JANUARY 31, 2005
Posted: February 4, 2005

Patricia Poleo, El Nuevo País

The Attorney General’s Office announced that Poleo, a columnist and director of the Caracas daily El Nuevo País, would be prosecuted on charges of illegally obtaining and disclosing sealed case documents and violating anticorruption legislation. Poleo was accused of publicizing confidential information in the investigation into the November 2004 murder of prosecutor Danilo Anderson. The leak has been attributed to police officers.

Acting on a court order, police and prosecutors raided Poleo’s home on January 28, searched through computer diskettes, and took photocopies of documents that prosecutors allege were leaked. Poleo has said that prosecutors are hiding information that could embarrass the government, and she has vowed she will not disclose her sources.

Poleo is a high-profile journalist who has supported the opposition in her work. El Nuevo País is owned by her father, journalist Rafael Poleo. In December 2004 and January 2005, she reported that case documents linked Anderson to an extortion ring that included several lawyers and prosecutors.

Anderson was in charge of investigating the alleged involvement of several businessmen, politicians, and former government officials in the April 2002 coup that briefly deposed President Hugo Chávez Frías. He was blown up while driving his car in Caracas in November 18, 2004, in what some government officials termed a “terrorist act.” The police have detained three men suspected of carrying out the murder, but two other suspects are fugitives. Prosecutors continue looking for those who planned Anderson’s murder. In the wake of Anderson’s assassination, some government supporters called for the enactment of “antiterrorism” legislation.

During December 2004 and January 2005, the local press reported statements by a Caracas councilman who said that the police found a large amount of money during a search of Anderson’s apartment. The councilman, Carlos Herrera, alleged Anderson was linked to an extortion ring of lawyers and prosecutors that sought money in exchange for halting investigations.

But Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez has said prosecutors are focusing on three theories that point to retaliation against Anderson for his prosecutorial work. Rodríguez has blamed the press for focusing on the extortion allegations with the intent of deflecting attention away from those responsible for the murder of Anderson.