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PROFILE | Jose Pinto, the 70s guerrilla indicted for murder

Jose Tomás Pinto Marrero was imprisoned for the kidnapping of American businessman William Niehous in the 1970s, a case that shook Venezuela to its core. Now, Pinto stands accused of being involved in the murder of a 16-year-old boy. The former guerrilla was an ally of Hugo Chavez and became a government contractor. Today he owns a farm and a radio station.


By Nadeska Noriega.

Jose Tomás Pinto Marrero, the founder of the Tupamaro Revolutionary Movement, and a deputy in the Legislative Council of the state of Vargas are in the eye of the hurricane.

On June 15, after days of rumors, the attorney general of the Nicolas Maduro government, Tarek William Saab, introduced an arrest warrant against the Tupamaro leader, for his alleged involvement in the murder of a 16-year-old boy, who was found buried in a land property of Pinto, located in the town of Chuspa, in Vargas state.

Pinto Marrero, 67, who was captured after a confrontation with officials of the Scientific and Investigation Police, is a guerrilla turned politician with nearly 50 years of political activism in Caracas and Vargas state. He was born in the parish of El Recreo in Caracas, on September 2, 1952.

His beginnings

He began his political career as a student leader in the Manuel Palacios Fajardo and Luis Espelozin high schools, where he joined the then-booming urban guerrilla movement. His first known militancy was in the Bandera Roja (Red Flag) party, and he focused his political and social operations in the 23 de Enero sector, where he resided most of his life.

Pinto Marrero has been jailed twice -including eight years in a military prison in the 70s, once accused of being involved in the kidnapping of American businessman William Frank Niehous, and another time, charged with subversion.

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His leadership consolidated in the 1980s, with the development of the so-called colectivos in the 23 de Enero barrio. However, a conflict between the Tupamaros and a newer organization, also based in the 23 de Enero, Colectivo La Piedrita, escalated to a personal confrontation with La Piedrita leader, Valentin Santana, so Pinto decided to move back to Vargas state, in Macuto.

The attorney general of the Nicolas Maduro government, Tarek William Saab, introduced an arrest warrant against the Tupamaro leader, for his alleged involvement in the murder of a 16-year-old boy.

In Vargas, Pinto began movements to support the protests against President Carlos Andres Perez and joined the first meetings of the MBR-200, a political party organized by a former military officer and organizer of failed coups against Perez in 1992: Hugo Chavez.

It was Pinto who insisted on the new movement focus, at least partially, in armed struggle to accompany the electoral activity.

Tupamaro getting stronger

After 1998, the Tupamaro Movement registered as a political party: while it faithfully followed the PSUV ruling party and the Great Patriotic Pole coalition, the party never had any real success in electoral contests. Pinto, however, always had the personal endorsement of Chavez.

Between 2003 and 2005, Pinto registered two construction companies that became contractors with the Chavez administration. Ministries, as well as the Vargas municipality under Mayor Alexis Toledo, contracted with the Pinto companies.

In September 2007, he was the target of a shooting attack. Arriving at the door of his house in Macuto, a man riding a motorcycle fired six shots at him. Pinto held Valentin Santana responsible for this event.

Pinto has been elected twice as a lawgiver in the Vargas Council (2014-2018 / 2018 – 2022), where he keeps the record of non-attendance in the sessions.

A new chance to make it big in national politics came in 2015 when the Great Patriotic Pole, the coalition of pro-chavism parties, chose him to run for a seat in the National Assembly legislative, representing Vargas state but Pinto lost to Juan Guaido.

Just as his Tupamaro party getting stronger, Pinto incomes were diversifying. In 2010, he became the owner of a farm, with one and a half hectares of land, in the sector El Trapiche, in the border between Vargas and Miranda.

The Tupamaro leader quickly renamed the place La Tupareña, and it was there where law enforcement says the corpse of a murdered minor found. Activities related to the Tupamaro party carried out there.

According to the version provided by some militants of the movement, there are other La Tupareña farms in Anzoategui, Delta Amacuro, Bolivar, Sucre, and Monagas but is unknown if are also owned by Pinto Marrero.

Another of the Pinto’s business developments was the purchase of four boats for fishing operations in Chuspa, and the purchase three years ago, of a radio station, which operates in a house in the upscale Los Corales neighborhood. It was at the radio station that police arrested him up at noon, June 15.

Members of the Tupamaro movement pointed out that the Pinto case is about a kidnapping by the authorities. Photo by N. Noriega.

Some Tupamaro members say the arrest is merely payback from Vargas governor, Jorge Garcia Carneiro, with whom Pinto have long-standing political confrontations.

Court dictating custody

For the crimes of intentional homicide, with treachery and futile and ignoble motives in the degree of co-author, the Control Court ordered the Tupamaro leader, José Tomás Pinto, to be deprived of his liberty.

The court also the crime of illegitimate deprivation of liberty and conviction for the murder of the teenager George Soto Berroterán, 16-years-old, and the injuries caused to the fisherman Juan Romero, 20 years old.

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