Throughout the course of many years of diplomatic attacks on Chavismo, several countries have clearly undermined the historical process that led to international conventions on the right to political asylum, and have manipulated it for opportunistic ends to degrade the comprehensive security of Venezuela.
This should be understood in the context of Venezuela’s accusations in several widely reported cases, in which Venezuelan opposition actors have been sheltered by foreign governments through various provisions. In addition, under legal or quasi-legal conditions of protection, these actors have continued to promote the destabilization of Venezuela.
The cases are as diverse as the destabilization mechanisms in which its actors have participated. Let’s review the most significant examples:
Julio Borges. In 2018 Julio Borges was identified by the Venezuelan government as one of the masterminds of the failed drone assassination of President Nicolás Maduro and the political-military high command. After an international tour as a lobbyist for the coercive and unilateral measures that today oppress the Venezuelan population, Borges played a part in the planning of the assassination attempt, in Colombia.
In 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice authorized Borges’s extradition request from Colombia to bring him to justice for these allegations, but President Iván Duque refused, declaring to the press that “we are not going to extradite Julio Borges. We are not going to extradite a politically persecuted [individual] so that a dictatorship abuses his human rights.”
The Colombian government granted Borges the status of diplomatic asylum, under which he has enjoyed privileged conditions, including privileges beyond the international norms, such as travel outside of Colombia, and his participation in “political work.” Borges continues to actively align himself with interests against the Venezuelan economy, such as promoting the theft of Venezuelan gold that was deposited in United Kingdom’s Bank of England, an act that constitutes an act of Treason according to Venezuelan laws.
Antonio Ledezma. After escaping the house arrest he enjoyed in 2017, Ledezma made a journey to Colombia and then to Spain, where he ended up asking for political asylum. Ledezma was being investigated for his involvement in the so-called “Blue Coup,” also known as Operation Jericó, foiled in 2015.
Ledezma participated in a conspiracy with several officers of the Bolivarian Air Force (the name of the operation is derived from the blue color of the airmen’s uniform), including the former General Oswaldo Hernández, to attack key points in Caracas using a Tucano attack aircraft.
Since his asylum in Spain, Ledezma has been part of various political operations against the Venezuelan government. Ledezma abrogated himself a position of spokesperson for Venezuelans from abroad and lobbied in favor of the US blockade against the Venezuelan economy. He even starred in the failed experiment of “president in charge,” prior to the implementation of the parallel government of Juan Guaidó. Ledezma proposed to get hold of Venezuela’s sovereign assets abroad long before Guaidó, but did not have the support to do so.
Currently, he maintains a politically active position, but without a foothold in the internal politics of Venezuela. Ledezma’s asylum status is one of privilege. People from his closest family circle have been prosecuted by the Spanish courts for corruption and money laundering, but Ledezma continues without an openly declared investigation against him, and remains firmly in place as a Venezuelan foothold in Spain.
The case of the Chilean Embassy in Caracas. The diplomatic headquarters of the Republic of Chile in Caracas has been in the news again as they welcomed Emilio Graterón as a “guest.” Graterón stands accused by the Venezuelan authorities of networking with armed criminal groups from Cota 905 and other Caracas parishes to instigate politically motivated armed confrontations in the capital.
Graterón joins the list of fugitive anti-Chavistas who have entered the Chilean Embassy, alongside Manuel Avendaño, another leader of the Popular Will party, who has been in the diplomatic headquarters for almost two years.
COPEI party leader Roberto Enríquez has also been a refugee there for four years. In addition, Freddy Guevara was also welcomed for three years as a guest, finally departing in September 2020 after receiving a pardon from Miraflores.
Anti-Chavistas with the status of “guests” at the Chilean Embassy in Caracas have not been exempt from political engagement. The case of Freddy Guevara is the most notable, as Guevara made use of the diplomatic headquarters to send messages on social media networks and organized meetings with other political actors.
In fact, the Chilean Embassy in Caracas has all the characteristics of a hotel for anti-Chávez actors who have been accused of serious crimes, while the evidence against them is ignored by Chilean diplomacy when it received these asylees.
