Investigations Reveal Illicit Business of Murdered Venezuelan Student Leader

Investigators of the murder of Julio Soto, the student government
president at the University of Zulia, have uncovered evidence linking
the crime to Soto's illicit selling of government-subsidized student
bus tickets and his affiliations with competing political parties
within the Venezuelan opposition.

By James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com

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Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami launched a new security plan in response to recent student murders. (Aporrea.org)
Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami launched a new security plan in response to recent student murders. (Aporrea.org)
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Mérida, October 6, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- Investigators of the murder of Julio Soto, the student government president at the University of Zulia, have uncovered evidence linking the crime to Soto's illicit selling of government-subsidized student bus tickets and his affiliations with competing political parties within the Venezuelan opposition.

The director of the national Criminal, Penal, and Scientific Investigations Corps (CICPC), Marcos Chavez, said raids conducted since Soto was shot to death by four unidentified assassins last Wednesday have revealed that "Soto, apart from being the president of the [student government], administered or managed student transportation tickets. We are not discarding any hypothesis."

However, Chavez said, "It is important not to make a priori declarations," because the case has not been solved.

According to CICPC investigators, the call history and number directory in Soto's cell phone reveal that Soto had contacts with members of the Zulia state police who are also involved in the illicit production and sale of government-subsidized student transportation tickets.  

In addition, Soto had three million bolivars ($1.4 million) in his bank account at the time of his death, and had received a deposit of 200,000 bolivars ($93,000) in the weeks before his death, CICPC investigators said.

Moreover, on his personal blog, Soto had written that he received death threats a week before his murder, a fact confirmed by his fellow student leaders.

The blog also showed Soto's ties to two opposition parties, COPEI and Un Nuevo Tiempo, which have been in conflict over party candidates and political agendas for the upcoming regional and local elections.

It is suspected that Soto was killed by a hired assassin involved in the mafia that regulates illicit business activity within the university. Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El-Aissami announced Monday that three suspects had been identified.

David Jaimes, a national coordinator of COPEI, of which Soto was a member, said Monday, "We are waiting to see what happens. We confide in the government and its institutions to do their job."

Meanwhile, the March 13th Movement, an opposition student organization at the University of the Andes (ULA) in the city of Merida, stepped up their violent protests against the government after a student from the criminology department at the ULA was shot to death in the early morning Friday.

The M13 stopped a public garbage truck and a private milk delivery truck in the middle of a major avenue near the ULA Law School, stole the dairy products in the milk truck, and burned the two vehicles, cutting off traffic for more than a day.

El-Aissami informed the press Friday that the murder of the student, Oscar Contreras, involved the consumption of alcohol, and was the result of a personal conflict unrelated to the murder of Soto.

On Monday, 11 suspects in Contreras's murder were detained. They are all members of a group known for robbery and hired assassinations, and a pistol found in possession of one suspect was linked to the shooting, according to investigators.

"We were able to solve this case of violence in record time with the cooperation of the intelligence division of the Merida state police," said Minister El Aissami.

In addition, El Aissami launched the "Merida Security Plan," which will step up policing operations together with intelligence teams and the National Guard in operations modeled on the Caracas Security Plan that began earlier this year.

"We are going to act with determination and rapidity," said El Aissami. The minister said a student committee will participate in the investigations, as well. "Merida and El Vigia will be safe cities with the application of this plan that has had excellent results in the places where it has already been applied."