Caracas, September 17, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— The security of chief of the opposition governor of Venezuela’s Zulia State, Manuel Rosales, was arrested and charged on Friday with crimes relating to the murder on August 8 this year of Claudio Enrique Macías Briceño, an officer of the Military Intelligence Direction (DIM). The case has sparked renewed calls for a national intervention into the notoriously corrupt Regional Police Force of Zulia (PR), reputed to have links with Colombian paramilitaries that operate in the region.
Macías, who was detained by three officers of the Penal Investigation Division (DIP) of the Regional Police Force of Zulia on August 7th, in the municipality of San Francisco, was found hanged the following day in the El Marite prison in the town of Maracaibo. Panorama reported on September 6 that an autopsy of his body revealed “signs of violence, atypical of death by hanging.”
José "Mazuco" Sánchez, the secretary of Security of the regional government of Zulia, has been charged with complicity in crimes of intentional homicide, illegal deprivation of liberty, and also of violating international treaties subscribed to by Venezuela. Sánchez’s defense lawyer Jesús Inciarte, who said Sánchez was innocent, affirmed that his client was “being treated with objectivity.”
Venezuelan Attorney General, Isaías Rodríguez, indicated in a press conference on Friday that a possible motivation for the crime was to silence Macías, who was carrying out investigations into the actions of regional functionaries in Zulia. Rodríguez said that there was witness testimony, videos, and photographic evidence connecting Sánchez to the crime.
Amidst reports that Sánchez had received a telephone call ordering him to kill Macías, Rodiriguez affirmed, “A high functionary of the governorship of the state of Zulia ordered the death of Claudio Macías by telephone.” Rodriguez said that further investigations were being carried out to determine the instigator of the crime.
Panorama reported that National Assembly Deputy from Zulia, Mario Isea, asked, “What had Macías discovered to cause him to be assassinated in this manner? This man was detained arbitrarily, tortured…and assassinated, and the Governor [of Zulia – Manuel Rosales] could not guarantee justice.”
Isea continued, “no one can be held incommunicado… They denied to the family that Macías was detained, and then he appeared dead in El Marite after it had been denied [that he was being held] to his wife.”
Echoing the calls of the Mayor of Maracaibo, GianCarlo DiMartino, Isea reiterated the necessity for a national intervention into the Regional Police of Zulia, “not simply to substitute the police command, because there was the simulation of an intervention by governor Rosales, who promised at the end of last year to intervene in the Regional Police to improve it, but nothing changed, the same mafia continues to lead the Regional Police of Zulia.”
Zulia has experienced a surge of kidnappings, murder and extortion in recent months, linked to the activities of paramilitaries and criminal gangs, with the alleged complicity of the Regional Police. According to data from the Penal, Scientific and Criminal Investigations Unit (CICPC), 873 people have been murdered in Zulia this year, with the most violent municipalities of the state being Maracaibo and San Francisco. Of these 873 murders, 820 (93.71%) were men and 52 women (5.94%).
Prensa Latina reported that Vice Minister of Justice and Interior Tarek El-Aisami commented that during his presidential campaign last year the governor of Zulia, Manuel Rosales, utilized criticism of Chavez over “the supposed increase of crime in the country, but Zulia is the most insecure state, with the highest indices of criminality.”
El-Aisami argued that Sánchez had used the Regional Police Force of Zulia as a political instrument and affirmed that the Regional Police is under investigation for violations of human rights and as a result of the proceedings a national intervention of the force could be decreed.