Venezuela’s Attorney General: Prosecutor’s Assassination Intended to Destabilize Chávez Government

Venezuela’s Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez affirmed that state prosecutor Danilo Anderson’s assassination “was political and its principal purpose was to destabilize the country.” The group behind the assassination is composed both of Venezuelans and foreigners and had over $20 million at their disposition.

Venezuela’s Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez
Credit: VTV

Caracas, Venezuela, June 30, 2005—According to statements made by Venezuela’s Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez, during a press conference yesterday, the assassination of state prosecutor Danilo Anderson last November was only the tip of the iceberg of a series of terrorist assassination plots that intended to destabilize the country. The principal target of the group was President Hugo Chávez. However, the list of assassination targets included several key figures in the Venezuelan national government, including but not limited to the Vice President, the Minister of Defense, the President of the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General himself. “The assassination was absolutely political and its principal purpose was to destabilize the country from a political point of view,” Rodríguez affirmed.

Danilo Anderson’s SUV was blown up on his way home from a university graduate course during the evening of November 18th, 2004.  The state prosecutor was investigating several highly politically-sensitive cases, including the prosecution of numerous members of the opposition who orchestrated the short-lived coup against Chávez in April, 2002.

Rodríguez explained that the group held meetings both in Miami and in Panama in September 2003 and five months later, in early 2004, met in the Venezuelan state of Zulia, where, “all of the proceedings to assassinate Danilo Anderson were concretized.”  The conspirators took advantage of the five month lapse between meetings to work out the details of the assassination and to weigh the political consequences for the country.  It was during this last meeting in Zulia that Danilo Anderson was chosen as the victim, “because he had a security detail that was a lot more vulnerable that all of the other officials,” said Rodriguez.

In a statement released the day following the assassination, Venezuelan Minister of Justice and the Interior Jesse Chacón explained that although “Anderson had bodyguards assigned to him, whenever he attended his class he dismissed them.  It was a routine he had, and we assume that his murder was planned on this routine.”

Rodríguez corroborated Chacón’s statement, explaining that Anderson felt that he could defend himself, for example, when he attended his classes at the university, affirming that Anderson’s routine was well studied and that the assassins chose explosives that would not kill anyone besides him. “They did not try to hurt anyone else, only to kill Danilo,” Rodríguez stated.

According to the Attorney General, this group had a minimum of $20 million at their disposition and included “a group of people who are Venezuelan with the support of some foreign individuals,” clarifying that “I am not necessarily referring to the US State Department.”

Rodríguez refrained from divulging any details as to the identities or the politics of the foreign accomplices. However, he did stress that this group had condemned to death any and all witnesses who would testify in the Anderson case and added that several key people who have been contacted by the Public Ministry have refused to testify for fear of their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  There are currently two witnesses that in spite of the risks are willing to testify in the case.

Although the Venezuelan government is “still looking for evidence,” and is not yet ready to make its case, several suspects have been arrested. Rolando Otoniel and Juan Baustista Guevara, two ex-police officers have been detained for premeditated murder, among other charges.  Additionally, Bautista Guevara has been accused of illegally carrying a firearm.  Johan Peña and Pedro Lander, also implicated in the case, are fugitives from justice, hiding in the US. Venezuela has yet to finalize the extradition request for Peña and Lander.

Antonio López Castillo and Juan Carlos Sánchez, also suspects implicated in Anderson’s assassination, were killed in shootouts with forensic police officers on November 23rd and November 25th, respectively.