By Jeremy Morgan
Latin American Herald Tribune staff
CARACAS – The State Prosecutors Office said that officials had sought and secured court orders that eight police officers should be held in custody in connection with the death of student Yubán Antonio Ortega Urdaneta, an activist in President Hugo Chávez’ ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
Ortega Urdaneta was shot in the head on April 28 during disturbances at the campus of the Technological University at Ejida in Mérida state. He went into intensive care at a hospital but died two days later.
All eight officers belong to the state police in Mérida, west Venezuela, and were ordered to held at the police headquarters. It’s likely that if they are sent to trial, proceedings will be held in another state as is the custom in Venezuela.
Nine officers had originally been detained. It appeared that in the case of one of them either the court or prosecutors decided that he or she had no case to answer.
The officers ordered into custody face charges of “qualified” murder, implying a form of collective responsibility because it has yet to be established which one of them may have actually done the deed. They are also formally charged with “complicity” – a term relating to acting together, possibly in a cover-up or in obstructing an investigation – unlawful use of firearms, and violating international laws.
Student groups across the country announced a series of events in memory of their slain colleague. The call to action was said to have been answered by student groupings regardless of their political affiliation.
The PSUV is in the throws of a recruitment drive aimed at attracting younger members. The plan is to get new members to sign on at a string of centers next Saturday. Ortega Urdaneta was said to have played an active role in this campaign not only at his own college but also at the Universidad de Los Andes.
In a separate development, a union leader at the Toyota plant in Sucre state was shot dead in a hail of bullets outside his home in Las Chaunas, a district of Cumaná, on Tuesday morning. Interior Minister Tarek El Assaimi condemned the slaying of Argenis Vásquez and ordered the scientific and investigative police, CICPC, to detach a squad under the direct control of its commander, Wilmer Flores Trosel, to carry out a full investigation.
Several union officials and workers have been killed in violence during labor disputes at large companies this year. Police conduct is under suspicion in several such cases.