(Mérida, 06/08/2020) – On June 8, 2019, Wuilderman Paredes Moreno, 32 years old, was killed by a shot in the chest with a firearm fired from less than two meters away by an official of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB, by its acronym in Spanish). The incident took at night in Los Llanitos de Tabay, Santos Marquina municipality in the Merida state, during an attack by PNB against unarmed civilians who had been waiting for gasoline for more than a week.
The order to attack unarmed civilians with firearm and shot that day was given by the head of the PNB of the Merida state, Juan Batista Cordero Freites, who was present during the event. Cordero is one of the five police officers who remain in prison for this case while the trial is taking place, which began more than six months after the assassination, and it has been riddled of irregularities.
The Observatory of Human Rights of the University Los Andes (ODH-ULA), whose legal team represents the victims by extension of the case, insists that the assassination of Wuilderman Paredes and the injuries caused to two other people during the police attack were not the collateral result of an action to disperse a protest or a disturbance of public order, It was a crime committed by a police officer in the performance of his duties, who was carrying out an order from his superior.
This regrettable fact was the result of a progressive and differentiated use of force with the misuse of regulation weapons and a total lack of training on the part of the officials who carried out the attack. The crimes committed by those involved are covered in the Venezuelan Criminal Code and international human rights conventions.
Trial with severe irregularities
Before that the trial in this case finally began on January 13, there were six deferrals to requests from the defense to hold an identification parade of witnesses presented by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The witnesses were not located by the Prosecution to comply with these identifications. Finally, on September 6, 2019, the Control Court, in conjunction with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, declined the request for identification parade without the presence of the defense, which was the part requested.
The most severe irregularity in the judicial procedure of this case denounced by ODH-ULA was the performance as defense lawyer of one of the defendants by Efraín Alexis Rivas Sosa, who in November 2019 was appointed Acting Assistant Prosecutor in the Board of Flagrante attached to the Superior Prosecution of Public Prosecutor’s Office of Judicial District of the Mérida State. This double role as lawyer and prosecutor ceased when this Observatory publicly denounced to him.
However, in the preliminary hearing, which was carried out five consecutive days, the Court of Control did not admit the particular accusation of ODH-ULA due to erroneous legal criteria. The Observatory filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals of the Judicial Circuit of Merida, which has not given a response for more than eight months since that this was filed.
Also, ODH-ULA denounces that the Prosecutor’s Office constantly restricts access to the case file, despite the fact that the legal representatives of this Observatory have a special power of attorney by the mother and wife of Wuilderman Paredes, who are victims by extension of the case.
Actually, the case is being known by the Fifth Trial Court, whose judge in charge deferred the start of the trial on three occasions. It claims that the judge in charge was on vacation. At the present, five trial proceedings have been carried out, and currently they have been interrupted by the national quarantine decree. This violates due process established in Articles 49 and 337 of the Venezuelan Constitution.
On November 12, 2019, representatives of ODH-ULA presented this case with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), during its 174th session period, organized in Quito, Ecuador. The assassination of Wuilderman Paredes is considered an extrajudicial execution committed by the Bolivarian National Police.
Recently, during the in loco visit carried out on February 6 and 7, 2020 by IACHR commissioners in Cúcuta, Colombia -in view of the refusal of the facto Venezuelan regime to allow this commission into the country- ODH-ULA exposed this case. Gerardo Paredes, cousin of Wuilderman Paredes and who almost lost his life for more than 12 shots received during the same incident, the IACHR said what happened to rapporteurs.
Two women and a baby helpless
María Leonora Moreno, mother of Wuilderman Paredes, and Zulibeth Dugarte, his wife and mother of his daughter, they are together with the baby of only one year and a half, the three victims by extension of this case. Nobody of them have been compensated or remunerated by the State. The Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the appeal for compensation and remuneration for them introduced by ODH-ULA.
This Observatory insists on denouncing that events like this are the consequence of a State policy that seeks to instill terror in the population. The attack with excessive and disproportionate use of strength has left hundreds dead and thousands critically injured in Venezuela during the illegitimate government of Nicolás Maduro, at the hands of those who must guarantee the security and defense of citizens.