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A crackdown on Chavez opponents?

Faced with corruption charges, a leading opposition figure goes into exile.

Freddy Rojas, a National Assembly delegate for Caracas, cited as justification article 16 of the constitution, which he said allows for the creation of such entities. “This is not someone's whim,” he said. “It's a constitutional mandate and that needs to be understood. We can't use the constitution at our convenience. The constitution can't be good for some things and not for others.

“Has Ledezma been elected by a democratic process? Yes, of course," Rojas continued. "He's ordering and doing his thing. We're not saying he shouldn't do that. But we have a constitutional duty to create the Capital District law.”

Rojas said he believed the law would improve the efficiency of the coordination of the city and that the mayor and the new chief of the Capital District would be able to work together.

But Ledezma, for his part, said he refused to recognize Jacqueline Faria’s legal status.

“(Faria) is the consequence of an unconstitutional act,” Ledezma said. “It's a political maneuver to deny the people's wishes.”

Plans are in place to implement similar governing bodies in the regional states, a move that is likely to polarize this country even further.

“There are some who say this is Chavez's revenge," Carrasquero said. “Chavez's revolution is not viable with a strong opposition.”

As for Rosales, the opposition figure facing charges, Chavez has repeatedly called for his imprisonment over the years. “I have decided to imprison Manuel Rosales,” Chavez said during last year’s election campaign. “I have decided. Enough.”

Opposition figures argue that whether or not Rosales is guilty of the corruption charges is irrelevant because the government has failed to prosecute members of its own party for similar charges. Corruption accusations against several leading figures close to Chavez — including his own father — have been discussed in the National Assembly, but the politicians have been ruled innocent.

The Chavez supporters who have been charged are those who at some point became dissidents. Earlier this month, for example, authorities arrested Raul Baduel, a former defense minister and confidant in Chavez’s government, accusing him of embezzling $14.4 million while he was in charge of the Ministry of Defense.

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