Editor’s note: Over the past year numerous apparently politically motivated bomb attacks and murders have taken place in Venezuela, such as against TV stations, military compounds, government offices, and diplomatic headquarters. Members of the opposition and of the oppositional private media have in most cases blamed government sympathizers for being behind these attacks. However, sporadic reports on the investigations of these crimes have previously indicated that these terrorist attacks were organized by individuals connected to the opposition. The news media, both national and international have consistently ignored these reports. The report reprinted below, is the most recent and complete update of the status of the investigations into 37 politically motivated crimes that have taken place in the past year. Once again, national and international media, while previously implying that government supporters were behind the attacks when they first happened, are once again studiously ignoring the results of investigations.
|Bomb attack on the Regiment of the Honor Guard, in front of the Presidential Palace of Miraflores, downtown Caracas, last September.|
Photo Credit: Miraflores Press
Police Investigations Show Dissident Officers of Plaza Altamira Were Behind Terrorist Attacks of Past Year.
On Wednesday November 26, minister of the Interior and Justice, Lucas Rincon, accompanied by the director of the Forensic Police (Cicpc), Marcos Chávez, and by police commissioner Miguel Rodriguez Torres, who directs the Direction of the Intelligence services and Prevention (Disip), gave a press conference in which they presented evidence, according to which they reached the conclusion that several rebel military officers who have camped out at Plaza Altamira since November of last year are involved in many of the terrorist attacks organized in 2002 and 2003, such as the explosions in the embassies of Colombia and Spain, the grenade that exploded in the Avenida Mexico in a Pro-Chavez demonstration, the murder of three soldiers and a girl of the Altamira anti-Cahvez group, and the attempt to demolish an electricity tower in Anaco during the oil industry shut-down.
Shootings in Altamira by Joao de Gouveia
The press conference began by recapitulating the case of the so-called “massacre of Altamira,” which happened on the 6th of December 2002, when Joao de Gouveia fired gun shots against a group of people in Plaza Francia of the Altamira district in Caracas, killing three and leaving 21 wounded. This case is closed because Gouveia has confessed his participation, but, according to Rodriguez, this act was not an isolated incident.
|Bomb attack on the Francisco de Miranda Air Force Base last October.|
Image Credit: Radio Nacional de Venezuela
“Someone induced it and financed it”, indicated Rodriguez, and provided a series of arguments:
- The day of the attack in Plaza Altamira, coincidentally the same day in which the opposition called for an indefinite general strike, the Venezuelans who were there practiced a defense plan: how to defend themselves in case that they are shot at in the plaza. Videos footage taken just a few hours earlier, one can see how people are told to fall to the ground and to rise again, just as in a training. This is a first indication that somebody presumably knew that something would happen in the plaza.
- A witness of the incident said that Lieutenant Varela, who is being wanted for questioning in the case of the bombing of two embassies, told this witness to stay away from the plaza because that day (the sixth of December) something would happen there.
- In Plaza Altamira a security group of the plaza organized itself, with 150 armed men, divided in three groups of fifty. It is difficult to understand how a group of 50 armed men, plus the police of Chacao [the district police], the police of Miranda [the state police], the Metropolitan police [the greater Caracas police] (altogether 150 men armed in the plaza), could allow a man to fire at least twenty shots against the people in the plaza. Rodriguez: “This causes suspicion in me, makes me think that there was a guarantee that they were not going to kill him, because he would otherwise not have launched himself into an adventure like that.”
- Several journalists were summoned to the plaza that day because supposedly “several officers were going to make pronouncements against the government.”
- In the videos one can see the general González, colonel Rodriguez Salas and other officers, walking in the middle of the crowd very calmly, while all the others are lying on the floor, protecting themselves. “In the videos one can see them carrying arms, one can see a great amount of arms”, even though they had said that there were no weapons in Plaza Altamira.
- When forensic police analyzed the trajectories of the shots, it noted that there were descending trajectories, which agree with the shots fired by de Gouveia, but there also are ascending shots, fired by people who shot from the ground. Also, there are wounded who were not victims of de Gouveia, and those responsible are still free.” There were cartridges that were not .40, which was the type used by de Gouveia, but which were .38 caliber.
- The Disip [federal investigative police] interviewed de Gouveia’s family in Portugal: his mother, father, and a sister. They are very humble and live on a farm. His father indicated that Joao de Gouveia requested financial support from him on a daily basis, but his father could not provide this. De Gouveia tried to sell a DVD player and other items in order to come to Venezuela, but was not able to do so. After being staying in his house for three days, de Gouveia bought a passage to Venezuela that cost one thousand euros, in cash, and flew to Venezuela. When he was captured, 800 euros in hip bag were seized from him, in spite of having purchased a Glock pistol, rented a hotel room, a taxi and having made other expenses. “Doubtlessly somebody went and paid de Gouveia’s trip, somebody financed it”, indicated Rodriguez.
