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Venezuela Reopens Corruption Case

October 22, 1999

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ The Supreme Court on Thursday reopened corruption cases against two former Venezuelan presidents, charging one with illegal enrichment and the other with misusing government funds in a gala 1989 inauguration.

The court said former President Carlos Andres Perez will be tried for opening large bank accounts with his mistress in New York City whose funds cannot be explained based on his earnings as a politician. The court also charged former President Jaime Lusinchi with misusing a secret government fund to throw a lavish inaugural bash for Perez a decade ago.

Both presidents have said the cases against them are part of a campaign orchestrated by President Hugo Chavez to persecute his political enemies. In 1992, Chavez tried to overthrow Perez in a failed military coup attempt.

Chavez said during a visit to Beijing, China last week that both former leaders ``should be in jail.″

It was the second time in a week that the Supreme Court reopened a corruption case against Lusinchi, who served as president from 1985 to 1989. Last Thursday, the court decided to re-examine allegations that he stole funds from the National Horseracing Institute.

Both Perez and Lusinchi were leaders of Democratic Action, one of two parties that dominated Venezuelan politics for 40 years until Chavez’s presidential victory last December. Many Venezuelans blame the parties for rampant corruption and leaving most of the South American nation’s 23 million inhabitants impoverished.

Weeks after Perez was inaugurated in 1989, he implemented an austerity program that provoked mass foods riots which ended with security forces killing hundreds of people. He was impeached in 1993 on corruption charges in a separate case, and eventually served 28 months in jail and under house arrest.

Lusinchi returned to Venezuela last week from Costa Rica where he has been living in exile since the early 1990s.

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