Jose Tomas Pinto, leader of the “Tupamaros Movement” has replied through the news media to La Piedrita leader Valentin Santana’s week-old Quinto Dia interview in which declared that his “revolutionary cooperative” is at war with the Tupamaros.
In an interview with the tabloid Version Final (link here), Pinto denies he or anyone in the Tupamaros are involved in drug trafficking, and dismisses Santana as a “lunatic…who kills innocent people.”
Pinto portrays the Tupamaros as a good “revolutionary, Marxist and chavista movement which does not receive any government support.” The Tupamaros movement is national, and does its revolutionary political work peacefully, “not with arms,” he adds.
“We don’t go around attacking or threatening to kill anyone,” Pinto says
La Piedrita’s members are a bad crowd, Pinto insists. “…sicarios, assassins… (Santana is) responsible for four homicides” including a father and son who were murdered in 2007 when the son tried to quit La Piedrita.
Pinto denies any role in the murder of Santana’s 16-year-old son. “I was at a Tupamaros event in Cabimas that day, and this can be corroborated,” he says.
Young Diego Santana was a member of a gang that stole motorcycles and was killed in “an ajuste de cuentas” within the gang. (“El mismo grupo de malandritos lo mato.”)
Santana should be arrested, Pinto says, but “no one (in the government) has the courage to try to enter 23 de enero.”
Santana and La Piedrita will confront “anyone” in the government who comes after him, Pinto says. The government will never capture Santana alive. “There will be blood. A lot of people will be killed. If (the government) gets (Santana) out of 23 de enero, it will only be as a corpse,” he predicts.
“But I don’t think (the government) will come in…23 de enero is armed to the teeth,” Pinto adds.
Pinto also dismisses Santana’s claim that the Tupamaros and La Piedrita are at war: “It’s a fantasy…Tupamaros is a national movement. La Piedrita is a very small sector inside 23 de enero, where there are 70 other groups like La Piedrita…but they’re part of the right and will not grow more.”
Some comments about Pinto’s interview:
*The Tupamaros Movement, born in 23 de enero between 30-40 years ago, is perhaps the oldest active communist urban guerrilla group in Venezuela. Initially it operated as a vigilante group within 23 de enero, “cleansing” the sector of drug traffickers, armed robbers, muggers, prostitutes, etc. The group operated clandestinely during the pre-Chavez era, but surfaced publicly in 1999 after Hugo Chavez became president.
*Despite the group’s stated ideological and social goals, elements of the Tupamaros eventually were corrupted by the criminal enterprises operating out of 23 de enero. The group also fractured internally as a result of political power struggles, and several years ago it split into two factions. Pinto heads one faction. The other faction reportedly has a close relationship with the Vargas state governor’s office.
*Pinto may be telling the truth when he insists he is not directly involved in drug trafficking (though Caracas Gringo hears differently from CICPC sources), but it’s common knowledge among the Caracas drug dealing underworld that the crack cocaine trade is controlled citywide from 23 de enero – which is Tupamaros country.
*Since about 2001 there have been numerous incidents involving Tupamaros engaging in street actions to support President Chavez. There also have been persistent reports that the Tupamaros received financials stipends, weapons, motorcycles and other motor vehicles from the government, mainly through the Libertador district municipal government while Freddy Bernal was mayor.
*The Tupamaros are heavily armed, and well-versed in urban guerrilla strategies and tactics. The group has the numbers, weapons and command/control capabilities to undertake offensive operations. Its defensive capabilities also are well known – and widely feared – by government security forces. The police and National Guard routinely do not go into 23 de enero because they come under immediate sniper fire from Tupamaros shooters and gunmen with many of the “other 70 groups” Pinto mentioned in the interview.
*The Tupamaros are based city-wide in Caracas, with outposts in the Petare mega-slum, Caricuao in the west, the Tuy Valleys in the south, and the Guarenas-Guatire satellite cities in the east. In fact, Tupamaros regularly stand guard at many government-funded construction projects in the greater Caracas area handled by entities like Fondur, and draw salaries from the government via the project contractors. Caracas Gringo knows this because recently he was a guest of the Tupamaros at a year-end barbecue for construction workers at one of these government projects, where the group’s security chief at this particularly construction site explained to Caracas Gringo how the Tupamaros’ security activities for government-funded projects were an example of the group’s good works. “No one steals from the construction sites we protect because they know we’ll break them,” he bragged.