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Venezuela's Military Intelligence: Just Like Pinochet’s DINA

By Marta Colomina | El Universal

Caracas, 3 July 2005 | WHAT A PARADOX it is that a "revolutionary" president, who says that he admires Allende, has fostered an Office of Military Intelligence (DIM) which behaves like the fearsome DINA of bloodthirsty Pinochet! Convinced that his own strength for remaining in power does not reside in the people but in the unrestricted support he gets from the National Armed Force (FAN) and his own personal militia, Chávez has been granting enormous privileges to the military, such as promotions without merit, management of budgets without oversight that result in permitted corruption and impunity for committing abuses that have degenerated into serious crimes.

In the past, the Technical Judicial Police (PTJ) and the DIM were elite organizations, whose “technicians” stayed on between governmental terms until they retired, but Chávez’s obsession for political power immediately imposed changes, granting privileges to those adhering to his “revolution” ahead of those having knowledge and professional ethics. Thus the best technicians left the PTJ, some retiring early, others were fired, and unskilled "revolutionaries" came in with a prioritized goal: to assemble dossiers against political dissidents.

As presidential obsessions increased, security forces lost their professional focus and they all turned into political police eager to discover phantom assassins, coup conspiracies and invasions by the Empire. Faced with such impossible tasks, many members of what had been elite groups now display thug-like behaviors with the objectives and benefits pertaining thereto. The Director of the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigation Corps (CICPC), Marcos Chávez, revealed to the El Mundo newspaper (30 June 2005) that various officials have been charged with illicit acquisition of wealth (they must have been enjoying immense personal fortunes) and that their possible connection with narcotraffic activities is being investigated.

The story of the murder of three of the six young people, who had left after their nighttime exam at the Universidad Santa María to head home, seems to be taken straight out of post-Allende Chile, where the Office of National Intelligence (DINA) murdered defenseless citizens on the streets. That is what we are told by a person who lived through that tragedy, Dr. Raúl Arrieta, former delegate from Venezuela to the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission: “The case of the murder of the young university students reminds me of the fall of the Salvador Allende government, when the military would tell the people to run and if they did so they would then enforce the law against flight from justice and kill them, and if they didn't run, they were also murdered for having disobeyed.”

Testimonies reveal that the six youths became frightened when they saw the DIM officers with rifles, no uniforms and wearing ski masks at a checkpoint located on an uphill grade in Bloque 1 of the Kennedy neighborhood. That is where they received the first gunshots. The vehicle stopped about 400 meters away, where the young people yelled out asking for help, but when the neighbors saw the masked men with military weapons they shut the doors to their houses, and the students were then defenseless and at the mercy of “about 15 men who approached on foot, with rifles. They looked like guerilla fighters, and without warning they began to shoot.” (Tal Cual, 30 June 2005). The first to die was Leonardo González, with a gunshot to his right eye, which left a gunpowder tattoo, all of which, according to Minister of the Interior and of Justice, Jesse Chacón, “leads one to assume that he did not die at the moment when they fired the barrage, but once this had occurred, he was taken from the vehicle and fired upon.” The kids “kept telling them that they were students and that they had come to drop off one of the girls, but to no avail, they grabbed them and would not allow them to show their identification papers. 'Shut up, you rats,’ was the only thing they said to them,” thus spoke a woman from the neighborhood. (Tal Cual, ibid.). According to other testimonies, Eric and Edgar ended up cornered in an interior courtyard. There, the agents threw them to the ground, tied their hands and slugged and kicked them. Eric Montenegro's body was admitted to the Bello Monte morgue with 10 bullet wounds. “There are two dead and one wounded,” a voice said. “Three dead,” answered another voice in a commanding tone. “NO, but one is wounded,” the first voice corrected him. “I told you there are three. That is the order. Three dead, period”… “At about 1:30 am a four-door SUV, metallic blue color, without any signs, ‘one of those large pretty ones’ arrived. It came to pick up the bodies. They took two from the alley and the third one (Leonardo), they picked him up right here in front of the house. They threw them into the compartment as if they were dogs.” A few more police came “there were about 50 of them,” all from the DIM and the CICPC. What followed was “a cleanup operation and the planting of weapons” until 5 am. “They picked up all the bullet shells and any bullets embedded in the walls and in the pavement were removed with hammers. ‘We already have three pistols and one is missing,’ the neighbors could hear being said, and from their windows they could see when they took photographs of the weapons.” When the neighbors came out in the morning, the bodies were no longer there: “all we found were puddles of blood.” (ibid).

Is this a pretty revolution? Or is it a damnable revolution?

Translation by W.K.

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