Popular Chavista Mayor Arrested on Charges of Corruption

The mayor of the Ciudad Guayana in Venezuela was apprehended Sunday by intelligence officers after the public prosecutor’s office emitted a warrant for his arrest, alleging charges of corruption.

By Z.C. Dutka
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Santa Elena, September 29th, 2015. (venezuelanaylsis.com) – On Sunday, the mayor of the Ciudad Guayana in Venezuela was apprehended by intelligence officers after the public prosecutor’s office emitted a warrant for his arrest, alleging charges of corruption.

Jose Ramon Lopez, who was elected by the governing socialist PSUV party, has enjoyed mass popular support in Ciudad Guayana, an urban municipality that encompasses the wealthy industrial city of Puerto Ordaz and the working-class Chavista stronghold of San Felix.

The mayor is known for efficient social investment and numerous public works projects that please both popular and middle-class sectors.

Following news of his arrest, hundreds of supporters chanting “Jose Ramon” rallied around the mayor as he was transported to the regional headquarters of the National Intelligence Services (Sebin).

“You will reap what you’ve sown on December 6th!” shouted Miriam Cedeño, a PSUV organizer, affirming what many others told reporters. If Ramon Lopez goes to jail, his supporters say they will abstain from voting in the Dec 6th parliamentary elections.

Union leader Dennis Sucre said, “We defend our constitution, but we will defend our mayor Jose Ramon Lopez with our own lives. To president Nicolas Maduro we declare that with policies like these we will not stand by him.”

While walking from the station to the police vehicle, Ramon Lopez was permitted to speak to the cameras.

“I think one of the biggest crimes I’ve committed in these six years I’ve been mayor have been the three thousand [social] projects I completed, but there’s still more work to be done,” he said, adding “I want you all to know that I came here of my own will. I have been treated well, and my lawyers will give you updates.”

Many of the protestors referenced a standing rivalry between the mayor and the PSUV governor of Bolivar state, Francisco Rangel Gomez.

“It’s not Maduro that’s want this man in jail, it’s Rangel,” a man shouted to cameras outside the Sebin office, as others around him chanted “It was Rangel.”

Rangel Gomez is a controversial figure in Bolivar state, often cursed in Chavista circles as a right-wing autocrat who allegedly uses the PSUV banner for convenience.

“Maybe [Ramon Lopez] was corrupt, I don’t know,” said a San Felix resident who asked not to be named, “I wouldn’t put my hands in the fire for anyone that wasn’t Chavez, but word on the street is they were looking to take him out of the picture. We think that’s what happened.”

The woman, who is an active member in her community’s grassroots groups, both the Circles of People’s Struggle (CLP) and Battle Units Bolivar-Chavez (UBCh), explained to venezuelanalysis.com that the rift with governor has long been a source of trouble for local organizers.

“If they’re going to take down anyone [for corruption], there’s a couple [military] generals I can think of,” she added.

The charges against Ramon Lopez include embezzlement and money laundering. The trial is due to begin this evening.

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