By Maria Fernanda Rodriguez.
On February 27, 2015, Alcedo Mora Marquez disappeared after he met with his boss, Enrique Martinez Rico, the Secretary of the Interior of Merida state. Mora was worried and had proof of cheap Venezuelan gasoline being smuggled into Colombia by gangs, in complicity with authorities from the state oil firm PDVSA, and he told Martínez.
Then, he vanished, without a trace, to this day. Not only that: two days later, two Colombian brothers working for Mora, Jesus Esneider Vergel, and Eliecer Vergel also disappeared.
The cases of Alcedo Mora and the Vergel brothers is considered, by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, as forced disappearances. To date, there are no traces of either of them. The Venezuelan justice system has not made any pronouncements on this case since November 2017. No person has detained because of the three disappearances.
And, wherever they may be, Mora and the Vergel brothers are, sadly, not alone. Local human-rights NGO Provea registered 199 cases of forced disappearances in Venezuela between 2000 and 2018. Another NGO documented 77 disappearances between 2012 and 2020, strictly in Southern Venezuela alone.
Disappearances and corruption
Mora’s oldest son, Alcedo Junior, assured that the disappearance of his father got linked to the evidence he had of gasoline smuggling by the Governor Office of Merida during the administration of Alexis Ramirez, with the consent of then-president of PDVSA, Rafael Ramirez.
“My dad had an original, signed paper from Rafael Ramirez, which had been passed on to him by people attached to PDVSA from El Vigia (a city in Merida)…they were giving away all the scam that was there, in the filling station. How, there were tanker trucks and how fuel was coming out of there that was not controlled by the regulations but was coming out through ‘green roads’ (illegal border crossings used by gangs to human trafficking o smuggling). The gasoline and everything produced there, they were taking out,” Alcedo Mora Jr. told El Pitazo in 2018.
In the case of Jesus and Eliecer Vergel, one of their sisters, Danny Vergel, stated that the disappearance of their brothers is related to that of Alcedo Mora.
Justice in silence
On May 13, 2015, the legal team of the Human Rights Observatory of the University of Los Andes (ODH-ULA in Spanish) assisted the children of Alcedo Mora and filed an appeal for protection, Habeas Corpus, before the Control Court of the state of Merida. The appealing was not admitted by the judge, arguing that the case could not be considered an enforced disappearance.
On June 28, 2016, Venezuelan human-rights NGO Provea took the case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. This international body requested action from the Venezuelan government, but since November 2017, Venezuelan justice institutions have not reported any progress on investigations of the case.