Earlier today, the Public Ministry announced that it had located the bodies of four of the twenty eight missing miners from Tumeremo, Bolivar state. The announcement was made by Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz through her Twitter account.
The fate of the twenty eight miners – who have been missing since March 4 – was the subject of debate between PSUV officials, alleged eye witnesses and the victim’s families. While Bolivar state governor Francisco Rangel Gomez reacted to the initial news that the miners had been killed by saying that the reports were “absolutely false” and that they were part of a media campaign against the PSUV, eye witnesses provided testimony that a massacre had taken place.
Later on in the day, Diaz appeared on Globovision‘s Vladimir a la 1, a news show, and hinted at the possibility of the other bodies being found soon:
Up until now, they [authorities] have taken out four bodies, and we’re not sure if they’re all there.
Diaz’s statements suggest that the bodies were found in a ditch or some kind of hole, which falls in line with witness testimony that the men were killed at one site and transported to another for mass burial.
Later in the evening, Public Defender Tarek William Saab announced that fourteen bodies had been discovered at the site.
Diaz also said that the bodies were found near Nuevo Callao, “selva adentro“, meaning “deep in the jungle”.
During the show, Diaz also said that authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Jamilton Andres Ulloa Suarez, a.k.a El Topo, since he is suspected of being the mastermind of the massacre. She also confirmed that one person was in custody in relation to the killings: a woman named Rosa Soraida Gil Salazar, whom Diaz described as one of El Topo‘s lieutenants.
Mayor: Evidence Points to Involvement of Authorities
The mayor of the municipality in which Tumeremo is located, Carlos Chancellor, said earlier today that the location in which the bodies are being found suggests that local authorities may have been involved in the massacre.
Chancellor said that according to the information he had seen, 21 bodies have been located, and that:
It’s important to point out that the bodies have been found in an area far away from where they were murdered. They [the trucks carrying the bodies] had to have passed through CICPC and state police checkpoints.
A man who claims to have witnessed the massacre says that he saw uniformed officers belonging to the CICPC and SEBIN security agencies conducting the killings.
Witness Recounts Day of Massacre
A man claiming to have been present at the site of the massacre at Tumeremo told Corredo del Caroni some of what he saw that day.
According to the man, the mine he was working was attacked by a group of armed assailants:
What I saw was that — I was working at the mine, and that that moment we got together to come back to the camp to eat. When we were preparing the food, several vehicles entered the camp: a [Ford F] 250, a Toyota and pickup trucks. [The trucks carried] armed people. It was the famous El Topo gang. They tied us up on the spot. A few minutes later, we heard shots fired in the mine, and the people looking after us started running towards it.
When asked if he personally saw any bodies, the man said:
Honestly, yes. I saw four bodies in the [Ford F] 350. They were all men. I also saw some people get taken away, tied. Among them were a man and a young woman. They took them away in a truck.
Economic Emergency Decree Extended Without NA Input
The national government has extended the economic emergency decree without giving the National Assembly the opportunity to event debate the issue. The news comes through the publication of the Gaceta Oficial No. 6,219, which was published today but is dated Friday, March 11.
The Gaceta points out that since the country is still experiencing the “exceptional, extraordinary and conjunctural” circumstances that led Maduro to issue the decree, then the measure is extended.
The emergency decree allows for Maduro to access and use money without any parliamentary oversight, and to expropriate any private company, among other measures.
The National Assembly has the power to accept or reject decrees like this one. On January 22, after several sessions of debate, the National Assembly voted to reject the decree. On February 11, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia issued a ruling saying that the decree was in full force and effect because the National Assembly had missed the deadline for voting on the matter.
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup wondered yesterday why the national government even bothered to send the decree to the National Assembly for debate, if it was apparently willing to ignore its decision:
Why did they send us the decree? Why didn’t they just send it to the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia?
The National Assembly was set to start debating whether or not the extend the decree tomorrow.
Gaceta Oficial No. 6,219 for March 11, 2016 can be found here.
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