By Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CUTV)
CUTV, the Unitary Confederation of Workers of Venezuela, is affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions.
June 1, 2021
Comrades of WFTU Secretariat:
Dear comrades, receive a fraternal class-conscious greeting.
The purpose of this document is to report on the repeated practices of repression, police harassment, criminalization, and prosecution committed in Venezuela against union leaders, workers’ leaders, and workers in general.
First, based on the principles of class-based trade unionism, we must understand that in the dynamics of the class struggle, that these types of events are common, given the violent nature of the capitalist system and the essentially authoritarian nature of bourgeois state power which hides behind its formal democratic appearance. In class confrontations, the bosses (private or public) usually rely on the coercive instruments of the state, including the judicial system, to crush struggles, intimidate the working class and its important leaders, destroy class-based organizations and militant leadership of the workers’ movement, neutralize resistance and movements, neutralize militancy, and even to divert attention from illegal acts where both businessmen and high officials of the state bureaucracy may be involved.
The practices of repression, criminalization and prosecution of labor tend to increase in periods of capitalist crisis, when the bourgeoisie and its governments aim to protect profit margins and stabilize the system by sacrificing the wages of the worker’s and in general attacking the living and working conditions of the working class, inevitably showing the authoritarian and antidemocratic face of the bourgeois states. This is the case in Venezuela, where “progressive” reformism (now more of a sell-out) manages the crisis of dependent capitalism and the collapse of the oil rentier system, aggravated by the illegal and criminal imperialist sanctions, trying to maintain and attract foreign capital investments, having among its principal comparative advantages the cheapest labor force on the continent and “labor peace” achieved through conciliation and class surrender.
In our country, the most representative examples of the use of the repressive forces of the state and of the judicial system against trade union leaders date back to the times of the dictatorships of Juan Vicente Gómez and Marcos Pérez Jimenez, as well as to the beginning of the 60’s of the last century, when the pro-Yankee satrap government of Rómulo Betancourt developed an extermination plan against communists and the entire Venezuelan left, which among other things, used repressive police and judicial forces to isolate and destroy the class struggle union tendency within the only trade union center at that time, the CTV, imposing on its leadership bodies a fictitious majority in favor of the déclassé tendency (trade unionists of the reactionary party Acción Democrática) and forcing the division of the Venezuelan trade union movement. As Comrade Hemmy Croes said very well in his book El Movimiento Obrero Venezolano (Elementos para su historia) .( The Venezuelan Workers Movement, Elements for its History) *: “Anti-communism in modern times has universally served, as a Trojan horse for all anti-popular repression”.
It is important to recall these episodes in the political and trade union life of Venezuela, as currently there is a renewed anti-communism promoted by the top leadership of the Venezuelan Government, justified by a manipulated defense of the Bolivarian process, while, at the same time, agreements are being reached with the pro-imperialist opposition right-wing and conquests achieved by the working people during the administration of President Chávez are dismantled.
The following is a summary with updates on the events that we consider to be the most serious occurrences of police harassment, arrests and criminalization and prosecutions initiated against workers, including union leaders and labor leaders.
Just about all of these cases are characterized by violations of the guarantees of due process, effective judicial protection and the inviolability of human rights, in addition to violations of freedom of association; guarantees and rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and expressed in international norms, that were won by enormous struggles of the working class and the peoples of the world. The practices of repression and criminalization are also increasingly affecting peasant and popular leaders who struggle against the latifundia [large-landed estates] and for the rights of the people. However in this report, we will present only the facts that in one way or another affect the labor and trade union movement.
The purpose of this report is, principally, to achieve solidarity, accompaniment and concrete and effective support from the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) for the struggles carried out by the CUTV and the FNLCT, together with the relatives of the victims and a grouping of revolutionary social and political organizations, countering such anti-worker, anti-union and anti-democratic practices, seeking the reestablishment of the rule of law and the conquest of full freedom for all workers unjustly deprived of liberty and unjustly prosecuted in court.
