento. We’re looking into that possibility.
In Venezuelan law, an avocamiento is when a superior court agrees to accept a trial that technically “belongs” to a lower court. In other words, Lopez’s lawyers are asking the supreme court to take over the case.
Another one of Lopez’s lawyers, Roberto Marrero, argued that without being able to present evidence in defence of his client, there can be no trial. Marrero also said that Lopez is willing to face these conditions in order to demonstrate that Venezuela does not have “a normal democracy”.
Lopez’s next audience before a judge is scheduled for August 28. He stands accused of arson, public instigation, damages to public property and associating to commit crime. If found guilty on all charges, Lopez faces a prison sentence of thirteen years.
Colombia Caught Off-Guard by Border Closure
The Chancellery of Colombia voiced it’s “disagreement” with the Venezuelan governmnet’s decision earlier this week to close the border between the two countries at night in an attempt to fight the flow of contraband.
The Colombian Minister of Foreign Relations, Maria Angela Holguin addressed the situation during a press conference today, saying:
We don’t believe that closing the border is the way to fight contraband between Colombia and Venezuela, which is something the office of Nicolas Maduro considers to be one of the principal causes of the severe scarcity crisis in his country.
Hulgin hinted that the reason for Colombia’s disagreement with Venezuela comes from the fact that Maduro took the decision to close the border at night “unilaterally”.
Maduro announced the closure – from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM nightly – this past Friday, and the decision took effect on Monday. However, the closure is starting to show signs of flexibility, as Tachira governor Jose Vielma Mora announced today that students and merchants can apply for a permit to cross the border at night.
Alitalia Resumes Operations
Alitalia has become the first major international airline to resume operations in the country after having suspended them earlier this year. Alitalia will resume flights to and from Caracas on August 18.
The airline had announced earlier this year that it was suspending operations in the country starting on June 2, due to the $4 billion dollar debt the Venezuelan government owes foreign air carriers.
Below, a picture of a line in front of a Farmatodo, a pharmacy chain in Venezuela. The picture was taken in Montalban, Caracas:
Finally, a video of confrontations that took place yesterday between the National Guard and demonstrators in Barquisimeto, Lara state:
At 0:12, a National Guard soldiers speaks from inside his truck through a loudpseaker. He says:
I hope the journalists are taking notes, and that they’re seeing how they [the protesters] are attacking us, how they throw molotov [cocktails] at us, how they come looking for a fight. They’re affecting all the neighbours. They’re not affecting anything other than the neighbours who live in these buildings.
The video shows gratuitous use of tear gas in residential areas, a common National Guard tactic denounced by Human Rights Watch due to its effects on bystanders, particularly children, the elderly and the sick.