Now that President Obama and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez have decided they want to be better friends and move toward a closer relationship, it is important for people in the U.S. to get to know Venezuela’s mercurial, but democratically-elected President better. One of the challenge ahead will be reconciling the gaping double standards in Mr. Chavez’s manner of conduct and his selective attention to the instruments of international justice.
On April 22, the government of Venezuela issued an international arrest warrant to Interpol for Manuel Rosales, the elected mayor of the important city of Maracaibo. Rosales is known as a vigorous opponent of Chavez and stood against him the 2006 presidential elections. Rosales, the Venezuelan government claims, misappropriated $60,000. Rosales fears he will not receive a fair trial in Venezuela and for this reason he fled to Peru.
On the other hand, Chavez is still waiting to set a date for a visit to Venezuela by Sudan’s Islamist President Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir, president of Sudan since 1993, is viewed internationally as a prime architect of the massive human rights violations perpetrated in the Darfur region of Sudan resulting in at least 200,000 — perhaps as many as 400,000 — deaths and millions of refugees and displaced persons. The invitation was extend by Chavez to al-Bashir earlier this month when the two met in the Middle East.
A warrant for al-Bashir’s arrest was issued by the International Criminal Court [ICC] for international “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” on March 4, 2009.
Venezuela is a party to the Rome Treaty Statute of the International Criminal Court and has agreed to abide by its rulings and honor its warrants for arrest. But according to Venezuela’s opposition newspaper Tal Cual, an el-Bashir visit to would not raise problems with Venezuela’s police and judicial institutions as they are fully staffed with Chávez loyalists. Therefore, Chavez’s friend “Don Omar” would be free to come and go, without regard to the ICC’s warrant, as they say in Spanish, like, “Pedro in his own house.”
This is the man who says to President Obama, “I want to be your friend,” and wants to build a better hemispheric community.