- The first cases in the current stage
During the administration of President Chavez, there were some isolated cases of arbitrary detentions and unjust judicial processes against workers. The most notorious, with current repercussions, is that of Rodney Alvarez, a young worker of the company Ferrominera del Orinoco (Bolivar State), accused of having fired shots during a workers’ meeting at the company’s facilities in June 2011, causing the death of a co-worker, but the testimonies and videos point to the fact that it was not Rodney who fired the shots, but rather a union member by the name of Maicán, linked to a union tendency of the governing party. Rodney, after 10 years of imprisonment in a process full of procedural irregularities and being the victim of cruel treatment in prison, was recently (in June) sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Another very significant case was the criminalization of 14 workers of the Alentuy factory, in a prosecution initiated in 2008, after vigorously opposing a massive and illegal layoff in that company in the State of Lara, by then privately owned, two years later this company was nationalized by orders of President Chavez. Those workers, several of them union officers and safety delegates, were prosecuted and were subjected to criminal proceedings manipulated by the private employer, ending in April 2014 with convictions, most of them were sentenced to house arrest and three of them confined in a penitentiary with dangerous criminals. We took up the battle for the freedom of our comrades and, at the end of 2014, with mass actions and political negotiations carried out by the PCV, we achieved the release from prison of the class-conscious union leaders Carlos Azuaje, Alejandro Suárez and José Luis Chambuco.
- The number of cases multiply after the death of President Chávez.
After the death of President Chávez, the employer’s offensive against workers intensified, with the increasing workers, with the increasing involvement of State institutions, multiplying the acts of repression and police harassment, as well as criminalization and prosecution of workers’ struggles. In 2013, all the members of the board of directors of the Union of Workers at the Grupo Souto (privately owned), a concentrated animal feed factory in the state of Carabobo, were criminally prosecuted for leading the workers’ struggle against environmental, tax and labor crimes committed by the Souto Group. Despite extensive efforts, it was not possible to overturn these unjust acts, which led to the virtual dismantling of the union organization
In the years of 2013-2015, militant labor and union leaders of the Polar group of companies (a powerful private group specializing in the production and commercialization of mass consumption food products), were also prosecuted criminally in different industrial plants and in different regions of the country, that produced subsequent negative effects for the workers of the company, where thousands of workers have been fired and where the management has managed to get rid of progressive union leaders and health and safety delegates. The State authorities have not acted with seriousness and forcefulness to oblige this monopolistic group to comply with the law, but on the contrary, in some cases there was actual complicity.
In February 2018, several union leaders were detained for several weeks in the jails of the Scientific, Criminal and Criminalistic Investigations Corps (CICPC) in Lara State, including the President and the General Secretary of the union (comrades Exio Urriola and Carlos Mora), were prosecuted for allegedly having participated in workers’ protests denouncing the almost total cessation of production, due to disinvestment, and demanding respect for workers’ rights. These comrades counted on the solidarity of the CUTV and the FNLCT.
In February 2018, the union leader of the electric sector, Elio Palacios, was imprisoned by the Bolivarian Investigation Services (SEBIN), in the city of Valencia, Carabobo State, for having, warned, by various voice memos, of the deterioration of important installations of the electrical industry (CORPOELEC), in the city of Valencia, Carabobo State.(CORPOELEC), due to lack of maintenance, erratic decisions and disinvestment, which could have caused a blackout in the in the western part of the country. Comrade Palacios, who was prosecuted for terrorism and other crimes, and he became seriously ill and was released on parole months later because of efforts made by the CUTV and the FNLCT, in coordination with the Federation of Electrical Industry Workers (FETRAELEC).
We should point out that these two cases of February 2018 (against revolutionary unionists from Lácteos los Andes and Corpoelec) were personally presented to President Nicolás Maduro by the Political Bureau of the PCV in a meeting held on February 26 of that year. No decision or policy was issued by the National Executive to resolve such injustices against the aforementioned comrades.
