Venezuelan Trade Union Leader at Toyota Plant Assassinated

Argenis Vasquez, a union leader in a Toyota plant in Cumana, Sucre state, was assassinated yesterday morning, triggering an occupation of that factory and quick investigations by government bodies.
Argenis Vasquez speaking on Venezuelan national television in March this year (VTV)

May 6th 2009 ( – Argenis Vasquez, a union leader in a
Toyota plant in Cumana, Sucre state, was assassinated yesterday morning,
triggering an occupation of that factory and quick investigations by government

people, without saying a word, shot at the compatriot, Argenis Vasquez Marcano,
killing him," said Tarek El Aissami, Venezuela's minister for justice and internal affairs.
"We reject this horrific crime and express our solidarity and sympathy to his
family and co-workers," he said.

33, was general secretary of the workers union at that Toyota assembly plant. According to one
writer for he was also a student at the Venezuelan Bolivarian
University and a spokesperson
for his local community council.

murder took place in the car park of the residential buildings where he lived. Two
of the shots hit him in the head, causing his death. He was apparently going
out to talk to a union lawyer and had just gotten off the phone to him. He had
also received death threats recently.

Aissami said that a commission from the national Scientific, Penal, and
Criminal Investigation Unit (CICPC) would be investigating straight away. The
commission will be working with the public prosecutor, which has also begun

United, Classist, Revolutionary Current (CCURA) of the National Workers Union
(Unete) asserts that Vasquez was murdered by hired killers and Jose Bodas, a
petroleum union leader, along with CCURA, have called for mobilisations and car
industry strikes against the "murderers who are decimating the revolutionary
ranks" as Bodas said.

November 29th last year, three trade union leaders of Unete were
shot dead by armed assassins on motorbikes in Aragua state after participating
in a labour dispute with a Colombian owned company. Journalists speculated that
the attack was carried out by paramilitaries hired by the company and noted
that the method of assassination resembled those used against unionists and
activists in Colombia.

news sources report that as a result of the assassination of Vasquez, workers
are occupying the Toyota factory and will maintain the occupation until "there
is justice." On finding out about the murder, workers initially burned three
vehicles and attacked the human resources manager of the company.

year workers at the Toyota
plant protested against a decision by the company to send one group of shift
workers to early, unpaid holidays. Vasquez said at the time that the measure
was related to overproduction and that "the company is attempting to reduce
stock and make the workers pay."

in March this year the 1600 workers of Toyota went on strike for 4 weeks over
the management's refusal to talk with them over the content of a statement made
to the local labour inspectorate and for violating the workers' collective
contract. Vasquez told the media that "there are all kinds of problems
including the quality of the food in the work cafeteria" and said the company
wasn't handing over 4% of vehicles made to the workers, as it was obligated to

Union leaders from Chrysler, MMC, Ford, General
Motors, Oci-Metalmecánica, Dana Structural Solutions, Dana Tuboauto, Dana Ejes
y Cardanes, Troquenal, Filtros Wix, Lear, Metalcar, Mamusa, Vivex and Macusa
expressed their regret over the assassination and agreed to meet in Cumuna to
discuss a plan of action with the Toyota workers.

a collective press release the union leaders said, "Once again we have received
a huge blow. It is a vile assassination of one of our most combatant fighters."

Vazquez formed part of a new breed of classist and revolutionary union leaders
from the automotive sector, who for years have been waging an important battle
against the automotive transnationals, where they emphasise the struggle for
health and life at work," the statement continued.

Argenis began his struggle some years ago as delegate for prevention." The
statement says that Argenis was unjustly fired at one point, then rehired, and
then, "with a group of comrades he started to transform the union….from there a
new chapter in the workers struggle at Toyota began…and with other class
leaders of automotive companies he proposed [to the national government] a
restructuring of automotive policy."

press release concludes, "The best homage we can pay [to Vaszquez] is to not
lose heart and to continue deepening the struggle for the emancipation of the
working class."