The Miami Herald
November 04, 2008
CARACAS -- The FBI and the Bush administration ''fabricated'' evidence in the so-called ''Suitcase-gate'' trial in Miami of Venezuelan businessman Franklin Durán in order to damage the reputation of President Hugo Chávez, the country's foreign minister, Nicolás Maduro, claimed Tuesday.
It was the first official reaction from Caracas, where authorities had remained silent for 24 hours after the verdict was made known.
Durán was found guilty on Monday of acting as an unauthorized agent of the Venezuelan government in a case that arose out of a 2007 attempt to smuggle almost $800,000 in cash into Argentina, allegedly for the presidential campaign of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Witnesses in the case, Maduro said, ''had a pistol put to their heads, and were made to invent occurrences and dates'' in order to substantiate the case, which implicated high-ranking government officials in both Argentina and Venezuela in acts of corruption.
Venezuela was seeking the extradition of those accused, the minister said, ``so that this gang of criminals can be tried in Venezuelan courts.''
But former Judge Mónica Fernández, of the independent Venezuelan Penal Forum, said the likelihood was that the case would be allowed to fade away.
''Unfortunately, Venezuelan justice is absolutely politicized,'' Fernández said, adding that courts and prosecutors, ``obey orders from the president.''