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Late prosecutor Danilo Anderson planned to indict Vivas and Forero

An arrest foretold

The Attorney General's Office is set to convict former police chiefs Henry Vivas and Lázaro Forero in connection with the events of April 11, 2002. On Friday, they were denied political asylum by the Salvadoran government and were put under arrest. They expected to appear in court on Monday

Henry Vivas and Lázaro Forero, were the heads of the Caracas Metropolitan Police during the events of April 11, 2002 (Photo: )


Prosecutor Danilo Anderson, who was killed in a bomb attack on November 18, was heading an investigation on the events of April 11, 2002, when some 20 people died and other 80 were injured as opposition demonstrators tried to reach the Presidential Palace of Miraflores to demand President Hugo Chávez' resignation.

Anderson, as the fourth national environment prosecutor, indicted four pro-government demonstrators who were videotaped while shooting against opposition marchers. Nevertheless, his allegations were dismissed by a lower court and an appeals court.

Anderson then decided to focus on the opposite side: Henry Vivas and Lázaro Forero, who were the heads of the Caracas Metropolitan Police when the incident occurred, and Alfredo Peña, who was the Caracas Metropolitan Mayor and to whom the Metropolitan Police was subordinate.

On Friday, Vivas and Forero were put under arrest at the headquarters of the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps (Cicpc). The two former police chiefs had applied for political asylum at the Salvadoran Embassy in Caracas. El Salvador rejected their application based on international treaties and agreements on political asylum.

Once the Salvadoran government announced the decision, prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz told Vivas and Forero, before reporters, that the Attorney General had issued arrest warrants for them, and they now have to appear in court on Monday for indictment as the "masterminds" of the murders that occurred in downtown Caracas on April 11, 2002.

Vivas and Forero had previously been subpoenaed and testified as witness at the Cicpc in connection with this case.

The move to indict Vivas and Forero should not be a surprise. On December 10, 2003, the Fourth Crime Control Judge of Aragua State, Verónica Castro, admitted an action by late prosecutor Anderson to indict eight Metropolitan Police officers for their involvement in the events of April 11, 2002.

A few time later, the alarm sounded for Vivas, Forero, and Peña. Antonio Amado, a lawyer for some of the victims of such events, stated that "given that the action filed by the Attorney General and by ourselves has been admitted, we are going to demand Alfredo Peña, Henry Vivas, and Lázaro Forero to be indicted -as they were among the commanders of the Metropolitan Police- for their involvement as the masterminds and perpetrators of the events for which those eight police officers have been accused."

Amado based his move on voice recordings he took from the Metropolitan Police operations central control, which showed, according to Amado, "the penal responsibility of these officers (Peña, Vivas, and Forero), and proved that they were directing the police operations on April 11, (2002)."

The alarm sounded even harder on December 10, 2003 at night. Anderson announced that Peña and the two former heads of the Metropolitan Police could be indicted. According to Anderson, if any evidence involving Peña, Vivas, and Forero emerged during the proceedings on the eight Caracas Metropolitan Police officers, the Attorney General's Office was to launch a probe on the three officials.

The eight policemen indicted in connection with the events of April 11, 2002 are Marco Hurtado, Rafael Neazoa, Julio Rodríguez, Erasmo Bolívar, Luis Enrique Molina, Ramón Zapata, Héctor Rovaín, and Arube Pérez.

Anderson charged them with complicity in first-degree murder, complicity in attempted first-degree murder, very serious injuries, and illegal use of war weapons. For Vivas, Forero, and Peña, charges are even heavier; they are to be indicted as the "masterminds" of all of such crimes.

Anderson, to justify the fact that he planned to bring charges against Peña, Vivas, and Forero, two years and a half after the events of April 11, 2002, argued that the Attorney General's Office had evidence before, "but it believed that evidence was not categorical enough, but now it has found new elements." Nevertheless, Anderson did not list such new elements.

There is an old saying: "Winners write history," at least for a while.

Translated by Maryflor Suárez

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