Unionists’ Murder Followed by Marches and Arrests in Anzoategui, Venezuela

Following the murder of two workers at a Mitsubishi plant, marches and
meetings have involved more of the regional community in the union
struggle, while six police have been arrested, and a range of
commissions have been established.

By Tamara Pearson - Venezuelanalysis.com

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The arrival of one of the coffins for the killed workers at the Mitsubishi plant. (Archive)
The arrival of one of the coffins for the killed workers at the Mitsubishi plant. (Archive)
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Mérida, February 5, 2009 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- Following the murder of two workers at a Mitsubishi plant, marches and meetings have involved more of the regional community in the union struggle, while six police have been arrested, and a range of commissions have been established.

Last Thursday two workers were killed during a confrontation with police over their occupation of a Mitsubishi plant in Barcelona, Anzoategui state. The police used violence and tear gas to try to remove the occupying workers, who were demanding that the company hire 135 contract workers, and fulfill its obligations under their collective bargaining agreement.

Since this event, Mitsubishi workers have met with other workers, unionists, and community council leaders to organize a march in rejection of the death of the two workers, in support of their demands to the Mitsubishi bosses, and to also demand the arrest of the two judges who had ordered the removal of the workers from the plant and the resignation of the secretary of the state government and the regional police commander.

The meeting, which according to Laclase.info, had over 50 unions present, decided to organize the march instead of a regional strike. They also decided not to blame the pro-Chavez regional government, but rather the two judges.

The march took place on Tuesday, and saw around 2,000 people march from the Mitsubishi plant, past the courts, the state government, and through the main business district.

The Anzoategui state governor, Tarek Saab, said six police have been arrested over their involvement in the confrontation, specifically for murder and the unnecessary use of firearms.

“With this arrest, impunity is defeated,” Saab said, while also anticipating further arrests.

Saab also suspended the two judges, and according to El Universal, they were called to make declarations before the Supreme Court on Monday.

The Venezuelan national assembly will also investigate the deaths of the workers. The president of the commission for energy and mines, Angel Rodriguez, and the president of the subcommission of human rights, Reinaldo Garcia met and discussed the need to form a high level commission around the issue, headed up by the vice president of Venezuela, Ramon Carrizales, the minister for work, Roberto Hernandez, the governor of the state of Anzoategui, Tarek Saab, and the bosses of the Mitsubishi factory.

Rodriguez said, “From the National Assembly we support the call …for a large national mobilisation in rejection of what happened.”

The legislative council of Anzoategui state will also form a commission to find a solution to the labour conflict.

A current within the National Union of Workers (UNETE), the Classist, Revolutionary, Autonomous Current (CCURA) said in a press release that the imprisonment of the police alone is not enough, and that responsibility extends to the judges “who ordered the massacre,” the politicians connected to the affair, and the owners of Mitsubishi.

“Nor do we accept the irresponsibility of the political secretary of the regional government [Rafael Vega] who said the confrontations were provoked by supposed attacks perpetrated by the workers.” The press release suggests such arguments were used by previous “dictators” to “justify their actions.”

Vega had said that Saab had prohibited the police from using arms in protests in 2005 and that he was sure the shots hadn’t come from the police.

“The sad thing about this tragic event in ‘a time of revolution’ is that it is not the first time that such a thing has happened … The workers of the Fundimeca [air conditioning factory] in Valencia, those of Alpina in Villa de Cura, …the workers of the Sidor [steel factory] in Puerto Ordaz or the fuel workers in front of the offices of the Venezuelan Fuel Corporation Dairy Story (Anzoategui) have already suffered…the violence…of the police, incited by corrupt judges at the service of capital,” the press release continued.

Meanwhile, Christian Pereira, trade union leader of the motor sector and member of Socialist Tide, told Aporrea.com that, “The main responsibility for the murders of the workers…is the transnational [Mitsubishi]. The government and the respective authorities shouldn’t only investigate the police and the judges, but also establish the responsibility of this transnational.”

President Hugo Chavez said that the national government “regrets what happened in the factory in the state of Anzoategui…to avoid such police abuses I ask the governors and mayors to carry out a process of purification of the police bodies.”

Stalin Perez Borges, national coordinator of UNETE said, “Enough already, there can’t be one more unpunished murder of workers in conflict.  In our opinion its about …a new method...planned by business, law, and police mafia, together with some political leaders to try to confront the workers struggles that have strengthened because of the revolutionary situation that we have been living for a while… and [its also about] employer political sabotage to destabilize the government.”

“It is important to spell out again that the murders occurred because the company refused to negotiate with the workers…this company should be obligated to negotiate with the union and its workers…one way of punishing those responsible is also that the workers triumph in this conflict,” Borges said.

Both CCURA and the autoworkers’ union, UNTSCA, have called for a national autoworkers’ strike for today.