Venezuelan University Students’ Murders Lead to Restructuring of Police Force

After the brutal murders of three university students on June 29th, the Venezuelan Minister of the Interior and of Justice announced that divisions of the Military Intelligence Directorate (DIM) will be eliminated or reorganized and that the national forensic police (Cicpc) will be restructured.

Caracas, Venezuela, July 7, 2005—Several divisions of the Venezuelan Military Intelligence Direction (DIM) and national forensic police (CICPC) will be restructured as a result of the recent murders of three university students in Macarao, committed by members of the police and the tampering of evidence in the case, announced Venezuela’s Minister of the  Interior and of Justice Jesse Chacón during a press conference on July 1st.  Chacón recognized during another press conference held two days ago that “in Venezuela there have always been police abuses, but this is one of the few times that the State recognizes, repudiates, and investigates them when they happen,” and assured that the investigation into the actions of the military intelligence agents and police officers will proceed unhindered.

On June 29th six students of the University of Santa María, fearing that they would be robbed, failed to stop at a road block manned by plain clothes police officers. The police officers shot at close range at the accelerating car, injuring two women in the backseat. When the car came to a halt, all three of the male students proceeded to flee, presumably to get help.  Leonardo González, the driver of the car, was shot in the eye and died, while Edgar Quintero and Erick Montenegro, were detained, severely beaten, tied up, and shot over six times each.

The murders have set off protests, principally among university students, who, with the results of forensic tests proving that not a single student had gun residue, are demanding justice. The forensic tests also prove that the three weapons found near the then-dead students were planted by a CICPC commission who came on the scene shortly after what has come to be known as the ‘Macarao Massacre’.

After announcing that twenty-six military police officers of the CICPC commission are being charged with altering the crime scene, Chacón stated that the case is clear because there are two crimes:  murder and altering the crime scene.  “The two crimes have to be sanctioned because one is not less grave than the other,” he affirmed after promising “to act to make sure this does not go unpunished.”

During his weekly television and radio program, Aló Presidente, last Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stated that the actions of these police officers reflect a lack humanitarianism and consciousness and he affirmed that he preferred not to have any police at all than to have this kind of police.  Chávez ordered that the investigations division of the Military Intelligence Directorate (DIM) to be eliminated, “because we cannot have some killers with an ID on the streets” and instructed Chacón, as well as all governors and mayors, to clean up or eliminate all police forces. “If it is necessary to eliminate the CICPC, it will be eliminated,” Chávez affirmed. 

Chacón has announced that the Chief of Homicide of the CICPC, Miguel Ibarreto, and Chief of the Brigade E of Homicides of the CICPC, will be dismissed and the National Crime Coordinator of the CICPC and the Division of Investigations and Homicide of the CICPC will be taken over.

In addition to the restructuring of the Military Intelligence Directorate (DIM), Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez pointed out that this cleansing process should be extended to other police bodies and security organisms. Rodríguez emphasized the need to oblige candidates to undergo human rights training and to establish control mechanisms that will evaluate their actions.

The twenty-six officials, including twenty-one officials of the Military Intelligence Division (DIM), four officials from the CICPC, and one official from Caracas municipal Police are implicated in the murder or of altering the crime scene are currently being held by orders of a Judge. They are being charged with triple homicide.The state prosecutor’s office is also charging them with violation of jurisdiction, abuse of authority, and violation of human rights.

The General Commissioner Marcos Chávez has announced that all officials in the Scientific, Penal and Criminalities Investigative Body (CICPC) that have showen negligence in the investigation will be sanctioned. “We are not going to accept any kind of irregularities. We will not protect the officials who hinder the investigation; I am not going to permit this type of situation.”

Lawyers from the Attorney General’s office will have approximately forty-five days to prepare a formal accusation.