Venezuelan Opposition Figured Found Dead in Chile

Photo of author

By LatAm Reports Editor

Ronald Ojeda, a 32-year-old former lieutenant in the Venezuelan military, had been living in exile in Santiago de Chile since 2017 until he was found dead on Friday, 10 days after he was abducted. Chilean authorities confirmed that they had found Ojeda’s body in a suitcase, buried beneath a cement structure in a Santiago suburb. A 17-year-old Venezuelan in the country illegally has been detained in connection with the case, Chilean prosecutors said.

Ojeda had protested against the revolutionary socialist government of Nicolás Maduro before and after fleeing his home country. His disappearance follows a series of moves by Maduro against political opponents, despite a decision by the US last year to lift some of its sanctions on Caracas in exchange for concessions such as releasing political prisoners.

With no ransom demand, Chilean authorities had said the abduction of Ojeda may have been the work of Venezuelan agents, which would represent a new frontier in repression from Maduro. Chilean interior minister Carolina Tohá told local media before Ojeda’s body was discovered that if Venezuela were responsible, “it would be an unprecedented situation, of the greatest severity, unprecedented with respect to relations between Latin American countries.”

Already this year, Venezuela has arrested Rocío San Miguel, a prominent opposition military analyst and lawyer, while members of her family briefly also went missing. It has expelled all staff at the UN Human Rights Commission in Caracas and upheld a ban on opposition contender María Corina Machado standing in the presidential election.

Maduro’s crackdown poses a challenge for the US, which must decide in the coming weeks whether to restore sanctions and risk effects such as lower oil availability and greater migrant flows at a time Washington is also preparing for elections.

The Maduro regime is sending the message that continuing its hold on power is more important than any economic incentives or international legitimacy that it might get from a more free and fair election. Maduro, who assumed power after the death of Hugo Chávez in 2013, has overseen an economic contraction of about 70 percent despite Venezuela boasting the world’s largest proven oil reserves.