Venezuela: the Curious Tale of Rubén González, the imprisoned then liberated union activist

Just days after being sentenced to seven and a half years' imprisonment for supporting a strike, Rubén González, General Secretary of the Ferrominería miners' union, has seenting his custodial sentence annulled and his freedom partially restored.

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on March 5, 2011

Below is a translated version of the El Libertario statement on González' release:

Today, on Thursday 3 March, at 12 noon, judges for Rubén González' case approved an order which allowed the unionist [sic] to step out onto the street. Evidently, his release is the result of generalised denunciation and growing protest over his seven year-, six month- and 22 day-long jail sentence. Rubén has now left prison and has reunited with friends and family in Ferrominería del Orinoco in order to celebrate after their huge efforts [to attain his release].

We must be clear that González has not yet received an amnesty, nor has he been completely freed from his prison sentence, which has only been suspended on the condition that he complies with the order's conditions, one of which being that he reports in person to the judicial authorities every 15 days. As such, El Libertario continues to demand that he is exonerated, since it is not a crime to protest, but a right, and Rubén is not guilty of anything for supporting workers' demands.

We are pleased to be able to celebrate this crucial victory for social protest, both for workers who are willing to defend their rights, and for those individuals for whom safeguarding all that we have achieved after so much sacrifice is worth the effort.

Total freedom for Rubén González!
We have the right to demand rights!
Against the criminalisation of protest!

González was imprisoned on trumped up charges in 2009 for supporting a 16 day-long miners' strike in the gold mines of Bolívar state, near the Brazilian border, in support of collective bargaining (supposedly a kernel of the chavista regime's industrial policy). The case's contradictions became apparent, since González was (and apparently continues to be) a member of Chávez' PSUV party, even running for office in a local council on the ticket of a chavista-affiliated party.

Following his sentence, union branches, rank and file union groups and human rights groups joined El Libertario in demonstrating outside the Fiscalía (Public Prosecturor) office in Caracas. Despite González' position as a union boss - and one who, at that, is fully integrated into the chavista machinery - many protestors felt that a successful assault on him would precede the targeting of any worker willing to engage in industrial struggle. If one adds onto that Venezuela's slow slide into a dictatorship (following Chávez' suspension of Parliament until mid-2012), then his release must be seen as a victory.