Venezuela: 15 cops sentenced in unionists’ deaths

The Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office announced on Aug. 2 that the Fourth Trial Court of the eastern state of Anzo√°tegui had handed down prison sentences to 15 police agents for the Jan. 29, 2009 shooting deaths of two unionists at the Mitsubishi Motors Corp (MMC) Automotriz auto factory in the Los Montones de Barcelona industrial park, located outside the city of Barcelona. Five agents were sentenced to 12 years and nine months for voluntary homicide in the killing of Pedro Jes√ļs Su√°rez Poito, a plant employee, and Javier Marcano, who worked at the Macusa auto parts factory, and for injuries to Alexander Garc√≠a, a worker at the Barcelona plant. Ten agents received three-year prison terms for their involvement, and six were acquitted.

The same court sentenced police agent Juan Carlos √Ālvarez Rojas to 16 years and 10 months in prison last December for his part in the killings.

The killings took place when police tried to remove striking Mitsubishi workers who had occupied the Barcelona plant. Workers said they threw rocks and bottles at the police in response to the attempt to end the sit-in and that the police fired tear gas canisters and then shot at them. Company executives claimed that the workers were armed, but the announcement of the court’s decision didn’t mention any charges against the workers.

The leftist news site Laclase.info claims that an Anzo√°tegui state official initially blamed the strikers for the confrontation and that Venezuelan president Hugo Ch√°vez implied at first that the workers were armed. The site called the sentencing of the police agents “an important victory, although still incomplete,” pointing out that the judge who ordered the operation was not tried. The site also called for an investigation of the role of Anzo√°tegui governor Tarek William Saab Halabi, a Ch√°vez ally. (Dow Jones, Aug. 2, via Fox Business News; Laclase.info, Venezuela, Aug. 3)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 8.

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