Similarly, since 2013 and up to the present, there have been numerous situations in private and public companies, where the employer uses police agencies to intimidate and arrest trade unionists, health and safety delegates and labor leaders in general, without an arrest warrant in order to force them to resign and to give up the struggle -forcing them to sign [resignation letters] including in jail- under threat of being deprived of their freedom for months or years at a time under false charges, with the employers taking advantage of their influence with the police, as well as with certain levels of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Judiciary. These facts have been repeatedly denounced without any positive results, so that, in most cases, the employers go unpunished and achieve their goals.
- Specific cases currently taken up by the CUTV, several of them, jointly with the Committee of Relatives and Friends of the Imprisoned Workers.
Oil union leader:
EUDIS GIROT C.I.: 8.635.180, Files 3CT-S-014-20 / MP218790-2020.
Occupation: worker in the oil industry for 30 years (currently retired), executive member of the Unitary Federation of Oil Workers (FUTU). He defended the industry during the oil sabotage of 2001-2002 and was decorated three times by
Comandante Chávez. He always has defended the demands of the oil workers and sought to solve their difficulties. In the last year he promoted the struggle to recover worker’s health insurance as the suspension of this service has generated hardships, and in some cases, the death of comrades due to lack of medical attention.
On November 18, 2020, he was arrested at his residence by members of the DGCIM, accused of terrorism, criminal association to commit a crime, conspiracy, and disclosure of confidential information. During the initial hearing, the judge dismissed three charges, leaving only terrorism, and adding the charge of illicit carrying of weapons, this even though he had the necessary permit to carry arms legally. In the case file there is no complaint filed from the prosecution giving notice of the crimes charged within the 25 days required to file charges; much less, there isn’t any evidence to show that he has committed any crime which is why his lawyer has requested the dismissal of the charges. For four months after his arrest there was no preliminary hearing but was recently held and it was ordered that the case be bound over for trial, disregarding the defense’s arguments.
Oil workers imprisoned for protesting:
BARTOLO JOSÉ GUERRA ROJAS
Occupation: PDVSA tugboat captain
Arrested on Friday, May 6, 2020, for campaigning for workers’ rights and criticizing the government’s management of the oil industry during a meeting with the authorities of PDV Marina in the city of Puerto La Cruz, Anzote State, Venezuela.
Upon leaving the meeting, he was detained by officers of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), and appeared on May 8, 2020, before the Sixth Control Court of the State of Anzoátegui, where he was charged with the following crimes: Incitement of hatred, treason and oil sabotage. After a year in detention in the DGCIM, he went on a hunger strike due to his deteriorating health. Finally, on March 23, 2021, the court granted him house arrest.
MARCOS SABARIEGO Y GIL MUJICA
They worked as maintenance mechanics at the Conversion and Treatment Plant (FCC) at the El Palito Refinery (Carabobo State).
On January 28, 2020, a group of workers, of the aforementioned refinery, were holding an assembly to organize and debate the Oil Industry Recovery Plan, as well as to raise a series of concerns related to their working conditions, (elimination of medical services, deterioration of working conditions, etc.), in order to finally make them known to the Unitary Federation of Petroleum Workers of Venezuela (FUTP) with a document that contained the conclusions reached at the assembly. The activity was carried out outside working hours and away from the work area, since the workers were working until 11:00 a.m., they did not have food in the canteen and the plants were paralyzed due to a lack of spare parts and raw materials.
Marcos Sabariego and Gil Mujica attended the meeting, and both took the floor to speak.
Sabariego, in particular, expressed his disagreement with the company’s authorities because he had raised an issue related to his son’s health and stated that he did not have insurance.
