Venezuela: anti-police impunity activist assassinated

Mijail Martínez volunteered as a cameraman for the CVCI

In just the latest attack on social movements in the country. unidentified gunmen shoot dead a 24-year-old cameraman involved with the Comité de Víctimas en Contra de la Impunidad (CVCI) in Barquisimeto, Lara, Venezuela. Below is the translation of an official communiqué from Caracas-based anarchist newspaper El Libertario.

On the morning of 26/11/2009, Mijail Martínez – 24 years old – was assassinated in the city of Barquisimeto, Lara state. Martínez was a cameraman and activist with the Victims’ Committee Against Impunity in Lara state (commonly referred to as CVCI-Lara in Spanish - translator). According to witnesses, two persons unknown attacked Mijail outside his front door, and after calling his name several times they fired several shots into his chest area. The victim was an audiovisual producer who worked on the television programme of his father, Victor Martínez, a longtime Bolivarian militant and former representative on the region’s Legislative Council. Demonstrating the contradictions within the so called “Bolivarian process”, Victor had recently been making a series of official complaints in which he had implicated a whole host of important, high up governmental and police figures in corruption and human rights violations.

Victor told the media that he believes that there was a political motive to the murder, and that it represents an attempt to silence him: “Chávez, I helped you when you were imprisoned and abandoned and noone gave you the time of day,” he said, “yet you are clearly responsible for the death of my son and many other crimes, because instead of being the most fervent defender of the Constitution, you violate it. As a result, all Venezuelans suffer from the insecurity that there is in this country”.

This political attack must be understood within a regional context of degradation at every level of government. As human rights organisations such as Provea have detailed, the state police in Lara have the second worst record nationally for human rights violations, accumulating 19.4% of all cases in 2008, with a total of 31 victims. State police have also been accused of participating in extortion, bank robberies, kidnappings and the production and trafficking of drugs in Barquisimeto, activities which overwhelmingly affect the poor.

The chronic situation in Lara has led to the formation of a number of popular organisations, one being the CVCI, which was founded in 2004. The CVCI has denounced the involvement of high-ranking regional officials – such as Rodríguez Figuera, the former police commander – in the creation of police mafias, alongside Luis Reyes Reyes, the previous state governor, who also participated and then covered his role up. Instead of investigating the official complaints, federal government rewarded the ex-governor, putting him in charge of the Ministry of Popular Power for the Presidential Secretary (which enforces Chávez’ edicts in national Congress – translator).

Due to their reports and demonstrations, CVCI activists have received a number of death threats and a number of attempts to criminalise their work. Mijail Martínez had been recording on video the organisation’s public activities with the intention of making a documentary about the members’ experiences. Some of his work can be found at http://www.vimeo.com/5130428 (in Spanish).

El Libertario denounce this event as the latest chapter in the government’s attack against base-level, autonomous, revolutionary and dissident organisations. We also send our messages of condolence and hurt to Mijail’s family and friends. Mijail was a young man, committed to social struggle, and we can personally testify as to his enthusiasm and comradely nature. We also consider this crime to be just one part of the criminalisation of popular protest undertaken by a government which is subservient to globalised capitalism.

Finally, we denounce the complicity of the government, of the media at both local and pseudo-“community” levels, of the Attorney General, the Ombudsman and the Justice Courts for any action that puts in jeopardy the life and/or integrity of Victor Martínez and his family, other CVCI activists and members of other popular social struggles within the state which have registered complaints – complete with full names – against the involvement of police and state functionaries in corruption, drug-trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and assassination in the Central-Western region of the country.

Comments

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 3 2009 00:10

Update: Police detectives immediately responded by planting - it appears - a 'confession' of Jairo José Solones Ollarves, a young kid from the area, to the murder in the local press. His story was that he chose the house at random to rob for purely lucrative gain, but panicked upon being confronted by Mijail and opened fire. The day after this farcical interview, he was arrested and the case was temporarily considered closed.

Jairo's mother however, showed up with a couple of other family members in the offices of the local newspaper concerned demanding details, saying she knew nothing of this and that moreover, her son was employed as a builder with no criminal record who had never owned a gun (hardly fitting the profile of a "malandro" or career criminal who will kill at will then). Moreover, the prisoner number given to Jairo had the same prefix as those held under drug offenses, and it later transpired that his arrest was actually for possession of cocaine (and not for the murder of Mijail). His mother claims he's never taken any drugs and neither does he fit the profile of a drug user. In fact, the kid hardly ever goes out, hardly ever drinks and never disappears for long stretches, preferring the company of older folk.

Following this disclosure, rumours are spreading that the kid's been released. That being so, he surely must be in hiding since this is a classic police tactic: upon being rumbled on the fit up, claim an error and then have the suspect killed in the public domain (as yet another untraceable homicide) before he starts to spit details about whatever deals were offered him (ie having been found in possession of the drugs, he may have been offered leniency if he made this confession, or he may have just been unlucky and been picked up off the street and had the drugs planted on him).

Like I say, this is all unfolding rapidly and a lot is based on hearsay. It does, however, aptly serve to demonstrate the audacity, corruption and murky activities of the Lara police force.

gypsy
Dec 3 2009 20:35

Fuck sake. Thats horrible. I hope this young kid does not meet the same fate as Mijail. Hopefully the media attention you and others give this case may help bring justice to Mijail's family.

On the subject of corrupt and extremely more fucked up than usual security forces.

The subject of falsos positivos in colombia deserves a mention-

http://www.semana.com/multimedia-conflicto/muro-falsos-positivos/1682.aspx

If you dont know this story allready, basically the army picked up young vulnerable men from around colombia. Executed them, took their bodies miles away placed weapons on them and then tried to claim they were guerrilla usually of the FARC who had been confronted and shot in combat. This was to boost their anti insurgent stats for which they got rewarded. More than 1,400 young men are thought to have died in this way. The reason I heard that the mainstream media started to act on this was partly because the army picked up a young drug addict buying drugs in a poor part of bogota who unknown to them was actually from a 'good' middle class family.

Steven.
Dec 3 2009 20:41

Wow, that Colombia story is crazy!

Barrio: the police force, is it something Chavez or the government is in charge of, or does it act independently, with its own interests?

Tarwater
Dec 4 2009 04:12

I think that when I was down there (02/03) the army was with Chavez and the police were generally against? Of course, it varies region to region and I might be remembering incorrectly. Should probably just let the barrio handle this one...

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 4 2009 13:04

Hey guys, in an internet cafe taking a well-deserved (if I say so myself) break from Cara-caos so no proper reply.

Tarwater's partially right, the police force in many regions are quite antichavista, but it largely depends on who's running their regional authority. So in the same place, you can have municipal police who are antichavista and state police who are chavista.

In the 2002 coup, it's alleged that Caracas policia metropolitana snipers opened fire on an antichavista demonstration, but largely in an attempt to destabilise the country and have the finger pointed at chavista counter-demonstrators gathering at a bridge above (which is exactly what happened).

In this case, Victor Martinez is pointing the finger directly at Chavez cos the former state governor, who's clearly implicated, is one of his biggest allies. El Lib also believe that this represents just one part of a concerted campaign of criminalisation against Venezuelan social movements.

Steven.
Dec 4 2009 21:57

Cheers for all the info

elo.22
Dec 9 2009 08:34

Hey Caiman, i just got done reading all your blog posts, it's a sad what my nation is going through.

I imagine you've heard of the recent death of a fellow UNET student. Shit is really hitting the fan here in San Cristobal. I'd love to chat with you sometime.

Here is the report on the students death, with footage of the shooter, a supposed student from the UBV down the block from our university.