They shot dead the 24-year old son of an old personal friend in Barquisimeto at around 7.00 a.m. Thursday morning. Apparently, a car with three persons aboard passed by the house as young Mijail left his dad's car running with keys in the ignition.
Grieving father Victor Martinez
Victor Martinez said he heard three shots and ran out to find his son lying on the floor.
One of the criminals got out and fired three shots, walking calmly away from his victim. As is usual in emergencies, the lad was put into the car and rushed to the nearest clinic but by the time he arrived he was already dead. The car wasn't stolen.
I've known Victor on and off for 35 years and at one time, frequently visited the house Victor was building with Rosa, his wife and where Mijail was fatally wounded. When I met Victor for the first time at his mother's house, he was an influential and well-liked member of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) of Venezuela and after handing over national leadership he started off another organization for workers.
After that we lost touch although we met occasionally with a warm abrazo.
After Chavez came to office in 1999, Victor was one of the founders of the Lara State Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) and was elected to Lara State Council. It was not an easy ride because Martinez started to detect and denounce acts of corruption by councillors and one of his main targets was police murder squads.
Martinez was at the center of a strong publicity campaign when 10 young men were murdered by the police in Los Pocitos (Barquisimeto west).
While seven of the deceased were known criminals, the three others were innocent and that incensed the community. Judges came under Victor's scrutiny as well and as one friend observed he opened up many fronts of attack on corruption. From what I can gather, there was a falling out with many MVR and later United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) colleagues.
The police say they are not ruling out any hypothesis, but there are strong indications that the killing could have been the work of hired assassins. Mijail worked with his father as producer of a weekly local TV show, "Victoria Popular," on a project dealing with police murder squads and had just had a project accepted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE) to produce a short film on a boat being built in Argentina.
In his grief Victor has sworn to continue to fight against corruption and he recriminates against President Chavez for not showing enough political will to confront violent crime in Venezuela.
For most Venezuelans, crime has become the main problem and they are not convinced by the current government spin that the surge in crime is due to an invasion of Colombian paramilitaries. Perhaps ... but there is sneaking conviction that many of the murders, kidnappings and car thefts are the work of former and/or active corrupt police and military officers.
The so-called 'social intelligence policy' ... whereby communities collaborate with police to point the finger at local hoods ... is not working because of fear and in the grassroots of government, there is a growing call for more drastic measures of social control over the police and their criminal organizations, a cleansed judiciary and an end to impunity.
If Chavez and PSUV delegates do not address the issue satisfactorily next year, it will definitely affect their chances of a clear majority in the new National Assembly (AN) as the opposition have managed to wrest and control the issue for political gain up till now.
May Mijail Martinez Rest in Peace! The struggle continues!