from Weekly News Update on the Americas

According to a communique from the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ), on July 20 a soldier supposedly with the Venezuelan army murdered six adults and a child, members of a campesino family, on the Rancho Adi estate in the Los Pajaros sector of Urdaneta parish in Paez municipality, in the western Venezuelan state of Apure. The victims were apparently shot, then sprayed with gasoline and set on fire. The FNCEZ is demanding that the government immediately clarify whether any members of the Venezuelan military were in fact involved in the incident, then launch a thorough investigation and punish those responsible. (FNCEZ Communique, July 22)

Braulio Alvarez, a campesino leader from Yaracuy and legislative deputy for the ruling Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), survived an assassination attempt at about 3AM on July 22, as he was returning from a meeting. A group of people opened fire on the vehicle Alvarez was traveling in; according to Prensa Latina the vehicle, driven by Alvarez’s son, was hit by 20 bullets, one of which grazed Alvarez’s jaw. Other sources, including Union Radio, suggest that Alvarez was driving and lost control of the vehicle during the attack, and his mouth was injured in the crash. He was treated in San Felipe, then taken to the military hospital in Caracas, where he was said to be in stable condition.

Alvarez was shot and wounded in a previous assassination attempt on June 23, 2005 [see WW4 REPORT #111]. He has been part of a special commission in the National Assembly investigating murders, torture and disappearances during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s; he has also been part of a commission investigating attacks by hired killers against campesinos, indigenous people and fisherpeople. Agriculture and Land Minister Elias Jaua condemned the latest attack on Alvarez; he blamed large landholders for it and said his office would respond by speeding up land reform. (FNCEZ Communique, July 22; Prensa Latina, July 22; Diario El Dia [Coquimbo, Chile], July 23; Union Radio, July 22) reported on July 11 that the government of President Hugo Chavez Frias has set aside $10 million to compensate the families of campesino activists murdered since Venezuela’s land reform program began in 2001. Assassins hired by landowners have killed at least 150 campesino leaders, according to campesino organizations. Jaua, the agriculture minister, says the funds will be spent on projects to improve the standard of living of the victims’ families and to make sure that “those guilty of the killings pay for their crimes”. Since the agrarian reform program was launched, some 1.5 million people have received plots of land. (Green Left Weekly, July 19; PL, July 23)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 23


Prisoners at seven Venezuelan prisons began a hunger strike on July 10 to demand changes to legislation that limits access to parole. Prisoners at another nine prisons joined the strike over the subsequent days, bringing the total number of prisons involved to 16. Venezuela has 30 prisons holding 18,701 people, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons (OVP). Only 43% of the prisoners are serving sentences; the rest are awaiting trial. OVP coordinator Humberto Prado said that so far this year, 150 prisoners have died violently and 350 have been wounded by firearms, sharp objects and grenades. During 2005, 408 prisoners died and 720 were wounded.

The hunger strike ended on July 14 at all 16 prisons after a group of hunger strike leaders negotiated an agreement with authorities, Interior Minister Jesse Chacon announced. Mayerling Rojas, director of human rights for the Interior Ministry, said authorities agreed to suspend article 508 of the Penal Process Organic Code, which restricted parole access, as well as to install facilities in all 30 prisons to examine prisoners, and to take over a center where psychosocial studies are being carried out on prisoners. (AP, July 15; Adital, July 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 16


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #123



Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Aug. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution