Venezuela: who killed Aragua unionists?

On Dec. 2 Venezuelan interior and justice minister Tarek El Aissami announced the arrest of Julio Cesar Agrinzones (also given as “Arguinzones”) Romero the night before on charges of killing three leftist Venezuelan unionists—Richard Gallardo, Carlos Requena and Luis Hernández—the night of Nov. 27 in the city of Cagua, southwest of Caracas in Aragua state. Although El Aissami said the government had not established who was behind the killing, he implied it was “over a job,” hinting at internal conflicts in the pro-government National Workers Union (UNT), in which the victims were leaders.

Aragua union leaders rejected El Aissami’s implication, saying that Agrinzones Romero was at work at the Pepsi Cola de Venezuela’s plant in Villa de Cura in southern Aragua the night of the killing; Luis Hernández was president of the plant’s union. Local unionists suspect the Colombian-owned Alpina food processing plant and state police under former governor Didalco Bolivar were involved in the murders. In a speech on Dec. 1 at the inauguration of the state’s new governor, Rafael Isea, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez suggested that an unnamed “foreign-owned company against which they [the murdered union leaders] were fighting” was responsible.

On Dec. 2 some 7,000 workers from 17 unions protested and blocked roads in Aragua to demand a thorough investigation of the killings. (El Universal, Venezuela, Dec. 2; YVKE Mundial, Dec. 2; El Carabobeno, Venezuela, Dec. 4; Venezuela Analysis, Dec. 3)

Another Aragua unionist was murdered on Dec. 4. Simon Caldea, a leader of the Bolivarian Union of Industry and Construction Workers (UBT), was riding in a pickup truck on the Barbacoas-Camatagua highway when unknown persons in another vehicle shot repeatedly at the truck. Caldea was killed instantly, and two other unionists, Yagle Agrinzones and Hector Mijares, were wounded. (El Nacional, Venezuela, Dec. 4; El Universal, Dec. 4) (The sources did not mention any possible relation of Yagle Agrinzones to Julio Cesar Agrinzones Romero.)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 7

See our last post on the Venezuela.