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News: Law and Justice

Venezuelan Authorities Implement Law against Forgetting, Find One Disappeared Person

Merida, January 22nd 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Luisa Ortega, Venezuela’s attorney general, announced on Saturday that the remains of disappeared student Noel Rodriguez have been found.

The discovery is part of investigations being conducted into the thousands of murders and disappearances during the 1958-1998 period in Venezuela, following the passage of the Law Against Forgetting one and a half years ago.

Ortega said anthropological tests on Rodriguez’s skull had confirmed the body was his, after an ex-intelligence agent, Felipe Diaz confessed where he had hidden the body almost 40 years ago.

Rodriguez was 27 when he disappeared on 29 June 1973, under the government of Rafael Cadera. It was determined that he died due to “savage” torture, after being apprehended in Caracas by the SIFA (Information Service of the Armed Forces). The SIFA buried him in a corner of the General Cemetery of the South, in Caracas, Ortega said.

Rodriguez was an economics student at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and leader of the then left wing and underground group, Red Flag (BR).

Ortega said that authorities are looking for those responsible for his death. She said that during the investigation so far, public prosecutors have conducted 193 interviews, made 68 requests to various official organisations, 16 exhumations, two planimetric elevations, hundreds of medical exams, and put together various photographic records.

The attorney general said that the mother of Noel, Zenaida Mata, 87, had still hoped to find her child.

Venezuelan state institutions are “committed to the defence of human rights, to investigation and punishing those responsible for the homicides, torture, and disappearances during this grey period of our country,” said Ortega. So far one person has been detained for Rodriguez’s murder, and there are arrest warrants out for two more people.

During the 1958-1998 period of Venezuelan history, known as the Punto Fijo era, due to an agreement between major rightwing parties Copei, AD, and URD to share power, political dissidence was attacked and repressed.  In that time at least 4000 people were murdered and perhaps more than 1000 were ‘disappeared’ in a campaign of terror sustained against the left.

The Law for Punishing Crimes, Disappearances, Torture, and Violations of Human Rights for Political Reasons during the 1958-1998 period, also known as the Law against Forgetting, was passed by the national assembly in October 2011.

The law set up a commission to investigate and resolve the crimes. Members of the commission include representatives of various relevant state institutions, as well as nine members of the Families and Friends of Victims Front. Around a year after the law was passed, authorities reopened Rodriguez’s case and began the investigation into his disappearance.

Authorities are also looking for other Venezuelans who were disappeared during the historical era, such as Víctor Soto Rojas, Alejandro Tejero, Felipe Malaver, and Nicolás Beltrán. The first man is the brother of legislator Fernando Soto Rojas, and the attorney general’s office believes he was thrown from a helicopter.

Rodriguez’s remains will be handed over to this family on 5 February.

Published on Jan 22nd 2013 at 8.22pm