In the initial phase of the 90 day-probe into Chacao’s municipal police force (POLICHACAO), President Nicolás Maduro made public evidence revealing that local officers are training with United States police and are in daily communication with the US Embassy.
National police authorities opened an investigation into the opposition-controlled municipality’s police force following the murder of Army Major General Félix Velásquez allegedly at the hands of POLICHACAO officers on Sunday, May 29 in Santa Mónica, Caracas.
“We found that a group of officials and officers are training in the United States, sent by the US Embassy. We found a connection between the Director and Sub-Director, [along with] daily conversations with the US Embassy,” said Maduro from the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense in the nation’s capital.
The South American leader accused POLICHACAO of being at the center of a criminal conspiracy, denouncing the police department’s links to what he termed “paramilitary criminal bands”.
Maduro criticized right-wing Chacao Mayor Ramón Machado for his alleged lack of initiative in resolving the issues within the Polichacao department, citing the experience of Venezuela’s violent 2013 and 2014 opposition protests known as the guarimbas. Polichacao serves the largely upper middle class municipality of Chacao on the east side of Caracas.
At that time, the Venezuelan government condemned Machado and other opposition mayors for failing to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities to ensure people’s safe transit and the protection of public as well as private property. Their officers have been accused of actively participating, supporting or failing to prevent guarimba protests.
“How much this Mayor, Ramon Muchacho, knows about this, I don’t believe anything he says, they are experts in the “I didn’t do it”, the oligarchy who order to kill and then wash their hands,” said Maduro.
Irregularities violate police norms
Similarly, Minister for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace Gustavo González López detailed other irregularities. He said that authorities have found: five 9mm calibre pistols with erased serial numbers as well as seventeen 9mm pistols and thirty 12mm rifles that were not declared to the General Direction of Arms and Explosives (DAEX) as inoperative. He also denounced the disappearance of 27,500 9mm cartridges.
“Arms are going astray for criminal ends,” the Minister stressed. “This irregularity allows for the reuse of parts and pieces that could alter the results of criminal investigations which could benefit the authors [of these crimes], the illicit sale [of weapons] and other criminal practices, violating the norms which police units are obliged to follow including the registration, report and return of arms in disuse,” González emphasized.
The weapon used to kill Major General Vélazquez was also found among weapons at the police headquarters.
González also announced that during the investigation, a new POLICHACAO police chief will serve starting Monday June 6th. The Venezuelan government’s probe into the municipal police will continue for a remaining eight weeks.
Citing an unnamed source, the Venezuelan newspaper Últimas Noticias published last Wednesday that in addition to US training, a group of POLICHACAO officers have also allegedly received training by Israeli forces.
The US and Israel have gained notoriety for their involvement in training and financing state security forces across the Americas, fueling allegations of rampant human rights abuses, repression and counterinsurgency tactics.
In Honduras, social movements have denounced the US role in the militarization and policing of their country which have contributed to the death of hundreds of human rights activists, indigenous peoples and farmers. The US School of the Americas (also known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) was responsible in the training of Honduran military officials such as Romeo Vázquez Vélazquez who carried out the 2009 coup d’état against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.
Additionally, in Colombia, there is considerable research and reporting into Israeli training not only of police and military officials but also paramilitary units. Israel is known for its supply of guns, planes and other weapon systems throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
US sheriffs, police officers, US Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Units have regularly traveled to Israel to learn the latest in “counter-terrorism” techniques as well.