In Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, the issue is not politicized justice, it is judicialized dictatorship

Carlos Sánchez Berzaín

Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua’s magistrates and tribunals hand down sentences that are based on falsehood, violate human rights, willfully suppress the legal due-process, order undue detentions and condemn innocent people to many years of incarceration in order to generate fear in the population and subject it to the holders of power. These “crimes against humanity” perpetrated against innocent people who are in a “situation of defenselessness” are not the harmful effect of a “politicized justice” but that of “judicialized dictatorships” in which the pseudo-judicial branch is solely an instrument for repression and “State terrorism”.

It urges us to distinguish between a judiciary that is manipulated and under the control of a political power and the pseudo-justice of a dictatorship. There is a fundamental difference between an abnormality in the system wherein there is separation and independence of the branches of government and a system wherein there is total control of power that includes the control of magistrates. It is the difference between democracy and dictatorship because in democracy there can also be bad -and even worse- magistrates who are corrupt or are politically manipulated, but there are mechanisms to judge, sanction or punish their prevarication, something that does not happen in a dictatorship wherein these tainted magistrates are the unpunished part of a State-terrorism system that falsely condemns innocent citizens and grants impunity to tyrants.

State-terrorism is “the commission of crimes by the government with the objective of generating fear amongst the civilian population to be able to wield power producing behaviors that would otherwise not occur”. These are common crimes and crimes against humanity but all of them aggravated by the position of power of those committing them.

The use of the judiciary’s system by dictatorships to instill fear and subject the population is nothing new, but was not foreseeable for the 21st century. Cuba’s dictatorship, ever since its ascent to the government in 1959, established the execution by firing squads as a method of terror in order to wield power. Many of these executions were carried out by direct orders of dictator Castro, some others were the result of spurious trials such as “Case 829 of 1960” that is considered a massive trial by the quantity of people accused and condemned.

Armando Valladares, Cuba’s political prisoner for nearly 23 years who, after his liberation, was designated United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, recounts that when he went back to the detention center, following his sentencing to 30 years of incarceration, was welcomed by the cheers of the other inmates because there were only two kinds of sentences; execution by firing squad and 30 years of incarceration, and his life had been spared.

In the 63 years of the Castroist dictatorship in Cuba, the judiciary system has always been a branch for the shamefulness of State-terrorism, the so-called magistrates are officials of the dictatorship who only abide by the orders given to them. What is remarkable is that Cuba’s dictatorship has expanded in the 21st century, turning Castroism into Castrochavism, or 21st Century Socialism, with the same content and has established dictatorships -with its same methodology- in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.

Now, Cuba’s dictatorship applies State-terrorism from its judiciary system with hundreds of horrendous sentences of up to 20 years of incarceration, handed down against innocent citizens detained because of the 11 July 2021 protests. Nicaragua’s dictatorship with its despicable magistrates has condemned to an average of over 10 years of incarceration for all the candidates from the opposition and dozens of community and political leaders who had been previously detained. Bolivia’s dictatorship, simulating the Judicial Branch’s independence, has sentenced to 10 years of incarceration for the former interim president, military, police, and innocent civilians. Venezuela’s dictatorship has just sentenced 24 military to incarceration for periods ranging from 7 to 15 years of imprisonment.

None of these trials are based on real facts that may constitute a crime because they are based on falsehoods; false narratives, false facts that are the basis of the accusation and counterfeited evidence. Each and every one of these trials has violated the accused’s freedom and has involved the physical or psychological torture of the majority of the accused. The presumption of innocence, the individual’s equality before the law, the principle of the magistrate’s impartiality, the right to a legal defense, the right to a legal due-process were all violated. These are lynching in which the accused are defenseless and endure the assassination of their reputation.

These are not judicial proceedings; these are crimes against humanity perpetrated by organized criminal groups. Their sentences are devoid of legal standing and these actors must be tried and condemned by universal justice. This is not a matter of justice but that of dictatorship.

*Attorney & Political Scientist. Director of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy.

Translation from Spanish by Edgar L. Terrazas

Published in Sunday June 26, 2022.

“The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author”.