By Irene Revilla and Francisco Chirinos.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho.
For the alleged crimes of terrorism, association to commit crimes, and treason, Guillermo Zarraga, 56, worker of the Paraguana Refining Complex (CRP), was deprived of liberty this Tuesday, November 24, in a hearing held in Caracas. A 36-years PDVSA worker, Zarraga had recently expressed sympathy for National Assembly President Juan Guaido and his plans for the renewal of the oil industry.
The arrest of Zárraga comes only days after Eudis Girot, a worker with 26 years of experience in the state oil firm PDVSA decorated by Hugo Chavez himself with the Order of the Liberator, suffered a similar fate and facing the same charges.
Girot is the executive director of the Unitary Federation of Oil Workers of Venezuela (Futpv). For his part, Guillermo Zarraga is the secretary of claims of the Single Union of Oil, Gas, and Energy Workers of Falcon (Sutpgef).
The pattern of harassment is worrying and noted by the UN and other organizations. Zarraga was arrested on November 11, the first time, together with his wife Ana Emilia Medina de Zarraga, and later released. However, on November 14, he got arrested again. According to his son, officers took out Zárraga of the house without words and reason.
The information was provided by attorney Harold Guerrero, who has accompanied the family since the arbitrary detention of Zarraga in his house in Coro, capital of the state of Falcon.
Zarraga was arrested in Falcon state but transported to the capital city of Caracas, violating his natural jurisdiction, Guerrero stated. Now, he is detaining in the headquarters of the General Directorate of Military Counter-intelligence (Dgcim), which according to a United Nations report published weeks ago, is a notorious torture site. Local NGO Provea also reported this year that Dgcim carries out about 65% of all reported instances of torture in Venezuela.
Attorney Guerrero also said the prisoner was forced into accepting a public defender from the regime, a common and widely denounced tactic. The public defender insists that the prisoner then pleads guilty and throws himself at the mercy of the court under threat of mistreatment at the hands of regime law enforcement, people familiar with the practice told El Pitazo.
Local human rights NGO Provea denounced Thursday that both the detention of unionist Eudis Girot and that of his peer, Guillermo Zarraga, confirms that arbitrary and systematic arrests do exist in Venezuela.
“The detention of oil unionists Eudis Girot and Guillermo Zarraga by the Dgcim is a confirmation of the arbitrary and systematic detentions in Venezuela and the persistent harassment and persecution of unionists who do not comply with anti-labor policies,” the NGO publishes on Twitter.
The turn of Girot
Eudis Girot was arrested on the night of November 18 by Dgcim officials who took him away after presenting an arrest warrant against him, but without knowing which court issued it or for what charges.
In October, the unionist said that he knew about a warrant. Before this, Girot had reported in October that he had information about an arrest warrant against him for organizing and being part of the protests of oil workers, who have been demanding socio-economic improvements for months.
In Carabobo, the oil worker and labor leader, Horacio Silva rejected the arrest of Girot, and he called it absurd because what the unionist has denounced are public and notorious facts of the oil industry.
“Girot is accused of terrorism and criminal association, as well as of revealing confidential information of PDVSA. But, what he denounced is the truth of the oil industry. All these facts take their toll on the installations of the state oil company,” Horacio Silva assured El Pitazo on November 23.
Silva dismissed the arguments against the oil leader of Puerto La Cruz and recalled that Girot has been subject to a precautionary measure for ten years. According to this, authorities of the regime prohibited him from entering the oil facilities, so the accusations that he is either carrying out or planning terror attacks, delivering or spreading strategic information of PDVSA is absurd.
“The information that Eudis Girot has provided to the media is the reality of the underpaid oil workers, who were left unattended by Manuel Quevedo, during his bad management at PDVSA, eliminated the System for the Protection of Oil Workers Health (Sicoprosa). This is public and notorious,” said Horacio Silva.
The union man also commented that they have information from Eudis Girot through a colleague who has followed his situation closely and keeps them informed of the case. “He is well. He is a clear leader in his positions of defense of the working class. He is very strong,” said Silva.
Eudis Girot was deprived of his liberty on the evening of November 18 in Puerto la Cruz and presented to the eastern city courts on charges of terrorism and criminal association. The court rejected the case, arguing that it has no jurisdiction in the matter and he was transferred to the capital city Caracas.