A court has reaffirmed arrest warrants against five Polianzoategui police officials charged with the murder of two workers on 29 January during a protest by some 1,200 workers at Mitsubishi’s vehicle assembly plant (MMC) in Barcelona.
A sixth police officer was released from detention and charges against him were dropped.
Anzoategui Governor Tarek William Saab has vowed the killers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent that Venezuelan law permits.
But video and eyewitness reports of the violence at MMC suggest an official cover-up is under way, and the five cops now in jail will be scapegoats to distract attention from the failure of senior state government, judges and police commanders to keep control of a potentially violent situation at the plant.
Video footage of the violence is posted on YouTube via Noticiero Digital. Link here.
The video shows between 20-30 Polianzoategui officials milling around in front of the main gate at MMC’s plant, without anyone apparently in command. The cops are in groups chatting, or walking around aimlessly, and greeting each other with smiles and handshakes.
The cops also are not equipped properly for crowd control. They are armed with handguns and pump action shotguns, but do not have standard anti-riot gear including helmets, gas masks, plastic shields and batons. However, several cops are filmed holding tear-gas grenades.
When the cops finally move against the protesting workers to push them away from the padlocked gate, they do not form a standard crowd-control formation, but instead move singly, then in twos and threes towards the workers.
At that point, several cops with tear gas grenades hurl them over the fence into the crowd of workers, some of whom are prepared with gas masks and gloves, and promptly retrieve and throw the grenades back at the cops, who fall back in disorder.
Control is never restored. At least dozen gunshots are heard on the video, and a cop is filmed in the act of firing a shotgun directly at the workers. Two cops throw rocks at an automobile speeding away from the clash, and the video ends showing the MMC worker dying on the ground.
Who issued the orders for the cops to accompany the two judges (both women) who tried to serve an injunction against the striking workers whow ere blockading access to the plant since 20 January?
Who was in command of the Polianzoategui police officials at the MMC plant?
Why were the police at MMC not equipped with the standard crowd-control and anti-riot gear which they are supposed to have in such situations, according to Polianzoategui’s official operations guidelines?
The judges were accompanied by the cops, but no other state government representatives were at the scene even though MMC management and leaders of the protesting workers had appealed separately for Governor Saab’s intervention to help defuse tensions and move management/worker negotiations forward.
Was Saab aware that his intervention in the conflict was being sought by both sides? The workers insist that he was in the know, but who can say for sure since Saab still hasn’t clarified all the facts. And if Saab did not know about the conflict at MMC, why not?
MMC is an important employer in Anzoategui, and the striking workers claim to be loyal chavistas, implying that Saab’s office should have been at least minimally aware that Bolivarian workers were blockading MMC since 20 January to demand their right to work.
The Chavez government for years has used Bolivarian unions to stir up trouble in many privately-owned companies, while trying to break the influence of traditional unions which usually aren’t pro-Chavez. Ask GM’s management about the troubles they’ve had with radical chavista unions trying to gain full control of labor inside the US company’s plant.
It’s also public knowledge that President Chavez has several auto assemblers on his shortlist of companies that could be expropriated at any time by the revolution. Last year he threatened to nationalize GM’s assets.
Did Saab drop the ball at MMC, where nominally pro-Chavez cops clashed lethally with nominally pro-Chavez workers?
Polianzoategui’s track record during Saab’s years as governor is a national embarrassment. On his gubernatorial watch, many officials with Anzoategui’s police have been implicated in crimes like armed robbery, car theft, murder, kidnapping and extortion.
And last year Polianzoategui gained worldwide infamy when someone anonymously posted a cell-phone camera video on the Web which showed a crowd of rowdy cops forcing a male transvestite prostitute to strip naked and masturbate himself before cheering cops who filmed the abuse with their cell phone cameras.
Saab will lose no time whitewashing his screw-up at the MMC plant. Besides ordering the arrest of the cops implicated in the worker’s death, Saab already has publicly cast all the blame for the clash on MMC’s management. Don’t be surprised if Anzoategui state prosecutors, or even the National Assembly in Caracas, decide to “investigate” what happened in coming weeks and produce a report blaming MMC’s Japanese owners.