Venezuela: ex-defense minister charged in Caracazo

Venezuela’s former defense minister Italo del Valle Alliegro faces charges over his role in violent repression of the protests in Caracas in 1989, an affair today known as the “Caracazo.” The protests, sparked by economic restructuring measures that included price rises on fuel and public transport, left hundreds dead in February 1989. The retired general denies all the charges.

Government-imposed price hikes sparked several days of looting and clashes with the military that left an official figure of 274 dead. Some groups say up to 3,000 people were killed. Very few public figures were put on trial over the violence. Since coming to power, Hugo Chávez—who was a lieutenant in the army at the time—has described the Caracazo as a massacre by the state, and ordered a tribunal to investigate it. Chávez often cites the Caracazo as one of the key events which led him to attempt a coup against President Carlos Andres Pérez a few years later.

Del Valle Alliegro is one of the highest members of the Pérez government to be charged in relation to the violence to date. He faces charges of complicity in homicide and violating international human rights accords. (BBC News, July 18)

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