Venezuela: two workers shot in plant sit-in

Two striking workers were shot dead on Jan. 29 during a confrontation with the authorities at the Mitsubishi Motors Corp (MMC) Automotriz auto factory in the Los Montones de Barcelona industrial park outside Barcelona in the eastern Venezuelan state of Anzoátegui. Strikers said state police agents fired the shots that killed Pedro Jesus Suárez Poito, an MMC employee, and Javier Marcano, who worked at the nearby Macusa auto parts factory and was present in an act of solidarity. (According to some reports Marcano was the MMC employee and Suárez worked at Macusa.) Members of the New Generation Union (Singetram) took over the factory on Jan. 12 to protest management’s decision to lay off 135 contract workers. Workers had voted 863-21 at a mass assembly in favor of the occupation.

The confrontation started in the afternoon of Jan. 29 after administrative employees, state police and two judges arrived at the plant; according to some witnesses the National Guard was backing up the state police. Workers said they threw rocks and bottles at the police in response to an attempt to end the sit-in and that the police fired tear gas canisters and then shot at them. Company executives charged that the workers were armed. Anzoátegui governor Tarek William Saab quickly ordered the suspension of all police agents involved in the incident. In the evening of Jan. 29 investigators took statements from 27 police agents and detectives, along with the two judges and five MMC executives. Gov. Saab, an ally of President Hugo Chavez Frias, had issued an order in 2005 banning police from using firearms in protests.

According to the Marxist Revolutionary Current (CMR) group, the MMC occupation is linked to struggles at the Vivez, Franelas Gotcha, INAF and Acerven factories, where workers are reportedly demanding nationalization and workers control. The CMR is asking for activists to send letters of solidarity to Singetram (sindicatonuevageneracion@gmail.com) and demands for an end to police violence to Gov. Saab (dalia.vega@tarekrindecuentas.com). (Campaign for Labor Rights alert, Jan. 30; VenezuelAnalysis, Jan. 30; International Herald Tribune, Jan. 30 from AP; El Tiempo, Venezuela, Jan. 31)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 1

See our last post on Venezuela.