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Venezuela4 September 2006

Arrest of man suspected of ordering killing of journalist Mauro Marcano

Reporters Without Borders welcomed the arrest in Trinidad-and-Tobago of Ceferino García, suspected head of a drug cartel, alleged to have ordered the murder of Mauro Marcano, presenter on local Radio Maturín 1.080 AM and columnist on the daily El Oriental.

The organisation however condemned delays in the investigation and the failure to bring anyone to trial two years after the 1st September 2004 murder in Maturín, Monagas state in north-east Venezuela.

“The arrest of Ceferino García is clearly good news if his implication in Mauro Marcano’s murder is established and his evidence moves the investigation forward,” the press freedom organisation said.

“However in two years, five other people strongly suspected of involvement in the killing have never been arrested. Neither has the investigation probed the links between drug-trafficking and certain police and military authorities in Monagas state revealed by Marcano. No conviction has ever been obtained. The arrest of Ceferino García is the chance for the justice system to reopen the investigation and put an end to two years of impunity”, it said.

"The Venezuelan authorities should promptly seek the extradition of the alleged drug-trafficker from their Trinidadian counterparts", it added.

Marcano was shot dead in the car park at his home after being ambushed by two men. He had exposed collusion in an editorial for El Oriental, between General Alexis Maneiro Gómez, (then head of Regional Comando 7), and other officers, with Ceferino García, suspected head of the Cartel del Sol (Sun cartel), a Colombian gang active on the country’s east coast.

Marcano believed he was in danger, family members said, and two weeks before his death he had shared his fears with Venezuelan vice-president, José Vicente Rangel, himself a former journalist. He even named the officers who he believed were working with the cartel: Gen. Alexis Maneiro Gómez, Col. Juan Fabricio Tirry, head of the mission to the defence ministry and José Manuel del Moral, former chief of police in Monagas state. None of these men have ever been summoned by investigators.

Ceferino Garcia was arrested in Port of Spain (capital of Trinidad-and-Tobago) in the last week of August 2006. His name was on a list of people being sought by Venezuelan police for the past year. Also on the list were his son, Carlos Andrés García Martínez, as well as Edgardo José Salazar and Henry Mendoza, the two suspected hired killers and an intermediary, Douglas Rocca Cermeño. His brother, Hector Rocca Cermeño, who agreed to collaborate with the justice system, has said that Ceferino García personally planned the killing and set aside 36,000 euros for the job.

A spokesman for the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) told Reporters Without Borders in May 2005 that blocks had been put on the Marcano case. At the same time the judicial commission of the TSJ announced the suspension of some 15 judges suspecting of conniving with drug-traffickers.

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