Caracas, August 15th of 2019
Ruben Gonzalez, secretary general of Sintraferrominera, the iron-workers’ union of the Ferrominera del Orinoco complex, has been sentenced to 5 years and 9 months of incarceration in the La Pica prison in Monagas state.
Gonzalez was arrested in a police check-point in Anaco, Anzoátegui State, on November 30th of 2018, in the context of protests and demands for respect to collective bargaining agreements and salary scales. He was returning from a workers’ rally in Caracas convoked by the Venezuela Workers’ Intersectorial (ITV), in which these demands were raised. These union-busting measures have been carried out by the government as part of the Program of Economic Recovery, Growth and Prosperity initiated on August 20th 2018, and have had the effect of decreasing benefits for workers in primary industries by over 70%.
Besides Gonzalez, last year over 14 workers of primary industries were arrested in the context of these protests. The rest was released with probationary measures. However, Gonzalez was submitted to trial in a military tribunal, accused of ‘affronting the centinel’ and ‘affronting the Armed National Forces’.
This is the second time Gonzalez is condemned to prison. In 2009, he was imprisoned by the Chávez government for heading a strike in Ferrominera. In 2011, he was condemned to 7 years, 6 months and 2 days of prison. Two days later, his sentence was annulled by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. In that occasion there were great mobilizations around his cause in Guayana, with strikes in primary industries, and even a growing threat of a general strike; Chávez was defeated, and the sentence was annulled. In a new trial, Gonzalez was absolved. But yesterday, the military court prosecuting him sentenced him to 5 years and 9 months of prison.
C-cura condemns the military sentence against Gonzalez
The Classist, Unitary, Revolutionary and Autonomous Current (C-CURA) strongly condemns the decision. “With this decision dictated by military courts, the government incurs in unconstitutional procedures, and demonstrated the de facto imposition of a state of exception, violating article 49 of the Constitution that establishes that all persons have the right to be judged by their corresponding natural judges… in the case of Ruben Gonzalez, the government resorted to military justice to continue its campaign of subjugation and intimidation on the workers of the country”, the Left opposition union tendency stated.
“Our syndical current rejects this sentence against Rubén Gonzalez and denounces this practice as another demonstration of the anti-worker character of this government. This is the same government that imposes hunger wages with the austerity ‘package’ known as the Economic Recovery, Growth and Prosperity Program, and that destroys collective bargaining agreements with the Memorandum 2792… We call on all workers and the Venezuelan trade union movement to mobilize as it did in 2011, when it managed to stop the previous sentencing attempt against Gonzalez”.
C-cura demands “the immediate freedom of Rubén Gonzalez, Rodney Alvarez, and all other workers imprisoned for struggling and protesting. We demand an end to the criminalization of protests, and we call upon the country’s workers to unite their strengths to confront government repression and the private sector bosses’ violations of our rights”.