Luisa Ortega Díaz. After serving for years as the Attorney General of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega Díaz participated in the coup operations that were promoted in 2017, within the framework of a new cycle of guarimbas and orchestrated political violence in Venezuela (color revolution). Ortega was being watched by Venezuelan authorities for alleged corruption, and was subsequently prosecuted. A search of her home uncovered works of art valued in the millions of dollars, and other objects of great value.
Ortega Díaz was removed from office by the National Constituent Assembly and fled to Colombia. From there, under conditions of asylum in the privileged headquarters of the Congress of the Republic of Colombia, with fake magistrates in exile from Venezuela, she played the role of prosecutor in a “trial” against President Maduro in 2018.
Ortega Díaz boasted of the alleged guilt of President Maduro based on an “Odebrecht Case” expressly fabricated in Bogotá. They even put forth an alleged defense attorney for the Venezuelan President, whose work resulted in a resounding “defeat” for Maduro’s case. According to the judgement of this Supreme kangaroo Court in Bogotá, President Maduro was “sentenced” to 18 years in prison.
The Colombian government allowed Ortega to perform functions as “Attorney General” in exile, and tried to enforce her administrative pronouncements, although this remains entirely inconsistent with the political rights enshrined in favor of asylees, and without Ortega’s own pronouncements having any power according to Venezuelan laws, as these empower the exercise of the functions of the Attorney General’s Office only within the Venezuelan territory.
However, the absurdity went even further: using the disgraced Ortega Díaz to establish a false case against President Maduro with this “trial” at the headquarters of the Colombian Congress, they advocated the international issuance of an arrest warrant for the Venezuelan president, the same pretext that was used for Operation Gideon in 2020.
Rafael Ramírez. The former president of the state oil company PDVSA and former Minister of Energy and Petroleum was investigated in Venezuela for corruption. Ramírez subsequently fled the country, shortly after his dismissal from the last position he held for the Republic, acting as a diplomat before the United Nations. Following his escape, the exact course of his international journey has been unclear.
After staying in the United States without clarifying his immigration status, various sources indicated that Ramírez collaborated with US agencies in an informant role. However, his presence in Italy was then reported, where he has acquired luxurious villas, as another fugitive from Venezuelan justice living a life of privilege.
Ramírez has been accused by Spanish and Venezuelan authorities of carrying out money laundering with the Public Bank of Andorra, with funds gained illicitly in Venezuela. Although the issue of the corruption of Chavista politicians has been widely used to attack the leadership of Chavismo, as a fugitive from the law Ramírez somehow managed to pass through Europe without major impediment.
Ramírez could now play a much more sophisticated role as an international fugitive and enemy of the Venezuelan government. Ramírez could be responsible for funding, propaganda and development of an agenda to dismember Chavismo from within, making use of old structures that he used in his capacity as minister. Ramírez allegedly acts as a networker for actors and interests to attack Chavismo by from a “critical” and “left” opposition front.
These operations would be fully consistent with the usual tactics of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and are based on Ramírez’s possible role as a current US asset.
Although an appeals court in Rome recently declared the extradition of Ramírez admissible at the request of Venezuela, there is still no conclusion regarding the presentation of the former official before Venezuelan courts.
Leopoldo López. The repeat offender and openly confessed Venezuelan coup leader Leopoldo López today enjoys asylum status from the government in the Kingdom of Spain.
On April 30, 2019, Leopoldo López led a failed military insurrection together with Juan Guaidó. López fled his house arrest where he was serving a sentence for crimes committed in 2014, and proceeded to instigate a military coup and lead a mutiny orchestrated with several Venezuelan officers in the so-called Operation Freedom.
López appeared alongside the rebel soldiers on the outskirts of the La Carlota Air Base in Caracas, on the Altamira bridge, but the operation failed. Venezuelan intelligence, through the infiltration of the conspiracy, managed to dismantle the attack, exposing López and Elliott Abrams—an official of the Trump administration delegated to destabilize Venezuela—who admitted that they were talking with coup elements in Venezuela and they “stopped responding to their phone calls.”
Then López took refuge as a guest in the Spanish Embassy for 18 months and appealed to his father’s nationality of origin to be treated as Spanish. From there, he made contacts to organize the failed Operation Gideon mercenary invasion of 2020.