During the assembly, the Manager of the Department of Integral Security (DSI) showed up, and together with a platoon of six members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), took Marcos Sabariego and Gil Muñoz into custody. Both appeared before the Third Control Court of Puerto Cabello, Judge Orlando Belisario presiding, and they were charged with the crimes of Public Instigation and Illegal Association. Due to the state of health of both workers, the court granted them house arrest, and the two union brothers continue in home detention to this day.
Worker of Hidrocapital:
JOEL JOSÉ BOLÍVAR ROJAS C.I.: 12.056.926, File: 25-J – 2017-18
25th Trial Court
Unjustly charged and accused of causing the death of a co-worker on March 31 2018 in a work-related accident that occurred during repair work on a breakdown, which was certified as such by the National Institute of Prevention, Health and Labor Safety (INPSASEL). This citizen has been deprived of his liberty since April 2018 at the 43rd Command of the Bolivarian National Guard in Caracas; he is in poor health, and he is in an advanced state of depression. In this case, there has not been a thorough investigation that examines the facts and that considers what has already been investigated and determined by INPSASEL, in addition to the testimonies of co-workers.
Air traffic controllers:
GUILLERMO MANUEL GONZÁLEZ GONZÁLEZ C.I.: 24.982.037, File: 98420-2020.
He remains a prisoner in the El Rodeo penitentiary accused of terrorism, instigation of hatred, illegal association, and disclosure of confidential information. This detention is an absolute injustice since there is no evidence in the case file that Guillermo has planned or executed any terrorist plan, much less received any payment for committing such an atrocious act.
Guillermo does not own his own home. He lives with his parents and can hand over his bank account balances and those of everyone close to him.
Under false pretenses, on 05/20/2020 Guillermo was taken to the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) for a supposed interview, and after two days of detention, he was presented before a court, with a public “defender” who did not adequately defend him.
He was not allowed to communicate with his parents and ask that they obtain a private defense lawyer. After 129 days, the evidence was disclosed to the defense. On May 27,  more than a year had passed without his preliminary hearing, which is the appropriate venue to defend himself against the charges. Repeatedly, for unknown reasons, the judicial hearings have been continued, which delays the process and the possibility of obtaining his freedom.
DERBYS JOSÉ RODRÍGUEZ SÁNCHEZ C.I.: 12.866.502, File: MP 98420-2020. He is a prisoner
in El Rodeo II prison, accused of disclosure of confidential information and association to commit a crime. His arrest occurred on June 4, 2020, without any warrant, under the pretext that he had to testify as a witness.
He is currently held in deplorable conditions, while suffering from a serious health condition.
There is no evidence in the case file to prove that Derbys Rodriguez has provided strategic information: no e-mails, videos, screenshots or documents.
Nor is there any evidence of any association to commit a crime, nor that he has received any payment or benefit for any illegal action.
It was not until November 6, 2020, that Derbys was finally able to have the requested private defense lawyer, the same date on which it was possible to have access to the case file.
The preliminary hearing was continued four times without legal justification.
She is charged with resisting arrest for having attempted to record the arrest of Derbys Rodŕiguez (her husband) on June 4, 2020.
She has 13 years of service in the National Institute of Civil Aeronautics (INAC). Oriana Rojas was deprived of her liberty at DGCIM for 4 days. In the hearing before the court, she was granted a bond. When she went to work, she was notified of her arbitrary dismissal, a totally inhumane action, since she and her husband Derbys Rodriguez are the only support for their 2 children.
ARYENIS TORREALBA: Crude Oil Operations Manager. Vice-Presidency of Trade and Supply.
ALFREDO CHIRINOS: Specialties Operations Manager. Vice-Presidency of Trade and Supply.
Vice-Presidency of Trade and Supply. PDVSA.
Sentenced to 5 years in prison for Disclosure of strategic confidential information.
The arrest occurred on 02/28/2020, without any warrant, they were transferred from their offices in PDVSA to the DGCIM headquarters under the pretext of conducting an investigative interview. Aryenis was held incommunicado for the first 10 days of her arrest. Alfredo was held incommunicado and tortured during the first 10 days of his arrest.
