MAC: Mines and Communities

Please write to President Chavez (first address) and copy your letter to the other officials listed

Published by MAC on 2004-12-15

Please write to President Chavez (first address) and copy your letter to the other officials listed officials listed

Hugo Chávez Frías - Presidente de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela
Avenida Urdaneta, Esquina de Bolero, Palacio de Miraflores.
Tel: 806 31 11
Vicepresidencia de la República

Dr. José Vicente Rangel - Vicepresidente Ejecutivo de la República
Avenida Urdaneta, Esquina de Carmelitas Edificio Vicepresidencia, piso 02.
Tel: 860 88 22/ 860 36 69/ 860 33 35

Ministerio de Energía y Minas
Ing. Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño - Ministro de Energía y Minas
Avenida Libertador, La Campiña, Edificio PDVSA, Torre Oeste
Tel: 708.12.29 / 708.42.13

Fiscalía General de la Nación
Dr. Isaías Rodríguez - Fiscal General de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela
Avenida México, Frente de la Plaza Parque Carabobo
Tel: 509-80-62 / Fax: 576-44-19

Defensoría del Pueblo
Dr. Germán Mundaraín - Defensor del Pueblo y Presidente del Consejo Moral Republicano
Avenida Urdaneta, esquina de Plaza España y Animas, Edificio Banco Latino, Piso 29.
Tel: 505-30-01 / 505-30-02

Here is the translation of the model letter provided at the end of the Spanish version of this urgent action (below). Please print out and post the Spanish version to President Chavez at the address provided, and copy it to one or more of the other officials listed. Please date and sign it and add your own address.

Dear Mr President,

I am writing to you in this way to express my profound concern about the threats made against human rights defender, Professor Lusbi Portillo, by the President of the state-owned company Corpozulia-Carbozulia, Brigade General Carlos Martinez, and by engineer Juan Rojas, an official of the Ministry of Energy and Mines of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The threats were made on 8 December 2004, during the discussions of Committee No.2 of the ‘Bolivarian Congress of Peoples’. At this event, Brigade General Carlos Martínez publicly made serious accusations against leading ecologists in the state of Zulia and in particular against Professor Lusbi Portillo. General Martínez’ actual words were: “Just as there exists a human rights mafia in Venezuela, environmentalists formed a green mafia. Behind this green mafia, opposed to the exploitation of coal in the Sierra de Perijá, are the counter revolutionaries and the transnational companies, and it was directed by the CIA.”

Afterwards, on 11 December, at a meeting involving representatives of Irish company Brendan Hynes, Corpozulia and the Ministry of Energy and Mine, Juan Rojas stated publicly that Professor Lusbi Portillo was ‘a terrorist who robbed MEM of three vehicles in Machiques for financial gain’. As the event went on, he continued making allusions to the presence of Professor Portillo in the meeting. It is worth adding that Lusbi Portillo has made public his opposition to coal mining projects in a number of statements which have appeared in the local newspaper The Truth.

Lusbi Portillo is the co-ordinator of the non-governmental organization Homo et Natura, dedicated to the defence of the environment. He is a professor of the University of Zulia and an associate member of the Assembly of the Venezuelan Programme for Education and Action in Human Rights (Provea), with a high profile in the human rights movement. The threats and defamatory remarks of which Lusbi Portillo has been made the subject by public officials fill me with a powerful concern for his life and the integrity of his person, and for those of other human rights and environmental activists in Zulia. I consider that these public statements constitute a clearly hostile act intended to instil terror, acts which are unacceptable coming from public officials in a democratic society. At the same time, these actions damage the right to participation in debate by communities affected by current and planned mining projects.

This concern is all the greater because of the possible consequences in an area affected by Plan Colombia, where there are frequent incursions by guerrillas and paramilitaries against the civil population, including the assassination of social leaders and human rights defenders like the Co-ordinator of the Vicariate of Human Rights in Machiques, Joe Castillo, killed by two hired murderers on 26 August 2003.

Because of all these things, I ask you very respectfully to order the establishment of an exhaustive inquirí into the statements made by the named officials and to take steps to protect the life and the physical and psychological integrity of Profesor Lusbi Portillo.

I also ask that the right of individuals and communities to express their criticisms of government projects which might damage their human and environmental rights should be explicitly guaranteed, without them being condemned, attacked or criticised.

Finally, Mr President, I ask that you keep me informed about the situation of Lusbi Portillo and about the result of the investigations and the measures taken in this case.

Confident of receiving news in the near future, I send you my greetings and remain

Yours faithfully, ….

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