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Venezuela: linked tragedies of a family

Freedom for imprisoned trade unionist Rodney Álvarez


LAB received the following appeal from our Venezuelan partner, Ojos Ilegales (Francisco Elias Prada and Ángela Rodríguez Torres). We have added additional background material.

Rodney Álvarez, a worker at the giant Ferrominera del Orinoco iron ore complex, in the Guayana region of Venezuela, was accused and imprisoned in 2011 for a crime that occurred during a trade union dispute. Álvarez belonged to an independent union which was in fierce dispute with the provincial government and those unions which supported it. During a trade union assembly, shots were fired and a worker, Renny Rojas, was killed. Álvarez was arrested and accused of murder, but evidence from witnesses and security cameras shows that he was nowhere near the scene of the shooting.

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Video: Ojos Ilegales. December 2021

While Rodney was in prison, his wife, on her way to work, died after being hit by a vehicle. Yanitza Rodríguez, his mother, takes care of Rodney’s three children.

In 2017, the precarious economic situation in which the family were living drove Rodney’s younger brother, 28 years old, to seek work in the mines of El Dorado. He was killed and dismembered by one of the thugs who control the area – for refusing to hand over to him the little he had earned from his work. This crime has never been investigated.

Yanitza Rodríguez, the grandmother, lives on a small-holding in Bolivar State in very precarious economic conditions, despite the help she receives from her daughter. This is another case of women becoming the unseen victims of injustices committed against members of their family.

On 8 June 2021, Rodney was sentenced to 15 years in prison, of which he has already served 10 on remand. During that time the trial was repeatedly restarted and the judge changed three times. The latest judge prevented his defence lawyer from presenting closing arguments.

His three children have not only lost their mother, but suffer the economic and social deprivation caused by the imprisonment of their father. They cannot even visit him in the El Rodeo II jail in Caracas, more than 500km from Ciudad Piar, where the family lives. Rodney Alvarez has not seen his children for 10 years, since he was imprisoned. He has lost his work, social and family world. While in Venezuela’s notoriously violent prison system, he has been attacked three times, shot, stabbed and brutally beaten. One of his hands is permanently injured.

How to explain the violation of so many linked rights for a crime that witnesses and his defence layers can prove he did not commit?

Any human being shocked by this family tragedy can only demand justice and freedom for Rodney Alvarez and take their petitions to International Organizations, such as the ILO, Michael Bachelet and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

The justice system that condemned him will never be able to compensate him for all that has been taken from him.

We urge all human rights organizations to pronounce themselves on the tragic situation of this family triggered by the unjust prison sentence handed down to this Venezuelan worker.