- Six of the people whose blood was tested in Plaza Altamira had traces of cocaine in their blood. It is possible to see metabolism of cocaine, but when the dead wounded and of the plaza were tested, one could tell that these people do not fit the profile of drug users; there were among them several housewives, children and senior citizens. This raises the suspicion that somebody was putting cocaine in the drinks and the water, in order to cause some type of collective euphoria when the attack happened.
Grenade explosion at pro-Chavez demonstration
The 23 of January of 2003, a hand grenade of the M-26 type exploded in a waste basket killing a person and injuring several others. Two individuals with previous convictions were accused, “Michael” and “Kojac”, who are connected to a anti-Chavez Colonel Pigliery of the group of Plaza Altamira, and with general Felipe Rodriguez, nicknamed “the Crow.” Rafael Villanueva Machado was a contact among them and Rubén Gámez, is supposed to have provided the supplies for the attack.
Villanueva Machado had made a declaration to 11th Court of everything that he knew about the grenades, which allowed the forensic police (CICPC) find the presumed attackers. “Kojac” is supposed to have been killed in a holdup of an armored truck, and Michael is still wanted by the police. Colonel Piliery was arrested for having violated an injunction, but he was released and is today being sought for homicide.
The grenade was prepared with a device called “chemical pencil”, which would cause the grenade to explode in a certain moment. It was going to be placed in the route where the President was to pass by, but the individuals were frightened and placed it among the multitude in the Avenida Bolivar and preferred to leave it in trash bin, causing the indicated damage.
According to Villanueva Machado, these same people threw grenades at television stations, embassies, the CTV [union federation] and Fedecámaras [chamber of commerce], in order to cause destabilization and public disorder, calling on the Armed Forces to intervene and to resolve the political problem.
In an earlier meeting in the Four Seasons Hotel [in Plaza Altamira], made before the signing of the pact between the military of Altamira and the opposition coalition Democratic Coordinator, sectors of the this organization met with general Felipe Rodriguez, colonel Piliery Carmona, and general González González, and arrived at the conclusion that it was necessary to generate violent actions, to destabilize, and to cause chaos because by the democratic route it was impossible to remove to president Chávez. In this meeting there were some members of the Democratic Coordinator who participated in the O.A.S., PNUD and Center the Carter dialogues, who approved of the action.
The murder of three rebel soldiers and one young woman of Plaza Altamira
|Bomb attack on the government’s telecommunications commision remains unsolved. Anti-Chavez radicals are the main suspects.|
Image Credit: Radio Nacional de Venezuela
Another case blamed on President Chavez or his supporters. The 18th of February of 2003, the dead bodies of three soldiers and one young woman were found in Caiza Park (Caracas-Guarenas freeway) and in Cupo, Miranda state, who had been tortured and beaten before being dumped. Another girl, fourteen years old Katherine Roxana Rivera was barely alive, but terribly beaten and hurt so that the criminals had taken her for dead. The soldiers (Army soldier Darwin Enrique Arguello Iztúriz, Marine Angel Jose Salas Lozano and Air Force soldier Felix Antonio Pinto Heras) were part of the dissidents soldiers and officers of Plaza Altamira, and Zaida Gabriela Pereira (the young deceased) and Katherine Roxana Rivera were girlfriends of two of these soldiers.
The testimony of Roxana Rivera was vital for the resolution of the case; she recognized the ex- metropolitan police officer Tairo Aristigueta as one of her assailants. The horrible crime was described by one of the participants, Navy officer Pedro Sifontes Núñez, and accuses colonel Piliery to be the intellectual author of the crime. An escort of Piliery is also connected to some of the crimes.
Zayda Perozo, Roxana Rivera, and the three soldiers were in a type of hall or apartment in Bello Campo, Caracas, where they lived. Lieutenant Varela asked them to leave Plaza Altamira because he heard that someone was going to kill them, because Gen. Felipe Rodriguez believed that they were informants of security agencies and of the pro-Chavez civilian groups called Bolivarian Circles.
Rodriguez, according witnesses and the accused, issued an order to Piliery to eliminate the three soldiers; Piliery added that they were to also eliminate the two girls because they knew everything that the soldiers knew. “It is necessary to eliminate the five of them.”
The group of assassins consisted of Tairo Aristigueta, and Varela, Pedro Sifontes (detained), Luis Gregorio Chacín Sanguines alias “El Armadillo”, Raul Antonio “Fao”, Hugo Johny Ordoñez Dorado alias “HJ,” and Gregory Rafael Umanés Castillo, “El Zorro” (detained).
At the moment there are four detained individuals, and several others are wanted by the police.
Businessman and the dissident military officers implicated in terrorist attacks against consulates of Spain and Colombia
As far as the case of the bombs in the consulates of Spain and Colombia, which took place last February, the director of the DISIP [federal police] declared that “this is the most difficult case we are investigating.” The only way they could initially make progress with the investigations was through an analysis of the telephone connections made near the time at which the detonations took place.
