Imprisoned: investigation (1)
Leocenis GARCÍA: editor of Sexto Poder magazine and journalist for daily newspaper Reporte Diario de la Economía.
VENEZUELA – Leocenis GARCIA (aporrea.org)Date of arrest: 3 May 2008. Prison: Tocuyito prison, Carabobo state. Alleged offence: Causing damage to property, carrying a gun without a permit and resisting arrest. It is feared that his arrest and imprisonment may be linked to his legitimate activities as a journalist.[$1< Details of arrest: On 3 May 2008 García was arrested along with his assistant and his driver after being accused of causing damage to property at the offices of another newspaper, El Periódico, carrying a gun without a permit and resisting arrest. According to his lawyer, García had gone to El Periódico's offices in order to collect payment for an advertisement for an airline (reportedly linked to one of El Periódico's shareholders) that had been published in Sexto Poder, and to interview the vice-president of El Periódico about one of the newspaper's owner's alleged links to drug trafficking. Initially held at the Intelligence and Prevention Services headquarters (Dirección General de los Servicios de Inteligencia y Prevención, DISIP) in Valencia, Carabobo, García was transferred to Tocuyito prison in Carabobo at the end of May 2008. Concerns: García was reportedly beaten and given electric shocks while in the custody of the Carabobo police. While PEN has no position on the views expressed in García's articles, there are fears that the case against him may in fact stem from his critical reporting. It is understood that over the year prior to his arrest, García had been investigating alleged corruption at the state-owned petroleum company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), and was being sued for defamation by an influential businessman who is close to PDVSA and whom García had denounced as having links to drugs trafficking. García denies ever possessing a gun and has stated that he believes his case is political and is being used to send a warning to Venezuelan journalists. His lawyer has alleged a series of irregularities in the legal case against García, including inconsistencies in police statements on how his arrest came about. As of late 2008 García was apparently yet to found guilty of any criminal offence. >1$]
Killed (2004-2009) (5)
23 August 2006: Jesús FLORES ROJAS, editorial co-ordinator of the Anzoategui edition of the newspaper Región, and columnist for other print media in the area.
VENEZUELA – Jesús FLORES (La Region) ROJASFlores was shot dead by an unidentified individual at his home in El Tigre, Anzoategui province on 23 August 2006. His daughter was present at the time of the attack. Flores had reportedly received several death threats prior to his murder. He wrote a weekly column in which he often criticised local government officials and had written articles reporting alleged acts of corruption by the local administration.
7 October 2006: Pedro BASTARDO, journalist working at the Municipality of Bolívar.
Bastardo was shot dead in a shop in Cumaná, Sucre state, on 7 October 2006. The investigation authorities believed the motive was robbery, but none of the journalist’s belongings were taken.
19 May 2007: Nelson ÁLVAREZ NARVÁEZ, columnist for the daily newspaper El Siglo de Maracay.
VENEZUELA – Nelson ÁLVAREZ NARVÁEZÁlvarez was at a birthday party at his mother’s home in Maracay, Aragua state, on 19 May 2007 when an unknown person entered the building and shot him six times. The hitman then fired in a car with another man. The criminal investigations unit was said to be looking into the matter and was not ruling out any motive, including political..
2 June 2008: Pierre Fould GERGES, vice president of the daily newspaper Reporte Diario de la Economía.
While on his way to visit his mother on 2 June 2008, Gerges stopped at a petrol station in Caracas where he was approached by two unidentified men on a motorcycle who shot him at least a dozen times in the neck and torso. He was pronounced dead at the scene.[$2< It was thought that the killing may have been linked to Reporte Diario de la Economía's criticism of the government. Gerges had been travelling in a car owned by his brother Tannous Gerges, president of Reporte Diario de la Economía. Several senior staff members, including Tannous Gerges, had reportedly been receiving telephone and e-mail death threats since June 2007, one of which specially mentioned Tannous Gerges' family. The threats were thought to be linked to the newspaper's editorial line, which had been very critical of government corruption. The authorities stated that they were conducting an investigation and were reportedly looking into Pierre Fould Gerges' journalistic work as a possible motive. At a news conference on 9 June 2008, Reporte Diario de la Economía's, lawyer Yisel Soares, said that Gerges' murder was not a political crime and that the investigation was focusing on a powerful network of five bankers. On 25 June 2008, Soares reported having received telephone and e-mail threats warning her to stop commenting on the murder and that she would be the next victim if she did not. She was also reportedly told that the newspaper's headquarters might suffer an arson attack. After lodging a complaint with the Institute for Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Suares and Tannous Gerges were given police protection. As of the end of 2008, the murder of Pierre Fould Gerges remained unsolved. >2$]
16 January 2009: Orel ZAMBRANO, editor of the political weekly ABC de la Semana and columnist for the regional daily Notitarde, Valencia, Carabobo state.
VENEZUELA – Orel Zambrano (CPJ)
Zambrano was shot dead in Valencia on 16 January 2009. The motive of the crime was not known, although it was thought that Zambrano may have been targeted for a recent article on drugs trafficking.[$3 The journalist had reportedly covered several drug trafficking cases in recent weeks. One story in particular was on an influential business family in the region, the Makleds, three members of which were arrested in possession of 400 kilos of cocaine on 14 November 2008 and are now the subject of an investigation by the national prosecutor’s office. The Public Ministry (Ministerio Público) said that the judicial police had opened an investigation into Zambrano’s murder. The circumstances of Zambrano’s death have given rise to speculation that a paid assassin was responsible. His murder came just three days after the attempted murder of El Regional editor Rafael Finol.
On 16 February 2009, former policeman Rafael Segundo Pérez Martínez was detained in Carabobo on suspicion of having ordered Zambrano’s murder. On 21 February, an arrest warrant was issued for two men who were accused of carrying out the crime, serving policeman David Yánez Inciarte and another man, Arístides José Carvajal Salgado. The suspects reportedly belong to a gang known as “Los Piloneros”, who were responsible for killing witnesses and others who assisted the ongoing investigation into the Makled family’s connection to drug trafficking. Zambrano had criticised both the Makleds and the gang in his reports prior to his death. On 12 March, the Public Prosecutor’s Office reportedly asked INTERPOL to capture Walid Makled, whom the Department of Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations has accused of being the mastermind behind Zambrano’s murder, along with former policeman Rafael Segundo Pérez Martínez.>3$]