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The Dirty Forty-Five

In Venezuela, less than fifty military officers are entrusted the mission of administering justice to their military counterparts. But as the Government of Nicolás Maduro sends more political dissidents and insubordinate civilians to be tried in that jurisdiction the weakest flanks of a lodge of judges arbitrarily appointed by the Ministry of Defense, who have unclear merits and a clear willingness to follow orders, are more evident.

21/09/2017 12:00:00

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"Let him go," "Leave him alone," the protesters shouted at the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) agents, who arrested Sergio Contreras, leader of the Free Will party (Voluntad Popular - VP) and professor at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. On that Wednesday, May 10, 2017, Contreras was using a megaphone to broadcast slogans at an opposition march on Avenida Vollmer in San Bernardino, La Candelaria parish, in north-central Caracas. He was trying to mediate between the marchers and a police squad that prevented the crowd from passing, according to witnesses of the event and Contreras' lawyer, Lilia Camejo. The photos of the police taking him by force in a motorcycle freely circulated in the social media.

He was taken to the headquarters of the National Police and then transferred that same day to the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin, political police) and, in the early hours of the next day, he arrived at the headquarters of the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), in the northeast of Caracas.

Six out of ten people tried in military courts were arrested in the state of Carabobo, in the central region of the country, which has been the scenario of major disturbances. It may be purely coincidental, but the judge with the longest time in position in the national military jurisdiction, Major Luz Mariela Santafé Acevedo, appointed in November 2011 and ratified in late 2016, works in the court of proceedings of Valencia, the capital of the state. According to Rocío San Miguel, director of the organization Citizen Control for Security, Defense and the Armed Forces, such an extended term can result in perversions of court practices.