According to the analysis, the calls made in those moments implicate the coup participant Colonel Giuseppe Piglieri and Luis Chacín who is also known as “the Armadillo”, who made phone calls moments before, during and after the detonations, which turned them suspects. Also, the cell phone cell from where “the Armadillo” made his telephone connection is the same one that also serves the zone where the explosions took place.
The explosives got to Plaza Altamira in a blue motorcycle, model XT, similar to the ones used by the Metropolitan Police, driven by Ernesto Lovera, who is the personal escort of Gianni Giannelli, president of the battery manufacturing company Duncan. Lovera took the bombs to the plaza, as well as the money to pay for the operation. The bomb is picked up by “the Armadillo”, who is currently imprisoned in the jail of El Rodeo, to whom the motorcycle is given to transport the bombs. According to the testimony of Mérida Ortiz, who handled the sound equipment in Plaza Altamira, General Felipe Rodriguez said that he should get on the motorcycle and accompany “the Armadillo.” Mérida Ortiz, then describes how the bombs were placed, how bomb was detonated via telephone by the lieutenants Jose Antonio Colina and Germán Varela.
According to the DISIP director, the investigations determined exactly when and where the cell telephones were bought which were used exclusively in the attacks. The phone cards used for the cellular telephones were bought in the same area, a few days before the terrorist attacks.
In the face of all of the evidence, this past 18th of November, the judge of the 11° Court of Control, Deyanira Snows, an arrest warrant against general Felipe Rodriguez (“El Cuervo”), colonel Giuseppe Pilieri, the lieutenants Germán Varela and Jose Antonio Colina and the industralist owner of the Duncan vehicle battery factory, Gianni Giannelli.
According to the director of the DISIP, many details in the declarations exist that cannot be presented to the public. The investigation has concluded and they only hope to capture the indicted ones that continue to be fugitive for the past two weeks.
Electricity towers knocked down in Anaco
Police Commissioner Rodriguez Torres also informed about the explosion of electrical towers that transport electricity towards the city of Anaco. “Two C4 bombs were placed onto the towers. Only one exploded, but it did not manage to demolish it.”
What was the intention? At the time it was necessary to stop in some way the [Venezuelan state mining company] CVG during the strike. Elements of the Bandera Roja party met with general González González and two captains who are currently seeking asylum in the Dominican Republic. They determined that one had to collapse two electrical towers in order to stop the gas plants in Anaco, which would have automatically stopped the CVG and caused a nation wide gas crisis.
“We are wraping up the investigations to accuse to González González of these deeds.”
Attacks to Presidential Honor Guard barracks
“According to a source in Plaza Altamira, it was lieutenant Colina who placed the bomb against Conatel [the communications regulatory agency]”, Rodriguez informed. “In the case of [the attack against the presidential palace] Miraflores, the Cicpc has very advanced the information, and we hope that in the next hours it will be possible to provide a very complete report, which is going to surprise many.”
Police director confirms declarations
For his part, the director of the Cicpc, Marcos Chávez, ratified that the arguments presented by Police Commissioner Rodriguez are based on examinations made in the locations of the crimes.
“Until the present time we have 37 cases of a terrorist nature; the first happened on the 9th of July 2002, and was an explosive device placed in a television station.” He spoke of the case of the car bomb which exploded near the State capital of Miranda in Los Teques, the case of the explosion in the building “Isabella” in Chacao [in Caracas], the explosions in the embassies of Colombia and Spain. In each case it has been determined that it is a same group of people. He ratified that “the pamphlets found in the embassies and the building in Los Teques were made by the same computer equipment and the same chemical elements were used such as the ink and the characters.”
Possible deportation of ex-dictator Pedro Carmona
Minister of Interior and Justice, Lucas Rincón said that they do not dismiss the thesis that these terrorist groups were financed from outside the country. He announced that forceful measures will be taken to eradicate them. “Already there are several prisoners and others are wanted who are free with an arrest warrant issued by the courts”, and who are responsible for the terrorist acts perpetrated at the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003 against the embassies of Algeria and Spain and of the consulate of Colombia and other facilities.
”Some men who are deranged, who are demented, on the brink of madness, are playing with this type of actions”. Luckily, they are few, very few, and every time they are fewer,” he added.
With these measures, he could ask for the revision of the asylum application and the later deportation of the businessman Pedro Carmona Estanga, “one of the ringleaders of the revolt,” who is now in Colombia. With the corresponding legal support, he said that there would be no doubt in asking for his transfer from the neighboring country, so that he would be judged by Venezuelan courts.
In relation to the case of Rhona Ottolina and her presumed participation in the attack against the honor guards regiment of the presidential palace of Miraflores, Rincón explained that the inquiry is already quite advanced. The Disip determined that the pamphlets used in some of the detonations were elaborated in the print house “Chacao”, which was raided recently, according to the analysis done on ink, paper, and printing equipment.
On the other hand Rincón assured that the government will do all in it can so that justice with regard to the failed coup of April 11th of 2002 and the other terrorist acts which have caused serious damage to the national patrimony.
You can listen to the complete audio of the press conference on the website of Radio Nacional de Venezuela.