Another Trade Union Leader Assassinated in Venezuela

¨Recently a pro-Chavez student leader was killed during a demonstration, eight police officers have been arrested in that incident.  In the past year there has been a spat of trade union assassinations in Venezuela carried out by right-wing guns for hires.  The same sort of thing has been happening in Colombia and across the Americas for decades.  It’s important to take note that the deaths of socialist activists gets no mention in the mainstream press, but any incident in Venezuela that reflects poorly on progressive forces are made to undermine the Chavez regime.  Class polarization and struggle is reaching its apex in Venezuela.  The following months will be defining ones for the Bolivarian Revolution. ~ ED

Mérida, May 6th 2009 ( -

Argenis Vasquez, a union leader in a Toyota plant in Cumana, Sucre state, was assassinated yesterday morning, triggering an occupation of that factory and quick investigations by government bodies.

"Two people, without saying a word, shot at the compatriot, Argenis Vasquez Marcano, killing him," said Tarek El Aissami, Venezuela’s minister for justice and internal affairs. "We reject this horrific crime and express our solidarity and sympathy to his family and co-workers," he said.

Vasquez, 33, was general secretary of the workers union at that Toyota assembly plant. According to one writer for he was also a student at the Venezuelan Bolivarian University and a spokesperson for his local community council.

The murder took place in the car park of the residential buildings where he lived. Two of the shots hit him in the head, causing his death. He was apparently going out to talk to a union lawyer and had just gotten off the phone to him. He had also received death threats recently.

El Aissami said that a commission from the national Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigation Unit (CICPC) would be investigating straight away. The commission will be working with the public prosecutor, which has also begun investigating.

The United, Classist, Revolutionary Current (CCURA) of the National Workers Union (Unete) asserts that Vasquez was murdered by hired killers and Jose Bodas, a petroleum union leader, along with CCURA, have called for mobilisations and car industry strikes against the "murderers who are decimating the revolutionary ranks" as Bodas said.

On November 29th last year, three trade union leaders of Unete were shot dead by armed assassins on motorbikes in Aragua state after participating in a labour dispute with a Colombian owned company. Journalists speculated that the attack was carried out by paramilitaries hired by the company and noted that the method of assassination resembled those used against unionists and activists in Colombia.

Various news sources report that as a result of the assassination of Vasquez, workers are occupying the Toyota factory and will maintain the occupation until "there is justice." On finding out about the murder, workers initially burned three vehicles and attacked the human resources manager of the company.

Last year workers at the Toyota plant protested against a decision by the company to send one group of shift workers to early, unpaid holidays. Vasquez said at the time that the measure was related to overproduction and that "the company is attempting to reduce stock and make the workers pay."

Then in March this year the 1600 workers of Toyota went on strike for 4 weeks over the management’s refusal to talk with them over the content of a statement made to the local labour inspectorate and for violating the workers’ collective contract. Vasquez told the media that "there are all kinds of problems including the quality of the food in the work cafeteria" and said the company wasn’t handing over 4% of vehicles made to the workers, as it was obligated to do.

Union leaders from Chrysler, MMC, Ford, General Motors, Oci-Metalmecánica, Dana Structural Solutions, Dana Tuboauto, Dana Ejes y Cardanes, Troquenal, Filtros Wix, Lear, Metalcar, Mamusa, Vivex and Macusa expressed their regret over the assassination and agreed to meet in Cumuna to discuss a plan of action with the Toyota workers.

In a collective press release the union leaders said, "Once again we have received a huge blow. It is a vile assassination of one of our most combatant fighters."

"Argenis Vazquez formed part of a new breed of classist and revolutionary union leaders from the automotive sector, who for years have been waging an important battle against the automotive transnationals, where they emphasise the struggle for health and life at work," the statement continued.

"Comrade Argenis began his struggle some years ago as delegate for prevention." The statement says that Argenis was unjustly fired at one point, then rehired, and then, "with a group of comrades he started to transform the union….from there a new chapter in the workers struggle at Toyota began…and with other class leaders of automotive companies he proposed [to the national government] a restructuring of automotive policy."

The press release concludes, "The best homage we can pay [to Vaszquez] is to not lose heart and to continue deepening the struggle for the emancipation of the working class."

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