Former prosecutor Franklin NIeves gave an interview to Diario Las Americas in which he said that he expects more defections from Venezuela’s judicial system in the future. The interview covered a wide range of issues, ranging from his role in the Leopoldo Lopez trial to Nieves’ love for firearms.
Below, my translation of a few questions from the interview:
Why did you take so long to talk about what happened during the Leopoldo Lopez trial?
If I had spoken out before, they would have still sentenced him. They would have named another prosecutor. If I had told them I was uncomfortable, they would have sent me to prison (…) if I had turned down that assignment, they would have appointed another prosecutor. That’s how the Public Ministry works. No one turns down appointments, no matter what might happen. I’ve seen directors be demoted to auxiliary prosecutors.
Do you consider yourself a revolutionary, or chavista?
I’ve never shared any revolutionary ideals nor been part of the PSUV. I’ve never signed any propaganda documents, not even the one calling on Barack Obama to repeal the decree against Venezuela.
When did you realize the process of setting up Leopoldo Lopez had begun?
On February 10 of last year, when I went to Tachira with SEBIN agents. They sent me there to keep an eye on Leopoldo. He was in that state because he was setting up some street demonstrations. I was told that that was the opportunity to arrest him.
You warned Lopez. How did you do it?
I asked a friend of mine to get in touch with someone who might know Leopoldo Lopez to warn him not to go to Tachira. That message reached Leopoldo Lopez, and I clarified that I had been ordered to arrest him. At that time, they cancelled his flight and wouldn’t let him travel. I felt a bit calmer that day.
How many times did you speak with Leopoldo Lopez?
In almost 80% of the court appearances I always spoke with him, and even when I stepped out to get water I always ran into him. [I said] hello to him and found out how he was doing in Ramo Verde. He would ask me about what would happen with the trial and I’d tell him that he had already been sentenced.
Do you think Hugo Chavez would have sent Leopoldo Lopez to prison?
I don’t think Chavez would have made that mistake. I don’t know why Maduro did it, and he’s someone we all believe is dumb. As a matter of fact, when the Leopoldo Lopez trial ended, my direct superior, Nelson Mejias, asked me for a report on the whole process. I was specifically asked to “prepare a legible report, without a lot of legal terminology, because the person who is going to read it is a bit dumb and cannot understand any of that”, referring to Nicolas Maduro.
Do you think that the United States will grant you asylum now that we know that you have been involved in political persecution?
The Lopez case is the only [case I have worked] in which judicial irregularities have taken place, but this of course does not absolve me from guilt. The only case in which I feel there have been human rights violations has been this one. If I had handed over that responsibility to another prosecutor, Leopoldo Lopez would still have been sentenced and the prosecutor wouldn’t have spoken out.
Is it true that someone is paying you to speak out?
That is false. I hope you can look over my accounts. I said [from the beginning] that they would attempt to smear me. Diosdado Cabello said that I supposedly have $850,000. I don’t know where I’m going to live yet or what I’m going to do with my life. The only thing I want is for the truth about this trial to be known. This is the opportunity to do it.
Do you think other prosecutors or judges will step forward to denounce these types of events?
Yes, of course. More are coming. They’ve been in contact with me, and they want to take that step.
How much was your last Public Ministry paycheque?
My basic salary was Bs. 32,000, plus a veteran bonus of Bs. 9,000. On top of that, I had another [professional] bonus of Bs. 1,000, and another bonus for being the main prosecutor for Bs. 9,000, for a total of Bs. 52,000 [approximately $66].
The full interview, in Spanish, can be found here.
Leopoldo Lopez Briefly Transferred to Military Hospital
Lilian Tintori, Leopoldo Lopez’s wife, said that her husband was transferred briefly to the Dr. Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital some time this week to undergo a medical examination for an undisclosed condition. Lopez was transferred back to Ramo Verde after the completion of the examination.
New Price Regulations in Effect; Some Malls Forced to Slash Prices By 10-50%
A new government initiative to regulate prices on consumer goods is now in effect, and is being enforced by the Comando Nacional de Precios Justos [National Fair Prices Command Centre].
The measure has affected all of the stores in the Tolon and Lider malls, where prices have been cut between 10% and 50% depending on the store. El Nacional reports that businesses at one of the affect malls have been saying that they have little stock and variety in colour and sizes for clothing articles.
The new regulation came in to effect in the Gaceta Oficial No. 40,774 issued on Tuesday, October 27, and contains a number of regulations limiting the amount of profit businesses can make. For example, businesses that produce goods in the country cannot earn more than 30% on their sales, while importers will see their earnings limited to 20%.
El Nacional points out that despite the new rules, even basic items are out of reach to Venezuelans earning minimum wage. The newspaper reports that a casual dress in one of the malls it visited cost Bs. 28,500 while a pair of sandals was on sale for Bs. 29,500. The minimum wage in Venezuela is Bs, 9,649 per month.
We can buy food or we can buy clothes, but then we get into debt.
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