Santa Elena de Uairen, 9th May 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Yesterday at noon, Rafael Celestino Albino Arteaga, 44, Vargas state chief of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), was shot dead by an unidentified male assailant in a shopping mall in the western city of Maracay.
Arteaga’s killer, witnesses say, pointed a gun at him with the apparent intention of robbing him. After Arteaga turned over all of his possessions, the man shot him twice and then fled.
This marks the second murder of a Venezuelan intelligence officer in recent weeks, the first being Eliecer Otaiza, ex-chief of CIDIP, the national intelligence agency that preceded SEBIN. Otaiza was found dead on April 27th, and his suspected murderer (now in custody) had clear political motives, official sources say.
Authorities believe Arteaga’s murder may have been premeditated and are currently conducting a full investigation.
On Thursday, security forces succeeded in disbanding four of the largest remaining hard-line protest encampments, one of which blocked transit of a major highway. As protestors clashed with police, seven were wounded and one policeman, Jorge Colina, 24, was shot dead by a sniper. Two other police officers were wounded, seemingly by the same shooter.
Of the 243 barricaders apprehended, 12 were immediately released for being underage, 109 were put on probation, 15 were sentenced to rehabilitation programs for drug use, 47 are still on trial for reduced probation sentences, and 11 have been indicted.
The formal accusations of the indicted range from; illegal bearing of arms, incitement of violence and illicit activity, manipulation of youths for delinquency, obstruction of public transit, vandalism of property, trafficking of minor quantities of drugs, and the detonation of explosive substances.
While in custody, the protestors were given meals and sufficient drinking water, and their legal rights were recognized, according to official sources. Designated paramedics attended to minor injuries and health concerns of the interned.
Opposition activists present at the camps criticized the way the operation was carried out as “violent” and many mainstream media outlets have reported on the act as a “crackdown”.
According to Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres, less than 20% of those detained were active students.
On Friday the minister expressed outrage and shock at the death of policeman Jorge Colina.
“We will search under every stone until Colina’s murderer is identified,” said Torres. “This country cannot carry on in constant grief because of the caprices of a group of Venezuelans.”
The minister insisted the police officer’s death was not an arbitrary act of violence, but the latest casualty of a greater conspiracy, largely aimed at toppling the democratically elected president Nicolas Maduro.
He pointed at certain opposition leaders who have seemingly allowed the guarimba (hardline protests and street barricades) to continue with impunity in the municipalities they govern, and extremist leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was imprisoned for inciting “street action” to remove Maduro from power by force. Torres also alluded to the appearance of even closer political ties.
“We know that [Caracas mayor Antonio] Ledezma is linked to “El Aviador” [Rodolfo Pedro Gonzalez Martinez, logistical director of the guarimba barricades], who the SEBIN captured two days ago…. Undoubtedly there are conspirators here in Venezuela who have dedicated themselves to this kind of activity,” Torres said. “I do not say this with the intention of endangering the current dialogue underway, but it is necessary these things are discussed.”
The minister announced his plan to bring before the opposition alliance, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), evidence of a conspiracy that has been in the works since 2010.