In Venezuela, bishops condemn murder of 12 youths by government agents

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The flag of Venezuela. Credit: Alex Lanz via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) with filter.

The Venezuelan bishops' justice and peace commission on Tuesday repudiated the murders of 12 young men by an operation of the Liberation of the People, a government security team meant to combat crime and homicide.

The bodies of 12 youths were found in a mass grave in Barlovento, in Miranda state, Nov. 28. They had been missing since Oct. 15 after they were picked up by members of the Liberation of the People, created in July 2015 by President Nicolás Maduro and composed of police and government agents.

However, the human rights NGO Provea reported that since its inception, the Liberation of the People have been involved in more than 750 extrajudicial deaths.

The Venezuelan bishops Dec. 6 expressed their “profound sorrow over the events in the Barlovento region” and pointed out that these were “punishable acts.”

The bishops disowned the “indiscriminate” way the Liberation of the People operates and that “the government authorities have not fulfilled their duty to prevent the violation of human rights” that have been committed “throughout the entire country.”

They also criticized the “haughty and deaf attitude of the government authorities” who “refuse to abide by international jurisprudence” as well as the recommendations of NGOs “to respect and guarantee human rights”. They likewise denounced the “bellicose, aggressive, and discriminatory language” that justifies the denial of human dignity “and legitimizes the ongoing use of violence as a means to solve the problems that are affecting society.”

They therefore urged the public authorities to put “into actual effect the laws and regulations developed by the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.”

They also encouraged Catholics and people of good will to be “defenders and cultivators of human life in all its stages; not participating in or collaborating in actions that attack the right to life, thus fulfilling their duty as Christians and citizens that build and work for peace” as well as “rejecting all language” that legitimizes “violence and the counterculture of death.”

Finally, they expressed their solidarity “with the relatives of the 12 murdered youths, for whom we persistently pray to God, that he may give them strength and consolation in these painful moments and that he would allow swift and effective justice, that leaves no room for impunity.”

The Public Ministry reported Dec. 7 that they will charge Major Luis Eduardo Romero Arcia and Captain Daniel Contreras Primera, both of the Venezuelan Army, for alleged responsibility for the torture and subsequent death of the 12 persons. 

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