He then profited from the help of the Spanish ambassador Jesús Silva to escape to Spain, in clear violation of international conventions.
In Spain, López has had freedom of political activity and movement. He has traveled to Colombia to meet with Álvaro Uribe, and to the United States to meet with US officials. Now he has reappeared as an intellectual author and organizer in new foiled operations in Venezuela, this time related to the terrorist actions of criminal gangs from Cota 905 (Caracas).
According to Article 16 of the Treaty on International Criminal Law (1889) and on the condition of asylees, “the nation of refuge has the duty to prevent asylees from carrying out in its territory acts that endanger the public peace of the nation against which they have committed crimes,” and it is only by a great omission of Spain’s that Leopoldo López has benefitted from exceptional conditions from which to continue attacking the stability of Venezuela.
Venezuela will request the extradition of this dangerous terrorist from Spain and for this, evidence against López will be sent to Spanish authorities. However, the probability that the extradition will not take place is very high, as López is a key player in the “regime”-change operation that several countries have mounted against Caracas.
Instrumental use of the diplomatic front as a risk factor
The uses of diplomatic powers by some countries, especially the United States, Colombia and Spain, have evolved through practices that are unfavorable to the security of Venezuela on various levels.
Regarding the Western Hemisphere, these conventions include the Havana Convention of 1928, the Convention on Political Asylum of Montevideo in 1933, the Treaty on Political Asylum and Refuge in Montevideo of 1939, the Treaty of International Criminal Law in Montevideo of 1940, the Convention on Territorial Asylum in Caracas of 1954 and the Convention on Diplomatic Asylum in Caracas of 1954, as well as the similar provisions found in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
All these legal instruments confirm almost invariably principles concerning the stability of the countries of origin of the asylees, that is to say, they confirm the criterion that asylum can be granted to a person only under conditions that they may not undermine the stability of their home country.
However, in practice and in the case of Venezuela, these facts constitute clear violations of the norms, comparative law, and of Venezuelan standards themselves, as applied to the destination countries of the asylees. As we have mentioned, under the conditions of flight and asylum, various actors from across Venezuelan politics stand accused of crimes they committed before and during their asylum, and most of them involve acts that aim to undermine the stability and security of Venezuela.
This illicit use of diplomatic asylum to cover up and protect these actors has been consistent with the strategic role that this same front has had in the large-scale operation of “regime”-change orchestrated against Venezuela through hybrid mechanisms, including the enforcement of illegal sanctions against the Venezuelan economy, the declaration of Venezuela as a “rogue state,” the construction of the “parallel government” of Juan Guaidó, and the development of mechanisms of isolation for the political and diplomatic asphyxiation of the country.
Within this particular framework, the disregard for norms of international relations and of the effective use of legal mechanisms, and the de facto destruction of international institutions which have been dismembered by actions deliberately planned by anti-democratic forces, all converge.
Due to their particularities, it is essential to recognize that these pernicious manipulations of diplomatic provisions consist of processes of deliberate and selective demolition of the basic principles of diplomacy, to the point of turning these practices into new elements of risk. The destructive potential of these fugitives from Venezuela, and the protection and privilege they enjoy on foreign soil, only increases their powers to operate maliciously.
The picture is more serious if we recognize in these illegal “diplomatic” practices a framework in which services of foreign relations operate under the discretion of the security organs and other factors that seek to sabotage political power in Venezuela.
This could consist of a bifurcation where, under theoretically diplomatic practices, tolerance of the orchestration of inhumane economic blockades, the organization of assassinations, the planning of “armed solutions,” and the international sponsoring of new acts of terrorism to overthrow governments in the Western Hemisphere all occur covertly, under the guise of institutional structures and government protection.
Regarding Venezuela, this statement does not consist of a possibility, it is a statement based on facts and evidence that exposes the illicit use of diplomatic asylum by some nations that act as arms of an international institutional apparatus that continues its attempts to subjugate sovereign nations. All roads lead to Washington.
Featured image: Leopoldo López, received in Spain by President Pedro Sánchez, after his escape from Caracas with the complicity of the Spanish ambassador (Photo: ABC).
Translation: Orinoco Tribune