One day after the Public Ministry assigned two prosecutors to investigate allegations of the murder of 28 miners in Tumeremo, Bolivar state, People’s Defender Tarek William Saab announced that his office has been helping to coordinate an investigation into the event since Saturday. Saab said that the Venezuelan army is working in conjunction with Bolivar state authorities to determine whether or not allegations that at least 28 miners were summarily executed by a criminal organization working alongside authorities are true.
I’ve been talking to the relevant authorities – the governor of Bolivar state and the commander of the National Guard – and they have officially told me that starting on Saturday when the allegations were made, a mixed commission of our armed forces and state security forces are in the field collecting evidence and investigation these events.
Saab’s comment is slight at odds with comments made by Bolivar state governor Francisco Rangel Gomez, who said that the news of the miners’ fate were “absolutely false” and that they were part of an opposition campaign to misinform the people.
Rangel Doubles Down On Calls for Skepticism
Speaking in a press conference today from Ciudad Guayana, Governor Rangel appeared to dig in his heels by suggesting that reports of the Tumeremo event are greatly exaggerated:
As of now, we do not have a single piece of evidence that indicates that even a single person has died or has gone missing, and according to information that the authorities have, what happened there was a confrontation between armed gangs who want control over mining activities, which is something that has happened before.
Rangel also said that no one has come to the authorities so far with information on the supposed massacre.
More Details Emerge from Alleged Eye Witness
El Nacional published an article today that contains more details from a man who claims to have been a witness to the murder of at least 23 miners near Tumeremo.
According to the newspaper, the man – who was accompanying one of the miners who would later be murdered – a group of corrupt SEBIN and CICPC officers held as many as 600 miners in detention near the Atenas mine. The officers, whom the witness claims were on the payroll of a local criminal organization, then selected 23 miners for execution based on their responses to the officers’ questions.
The witness claims that the officers kept the survivors in detention into the night on Friday, and only released them after threatening them with death if they told anyone about what had happened.
Juan Jose Coello, the father of one of the missing miners, told El Nacional that the reason for the alleged massacre stems from a feud between rival gangs who are fighting for control of lucrative mines in the area.
So far, no bodies have been found.
Protest in Caracas Over Increased Transportation Cost
Residents of the Minas de Baruta area of Caracas staged a protest in their neighborhood today to protest a hike in transportation costs. Residents of the area must now pay Bs. 40 (previously Bs. 20) to access buses to take them out of the area.
Below, pictures from the demonstration:
Cabello: Opposition Wants to Disband Army
PSUV Vice-President Diosdado Cabello said in a statement to YVKE radio that the Venezuelan right wing “will eliminate the National Bolivarian Armed Forces” should they come to power in the country. Cabello explained that the reason for this is that the right wing would be following “an order from North American imperialism” in doing so.
Cabello also said that the Venezuelan opposition is seeking to have Chavez’s legacy forgotten:
Today, the right wing is playing a Machiavellian game to forget the Bolivarian leader. The people are organized in communes, communal councils, student movements, youth, women, farmer and fishing [groups]. [They] should shout to the four winds, in every corner of the homeland, “Viva Chavez!”; in the barracks, “Viva Chavez, Father of the Revolution!” should be heard.
Cabello is likely the most universally despised figure in Venezuelan politics. A poll by the Datincorp polling conducted in early February shows that only 1% of the population has a positive opinion of him. By comparison, 18% Venezuelans have a positive opinion of Maduro, according to the same poll.
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