Workers and activists of the Venezuelan left opposition gathered in Caracas in front of the Tribunals to demand Rodney Alvarez’s freedom this Monday morning. Members of the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSL), the C-cura union tendency, alternative web page La Guarura and other organizations demonstrated. At the same time, a protest led by leftist organizations in Buenos Aires gathered in front of the Venezuelan embassy with the same demand. Congress member and Socialist Left leader, Juan Carlos Giordano, took part in the demonstration, as well as Ademys teacher union leader Jorge Adaro, and activists from RyR and other organizations. Messages of solidarity from Argentinian unions were read in front of the Venezuelan embassy.
Two days earlier, Alvarez had begun a hunger strike to increase pressure on the regime to free him.
Rodney Álvarez is a worker of the state-owned company Ferrominera del Orinoco who has been jailed as a political prisoner since 2011, without a judicial verdict or the right to defend himself in court. In the years of the Chavez government a judicial farce was set up against him to intimidate the Venezuelan working class, especially the workers of the state owned iron and aluminum companies in Bolivar state, in the southeastern region of Venezuela. For more than eight years he has been kept arbitrarily in Venezuela’s prisons, which are among the most dangerous in the world. He has survived two attempts on his life that have left him with one hand crippled.
The Chavista regime, in spite claiming to be socialist, is in reality a brutal capitalist regime which has imposed semi slavery working conditions on millions of workers. It has imposed wages of less than $10 per month that condemn most workers to hunger and misery, forcing more than 4 million people to leave Venezuela in the last five years according to UN statistics. In order to advance its brutal labor program, the regime has annulled union and workers organizing rights. More than a hundred workers are currently on trial for striking or demanding better working conditions. Since November 2019 the general secretary of the Ferrrominera union, Ruben Gonzalez, is kept in prison for organizing a strike, without access to medical treatment. Union elections have been suspended since 2014 in the oil industry and the main steel company, Sidor.
In this repressive context, Alvarez has denounced the judicial farce to which he has been subjected, announcing last august that he would not attend the hearings of the trial. Audiences are called several times a year, only to be suspended because the state prosecutors don´t show up in the courts or the authorities change the judges in charge of the trial. The government resorts to keeping the trial suspended since there is no evidence to convict Alvarez of the crime he is accused of.
On June 9, 2011, during a union assembly in Ferrominera del Orinoco, worker Renny Rojas was murdered by a PSUV union agent, Hector Maican, according to numerous witnesses and the security camera footage. Maican was detained for two days for the crime, but then released under pressure from the Chavista government. After this, the regime decided to frame Rodney Álvarez, a politically independent worker.
The framing of Rodney Álvarez generated protests from workers in Ferrominera and other factories. The government, in order to weaken the movement, moved the trial to Caracas and held Rodney Álvarez in the fearsome El Rodeo II prison, 650 kilometres from Ciudad Piar, where his family and fellow workers live. Since 2011, a campaign by left opposition organizations in Venezuela has been underway to demand freedom for the man who now is the country’s longest-incarcerated political prisoner.