According to El Universal, Guillermo Zuloaga, the main owner of Venezuela’s news network Globovisión, has filed for asylum in the United States. He claims that he is a victim of “political persecution” by the Hugo Chavez government. President Chavez counters that Mr. Zuloaga is not a victim of political persecution but a “bandit.”
The dispute centers on charges brought against Mr. Zuloaga by the Venezuelan government. Voice of America reports that the government issued a warrant for Mr. Zuloaga’s arrest based on fraud charges relating to an auto dealership that he owns. The government also accused him of involvement in a $100-million scheme to assassinate the Venezuelan president.
Mr. Zuloaga denies the charges and states that President Chavez ordered his arrest in order to stifle his pro-opposition news channel. President Chavez has waged a long-running campaign against Globovision, including arresting Mr. Zuloaga in March 2010 for criticizing the government’s crackdown on the media. Mr. Zuloaga was released the day after his arrest, but was charged with “insulting the president” and “inciting collective panic by means of false information through the press,” charges that could result in more than seven years in prison.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights earlier this year expressed its concern about the use of the punitive power of the state to silence opponents in Venezuela. The IACHR also condemned the March 2010 arrest of Mr. Zuloaga:
The IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression express their deep concern over Zuloaga’s arrest, which evidences the lack of independence of the judiciary and the utilization of the criminal justice system to punish criticism, producing an intimidating effect that extends to all of society.
A high profile case such as Mr. Zuloaga’s has the potential to further erode relations between the U.S. and Venezuela. Nevertheless, if Mr. Zuloaga meets the criteria for asylum–and the IAHCR report makes me think that he will–he should receive protection in our country.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
Jason Dzubow's practice focuses on immigration law, asylum, and appellate litigation. Mr. Dzubow is admitted to practice law in the federal and state courts of Washington, DC and Maryland, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Eleventh, and DC Circuits, all Immigration Courts in the United States, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition. In June 2009, CAIR Coalition honored Mr. Dzubow for his Outstanding Commitment to Defending the Rights and Dignity of Detained Immigrants.