They were not allowed their own, trusted, lawyer at their initial hearing. They were subjected to public scorn because of accusations of terrorism, treason, association to commit a crime and corruption without any evidence for any of the crimes of which they were accused, nor for the sentence they are currently serving. They were only allowed to retain their attorney 120 days after their arrest and the preliminary hearing was held 7 months after their imprisonment. It has been 3 months since the appeal against this conviction was filed and still no Chamber of the Appeals Court has been assigned to assigned to review the case
LUIS GIOVANNY CÁRDENAS RODRÍGUEZ C.I. 13.712.129 Case: 02C-S-1162-2019
2nd Court of Control of Caracas
Occupation: Functional Manager of Audit, Commerce, and International Business (PDVSA).
He is accused of the promotion of hatred, illegal possession of firearms, concealment of ammunition, theft by receiving, simple smuggling, legitimization of products, and money laundering.
It is important to note that these alleged crimes lack a legal basis, i.e., there is no evidence in the case file to prove the commission of these crimes. Recently, the Prosecutor’s Office issued an official receipt for the confiscated goods, which are proven to be from a legitimate source. More than 19 months have passed since he was detained in the DGCIM Boleíta (Caracas), and the preliminary hearing has not been held. It is clear, that Luis Cardenas is a victim of procedural delay and is also in a very delicate state of health.
He has been with PDVSA since September 2005. He is fully aligned with the oil industry and the political project of President Hugo Chávez Frías. In 2009, he supported the nationalization of the Orinoco Oil Belt. Subsequently, he became an internal auditor and participated in work groups to implement the Plan of the Homeland (2013-2019), a legacy of President Chávez. On July 3, 2013, he was promoted to manager of Audit, Commerce and International Business, a position he held until August 23, 2019 (the date of his arrest). Recently, in June, he was granted bond with conditions.
NEPTALÍ DUNO C.I. 9.810.552 File: 01CP-S-023-20
Occupation: Worked in the oil industry for more than 15 years. He has always defended and worked for the industry. Historically he worked in refining.
He is accused of aggravated contraband.
On March 5, 2020, he was arrested by members of the DGCIM. There is nothing in the prosecution’s case file, that shows evidence of guilt.
The detention of Neptalí Duno has been totally arbitrary, lacking any constitutional legal basis and in violation of articles 44, 45 and 49 of the Constitution of the Republic of Venezuela.
He is currently awaiting the start of his trial, after 10 months of detention, and his preliminary hearing was held.
In April 2021, he was transferred to Yare prison, which has dangerous conditions.
His family’s economic condition is precarious, and they live far away from Caracas (in Falcón State), which makes it difficult for them to provide him food and medicine.
Former employees of Almacenes y Transporte Cerealeros (ATC):
RAFAEL ENRIQUE NELO GARCÍA C.I. 12.528.689.
GUSTAVO ENRIQUE JUAREZ TORRES C.I. 10.638.726
PEDRO ALEXANDER MONTILLA PÉREZ C.I. 13.501.684
Case No. MP-245267-2019
Court Case No. PP11P-2020-000190
Charged for crimes allegedly committed using assets of the company for private purposes. The case has been full of abuses and irregularities which the assigned public defender has demonstrated, and where the public prosecutor, initially in charge of the preliminary complaint, was not interested in the search for the truth, showing a viciousness against the defendants in question. These workers have been incarcerated since March 5th 2020 in the cells of the Police Coordination Center No. 02 Gral José Antonio Paéz, in Acarigua, Portuguesa State. Last week one of the workers (Gustavo Juarez) was admitted to bond and a new hearing was set for the beginning of July. An exhaustive and thorough investigation is necessary to determine the conduct of those in charge at the highest level of the administration of the ATC company, during various periods of time, in order to clearly determine who are the persons responsible for the acts of which these workers are falsely accused.
