Former police officer arrested in Venezuelan murder

On February13, 2009, Venezuelan authorities arrested Rafael Segundo Pérez, a former sergeant for the Carabobo police, in connection to the January 16 killing of journalist Orel Sambrano, according to local news reports. Pérez is accused of working as a hired assassin and conspiring to commit a crime.

Police Commissioner Robinson Castillo told reporters that authorities are investigating local businessman Walid Makled for masterminding the journalist’s killing, reported the national daily El Nacional. Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Makled, who is suspected of having fled Venezuela. At a press conference on February 22, the Makled family lawyer, Luis Ernesto López, said there was not sufficient evidence to link Makled to Sambrano’s killing.

Sambrano, also known by the pseudonym “Terrícola,” worked as director of the local political weekly ABC de la Semana and Radio América. Prior to his death, he had reported extensively on local drug trafficking. Colleagues told CPJ that he had published a number of investigative pieces on the Makled family. The local press also reported that Sambrano had mentioned Pérez as one of 13 police officers with ties to the Makled clan. Investigators told the local press they believe Sambrano was shot in retaliation for his journalism.

On the afternoon of January 16, a motorcycle-riding assailant shot and killed Sambrano outside a video store in Valencia, 95 miles (150 kilometers) west of Caracas. The 62 year-old journalist, who was also a practicing lawyer, was well-respected and known locally for his investigations and commentary on local politics.