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VENEZUELA
Military leaders cleared
8/29/2002
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By an 11-8 vote on Aug. 14, the Supreme Court threw out charges against four military commanders accused of participating in the failed coup against President Hugo Chávez in April (LP, April 22, 2002).

The justices ruled that there was insufficient evidence that the defendants — Gen. Efraín Vásquez, former head of the Army; Gen. Pedro Pereira, former head of the Armed Forces chiefs of staff; Vice Adm. Héctor Ramírez Pérez, former head of the Navy general staff; and Rear Adm. Daniel Comisso Urdaneta — had "rebelled."

The magistrates ruled that the crime of "rebellion" is not included in Venezuela’s criminal code and that the officers took action to restore and maintain order in the country after Gen. Lucas Rincón, inspector general of the armed forces, announced that Chávez had stepped down.

After the ruling was announced, hundreds of Chávez supporters staged protests that left at least three people injured. Chávez immediately called for a "counterattack" against the court ruling, with demonstrations, new legal action against the officers and an effort to dismiss what he called the "immoral" judges.


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