Caracas, Venezuela, July 25, 2006 — Braulio Álvarez, representative of Chavez’s MVR party in the Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) and campesino leader, survived a second assassination attempt on his life last Saturday. Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel has called the crime “of a political nature, intended to eliminate a leader in the agricultural sector.'' Venezuela is also investigating the possibility that the assassination attempt could be linked to Álvarez’s participation in the reopening of the investigation of the Yumare case, in which nine people were murdered in 1986, presumably at the hands of the Venezuelan intelligence service (DISIP).
The assassination attempt came early Saturday morning when Álvarez came under fire while driving in the Venezuelan agricultural state of Yaracuy. According to the Venezuelan Minister of Communication, William Lara, in an interview with Venezuela Television, the gunfire caused him to lose control of the car, and an impact to the face resulted in a serious injury to the mouth. Álvarez is currently in stable condition.
The assassination attempt comes just over a year after a first attempt on Álvarez’s life in which he was shot twice, wounded, and hurried to the hospital to undergo surgery.
According to a release from the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication, Lara expressed his “repudiation, rejection and ‘profound’ condemnation” regarding the assassination attempt.
Yaracuy state governor Carlos Jiménez stated shortly after the events that the DISIP is working to discover those responsible for the homicide attempt. Vice President Rangel declared, “We are going to investigate until the very end so there isn’t the slightest doubt regarding the events that took place around this attempt.”
During his discourse on Monday in celebration of Simon Bolivar’s 223 birthday, the Venezuelan Minister of Interior and Justice, Jesse Chacon, announced that the original hypothesis is that the assassination attempt was perpetrated by those in support of the latifundios (large plantations), and in reaction to the work that Álvarez has been carrying out in the AN in favor of the application of the Venezuelan land reform law.
Álvarez, however, is also a member of various AN committees, including head of the Special AN Committee to Investigate the Assassinations, Disappearances, and Torture of Venezuelans during the 60s, 70s and 80s and a Special Committee for the Investigation of campesino, indigenous, and fisherman deaths at the hands of assassins.
Chacon explained that both are possible motives for the attempt, and that at this time, although the investigations are advancing, “it would be irresponsible” to rule out either of the two hypotheses.
Nevertheless, Álvarez’s work in support of Venezuelan land reform has received more attention from the press and high government officials. Last Saturday, Communications Minister William Lara indicated that the situation “responds to strategies from internal groups that use mercenaries to assassinate social leaders in the country, particularly campesino leaders.”
Lara added, “In no way are these assassination attempts going to intimidate the campesino movement or the Venezuelan government in our ability to fully execute the Land Law.”
The assassination of campesino leaders in Venezuela is a growing problem and Vice President Rangel verified in a recent interview with Union Radio that there is a list of over 150 Venezuelan campesino leaders who have been assassinated since the passage of the land reform law in 2001. “There has been a large campaign in Venezuela to neutralize [the land reform’s] execution,” he stated.
According to a recent report by Venezuelan Human Rights Defender, German Mundarain, there have been 54 contracted killings of campesino leaders over the past seven years. As a result, Venezuela decided earlier this month to set aside $10 million for a compensation fund for the families of campesino leaders who have been assassinated in the course of Venezuela's land reform program.