Next June will mark 8 years since political prisoner Rodney Alvarez is behind bars without trial in Venezuela. Alvarez is an independent worker from the Ferrominera del Orinoco iron ore factory union. He is little known abroad since media attention has focused on high profile prisoners from the traditional parties. The government has jailed him without the right to defend himself on trial in order to send a brutal message to the worker’s movement: either stop struggling or face criminalization and repression.
This article first appeared in June 6, 2018, in LaClase.info, as part of the campaign #LiberenARodneyAlvarez (#FreeRodneyAlvarez) led by left opposition organizations in Venezuela such as Partido Socialismo y Libertad, Comadres Púrpuras, Marea Socialista and others.
Who is Rodney Alvarez?
He is a worker formerly employed by the state company Ferrominera del Orinoco, who has been detained for seven years through a judicial frame-up, without trial and therefore without sentence.
What is the judicial frame-up in which the worker Rodney Alvarez was implicated?
On June 9, 2011, while at an assembly to elect the electoral commission of the Ferrominera del Orinoco workers’ union, one of the workers, Renny Rojas, was shot twice. Workers attending the assembly and security cameras at the site witnessed and recorded Héctor Maicán, union leader and member of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), fire three shots into the crowd, wounding workers Luis Quilarque and Renny Rojas.
While trying to flee, Hector Maicán was detained by members of the National Guard, who confiscated his weapon. On June 10, the Prosecutor’s Office announced that Héctor Maicán was being detained for his apparent responsibility in the death of Renny Rojas but two days later he was released on his own recognizance, allegedly due to discrepancies in ballistic evidence. In fact, pressure from former Governor Francisco Rangel Gómez, who is closely linked to PSUV’s trade union mafias in Bolívar State, allowed the release of the person responsible for the crime, and the subsequent arrest of Rodney Álvarez as the alleged perpetrator of the shooting. But those attending the assembly and security cameras, reported and showed that Rodney Alvarez was far from where the shooting occurred
Why was Rodney Alvarez implicated in this judicial frame-up?
The government and union bureaucracy of the Bolívar State needed to incriminate another worker to relieve the union leader and militant of the PSUV, Héctor Maicán, from any criminal responsibility. Additionally, Rodney Alvarez was one of the workers who had promoted, under the leadership of Rubén González, independent and combative trade unionism in Ferrominera del Orinoco, which carried out a series of union actions in defense of collective bargaining and against outsourcing. His arrest served as a form of intimidation to workers organized and mobilized independently and without state subordination.
What is the legal situation of political prisoner Rodney Alvarez?
The trial of Rodney Alvarez was transferred to the judicial circuit of Caracas in order to weaken the active solidarity of his coworkers in Ferrominera del Orinoco. He is now being held in Miranda State. He has been awaiting trial for seven years while imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. On April 4 his judicial hearing was suspended again and he was called to a new court hearing on June 20. In light of this a group of political organizations and individuals demand the immediate and full release of Rodney Alvarez. With that objective we aim to intensify a campaign of solidarity with the worker and political prisoner #LiberenARodneyAlvarez.