On the night of April 18, 2012 a new, small Miami-based TV station Soi TV broke a story which has shaken the Venezuelan political landscape. From an undisclosed location they ran a taped interview with Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice Eladio Aponte Aponte. After seven years as a member of Venezuela's highest court, Aponte was impeached due to allegations of his relationship with Venezuelan drug kingpin Walid Makled which had surfaced in the latter's ongoing trial.
Judge Aponte fled the country, stating he could not receive a fair trial in Venezuela.
The story that the Judge told has rattled the country and has put in doubt the legitimacy of the entire Venezuelan government -- already under scrutiny due to President Chavez's authoritarian tendencies.
In the hour-long interview the Judge alleges to have received calls directly from Chavez's office, as well as from Minister of Defense Rangel Silva, former Military Intelligence Director Hugo Carvajal and General Cliver Alcala seeking his support in the ongoing use of Venezuelan space to smuggle drugs. In one specific case, he mentions a call in which he was requested to provide paperwork for a drug shipment which had to overnight at a military base. Even more amazing, Aponte alleges that Colonel Nestor Reverol, Venezuela's Drug Czar, is also active in the drug trade.
Yet the interview did not stop there. Judge Aponte then went about explaining how the Venezuelan government coordinates its effort, using its control over the powers of government to persecute the Venezuelan opposition. He alleges that in a Friday morning meeting at the Vice President's Office, attended by the President of the National Assembly, Supreme Court members, the Attorney General and others they received orders on who they should go after. Sadly; he even named the names of specific Venezuelan political prisoners. Usón, Policeman Jose Sanchez "Mazuco," and the judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni were some of the names specifically mentioned as victims of political persecution. In the case of Mazuco, Judge Aponte claims to have identified a common criminal and ordered them to testify against the policeman.
Finally, concluding the interview Judge Aponte was asked if there was any independence in any part of Venezuela's government. He responded negatively.
The allegations made by Judge Eladio Aponte Aponte are quite serious. The judge is so far the highest level government official to shine a light into the inner workings of the Chavez regime. Should his allegations prove to be true, the picture he paints is not one of a government for the people, by the people but instead a criminal organization which uses the infrastructure of the military to traffic in drugs and the perceived legitimacy brought about by the vote to attack and imprison any voices of opposition.
Aponte is rumored to be in the United States, purportedly cooperating with the United States government in a broader investigation into criminal narco-activity by high-level Venezuelan government officials. A future criminal indictment of alleged drug runners inside the Government of Venezuela would be an important step. Judge Aponte's revelations have made clear that ignoring Venezuela's descent into failed narco-state is not working, but in fact emboldening the illicit activity. It is time to use the full weight of the United States government to bring an end to the drug activity in Venezuela, and protect the beleaguered opposition which it is now clear is simply being silenced and sidelined by a criminal government.
Follow Joel D. Hirst on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joelhirst