Chile says killing of Venezuelan opposition figure in Santiago was political

By Thomson Reuters Apr 12, 2024 | 1:46 PM

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – The February kidnap and murder of a Venezuelan opposition figure in Chile was ordered from Venezuela and likely political, according to Chile’s prosecutor’s office, and the government will seek to extradite two suspects who fled to Venezuela.

In the early hours of Feb. 21, 32-year-old Ronald Ojeda, a former Venezuelan lieutenant who Venezuela accuses of treason for plotting against the government, was taken out of his apartment in Santiago in his underwear by men dressed as Chilean police, security camera images showed. His body appeared on March 2 inside a suitcase, buried in cement in a Santiago suburb.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Chilean Interior Minister Carolina Toha said the suspects, who were not identified, “received the order to carry out this kidnapping. The most plausible hypothesis is that there was some political motive.”

The Venezuelan government did not respond to a request for comment.

Toha added that President Gabriel Boric’s decision to recall the Chilean ambassador in Caracas on Thursday was linked to the case. Chile is requesting Venezuela’s assistance in the case.

Hector Barros, lead prosecutor of Santiago’s organized crime and homicide team, said the crime was ordered from Venezuela and was political in nature.

“We are talking about a victim who has participated in actions against the Venezuelan government, and secondly, he has been detained for nine months in Venezuela, he escaped and has political asylum in Chile,” Barros told reporters on Friday. “Given the profile he has, there is no other line of investigation.”

Barros said Tren de Aragua, a Venezuelan prison gang that has spread throughout Latin America, was responsible for the murder.

Chilean police have detained a 17-year-old Venezuelan for the crime. The interior minister said the government is using diplomatic efforts to demand collaboration from Venezuela, including the extradition of the two other suspects.

(Reporting by Natalia Ramos, with additional reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Writing by Alexander Villegas; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)