Maduro’s dictatorship sentences political prisoner Rodney Álvarez to 15 years

Originally published Venezuelanvoices

Photo credit: Punto de Corte

By Venezuelan Voices

On Tuesday, June 8, after ten years of judicial farce during which the process was restarted ten times and the judge was changed three times, the political prisoner Rodney Álvarez was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Judge Pablo Vicentelli and the prosecutor Regino Cova participated in the last stage of the judicial farce, violating Rodney Álvarez’s right to defense by preventing his lawyer from presenting his closing arguments. The conviction was handed down despite there being no evidence to prove that Rodney Álvarez committed the crime of which he was accused. As he has already served more than half of this sentence, he is eligible for release from prison, but the authorities are illegally conditioning this to an acceptance by Alvarez not to appeal the conviction.

Unions and left oppositions organizations have rejected this monstrous sentence and demanded that Alvarez be released.

Alvarez, a leftist worker at the state-owned company Ferrominera del Orinoco, is Venezuela’s longest-serving political prisoner. He was imprisoned on June 11, 2011, as part of a set-up promoted by the then governor of Bolivar state, Francisco Rangel Gomez, and the Bolivarian union mafia that terrorizes workers in the iron and aluminum industries in the southeast of the country. He has spent most of his time in prison in El Rodeo II, near Caracas, separated by more than 500 kilometers from Ciudad Piar, where his family and co-workers live. He has suffered three attempts on his life in prison. On December 27 he was shot, on August 6, 2018 he was stabbed six times and on July 5, 2019 he was brutally beaten. As a result of these attacks he has reduced mobility in one hand. The authorities have protected the perpetrators of these attacks by not opening any investigation. This is how the Chavista regime operates.

For the government, Alvarez is an important hostage, his case serves as a form of exemplary punishment to discipline the working class and the independent unions. Defending the rights of the working class is something the dictatorship does not forgive. Because of the scandalous violations of his human rights, the case of Rodney Alvarez has generated pronouncements from the International Labour Organization and has been heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The right-wing opposition has been mostly silent on the case, but trade union, human rights and left opposition organizations and activists have campaigned actively for the rights of Rodney Alvarez. Internationally, there have been pronouncements by leftist organizations and protests in front of embassies of the Chavista government, in Argentina, Brazil and other countries.

A set-up to protect a PSUV union bureaucrat

On June 9, 2011, Chavista thugs attacked with firearms the assembly in which the electoral commission of the union in Ferrominera del Orinoco was to be elected. The Chavistas were in minority and therefore wanted to prevent the union election from taking place. The union was at the center of an important dispute, as it had been intervened after its general secretary, Ruben Gonzalez, was imprisoned in 2009 for having led a strike. The Chavista government was determined to crush the labor movement in Guayana, one of the major centers of workers’ resistance against its efforts to destroy labor rights, which finally succeeded. Today, Venezuelan workers have the lowest wages in the western hemisphere as a consequence of heavy defeats, but in 2009 the situation was different. In 2008 the government had been forced to nationalize the SIDOR steel plant following workers’ demands after a successful strike of several weeks that managed to overcome repression.

In the armed attack against the workers of Ferrominera del Orinoco in June 9, 2009, union bureaucrat Hector Maican, a PSUV militant, murdered worker Renny Rojas and wounded Luis Quilarque. His criminal action was recorded by the company’s security cameras and was witnessed by dozens of workers. Maican was arrested by the Bolivarian National Guard who confiscated his gun and handed him over to the police and judicial authorities. The prosecutor’s office charged him with murder. However, the government intervened so that Maican was released two days later. Alvarez was then arbitrarily detained at his place of work.

Thus started the judicial farce against him. During the long years of his trial, on numerous occasions prosecutors and judges offered to negotiate his release in exchange for acceptance of guilt. Alvarez has refused to accept this dirty deal and has therefore had to endure imprisonment in terrible conditions as well as attempts on his life.