Trabajadores de la empresa privada Embutidos Alimex:
ROGER GONZ.LEZ C.I. 16.795.931
LUIS RIVAS C.I. 20.188.686
EUGENIO MONTES C.I. 13.603.047
MIGUEL .LVAREZ C.I. 16.137.990
File No. KP01-P-2019-002868
They were arrested on September 16, 2019 and were released on December 12, 2019, originally on house arrest, but recently they were granted release on bond with supervision. These workers were criminally prosecuted, because ofan employer’s maneuver to break their resistance and force them to resign from their jobs. It all started with legitimate demands made by the workers concerning dangerous working condition where they worked. We call for for the dismissal of this case.
Trade unionists of the construction sector of the State of Zulia:
LUIS VALLES, secretary general of the National Federation of Construction Workers.
JOSÉ ASUNCIÓN GUERRERO, executive of the Construction Union of the San Francisco Municipality of Zulia State (SITRACONSAFRAZ) of Zulia State (SITRACONSAFRAZUL)
RICHARD EDUARDO ORTEGA CASTRO, executive of the Sindicato de la Reserva (Trabajadores de la Construcción), affiliated to the FEMSAFRAZUL Construction Workers), affiliated to FENATCS.
JEAN CARLOS BRACHO NAVARRO, executive of the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Construcción del Estado Zulia (SICU), affiliated to FENATCS.
Construction Industry Workers Union of the State of Zulia (SUTICEZ).
EDUARDO JOSÉ BARROSO MONTIEL, regional executive of the Federación Unitaria Nacional de Trabajadores Bolivarianos de la Industria
Bolivarian Construction Workers Federation (FUNTBCAC).
Case No. 10C-19254-21. Tenth Control Court of Zulia State.
Arrested on May 25 of this year 2021 in Maracaibo, Zulia State, by the Special Action Force (FAES) of the Bolivarian National Police while they were carrying out a union action protesting an employer – a construction contractor- who violated the Organic Labor Law (LOTTT) regarding the working day, non-compliance with the collective bargaining agreement, violation of occupational health and safety standards, and demanding that the employer allow a site visit by union officials. They were charged with the crime of extortion, which was dismissed by the judge, but they were left in custody on charges of “conspiracy and criminal association”. We are in the presence of a new act of criminalization of the union struggle, in which the just claims against an employer’s violations are considered as “conspiracy” and the legitimate organization for the defense of labor rights is considered a “crime”.
Worker of the state-owned company Ferrominera del Orinoco:
Accused of murdering worker Renny Rojas on June 9, 2011. Rodney was arrested on the 17th of this same month, despite the fact, that witnesses and security camera videos show that another person is responsible for the events. There is no evidence against him. In 2012 the case was transferred to the city of Caracas, and Rodney is currently being held in the Rodeo II Judicial Detention Center. On June 8, 2021, after 10 years of imprisonment, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a crime in which has no demonstrable participation. The procedural delay and aberrant violations of due process, as well as he trial far from being fair and clean, sullied this case.
Dear colleagues, this summary compendium does not contain all the cases that are ongoing, but only those that are considered the most significant and that we are dealing with directly or indirectly from a Venezuelan class-conscious trade union point of view. Due to the seriousness of the situation, we consider that the WFTU’s leaders should not be indifferent to these cases but should act. We propose that you immediately communicate with the President of the Republic, Magistrate Dr. Maikel Moreno, President of the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela (TSJ) and with Dr. Tarek William Saab, Attorney General of the Republic. Subsequently, after a reasonable period of time(approximately 2 weeks), if there is no satisfactory response and no signs of concrete solutions, it would be necessary to activate an international campaign to denounce these events that are contrary to the interests of the Venezuelan working class, demanding the immediate release of the workers unjustly deprived of their liberty and the invalidity of the judicial processes against them.
for the Executive Committee of the CUTV:
With a copy to the Andean Subregional Coordination and to all the leading cadres of the WFTU in Latin America.
Translated by Mark Burton