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News > Latin America

Venezuela Condemns Police Killing of Teenager, Promises Justice

  • Venezuela Ministry of People’s Power chief Nestor Reverol.

    Venezuela Ministry of People’s Power chief Nestor Reverol. | Photo: AVN

Published 7 April 2017

The Venezuelan government has detained a transit police officer accused of killing a teenager and plans to implement criminal charges against him.

Venezuela’s Ministry of People’s Power, MPPRIJP, released a statement on Friday condemning the recent police murder of 19-year-old Jairo Johan Ortiz, who was killed amid violent opposition protests. 

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On Thursday, transit police officer Rohenluis Leonel Mata shot Ortiz in the Venezuelan state of Miranda, killing the teenager on site. Mata believed Ortiz was one of many opposition protesters inciting violence against the socialist government — for days, right-wing protesters have been attacking police in protest against President Nicolas Maduro.

After carefully investigating the case, however, the MPPRIJP discovered that Ortiz was not involved in any public demonstration or act of violence. Upon proving Ortiz’s innocence, the MPPRIJP immediately detained Mata, who is set to face criminal charges. 

“The Venezuelan state firmly repudiates this vile action and calls for peace, exhorting competent organs to make sure that justice is served and that the full weight of the law be applied to the person responsible for taking the life of an innocent young man,” MPPRIJP chief Nestor Reverol said in a statement.

“It should be noted that this officer acts on his own account, since the nature of the functions he performs (transit service), does not correspond to the functions of public order, nor is it formed in the progressive and differentiated use of our police force.”

Venezuelan Ombudsman Tarek William Saab also condemned the killing, promising Venezuelans to “not let this serious crime go unpunished.”

“In response to the vile murder of the young Jairo Ortiz, we express our firm condemnation to this despicable act and would like to inform you that I am in talks with the MPPRIJP in order to investigate and sanction the deplorable act.”

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Venezuelan Vice President Tarek El Aissami on Thursday slammed the ongoing opposition protests, claiming the violent demonstrations are part of a U.S.-backed coup plot to topple the socialist government.

El Aissami, who heads the country’s Anti-Coup Command, claims right-wing protesters were planning to create “guarimbas” nearby the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. Guarimbas are street blockades created by masked protesters who burn tires and other garbage to throw at police.

Opposition protesters began using the violent tactic in 2014 during the right-wing “La Salida” campaign, which left over 40 people dead.

El Aissami said the "guarimberos" were planning to generate enough violence in downtown Caracas to promote international intervention. Protesters faced off with police on Caracas’ main highway, launching rocks and molotov cocktails. Army vehicles were eventually called in, retaliating with water cannons and tear gas.

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