Venezuela arrests former police officer in Sambrano murder

New York, February 24, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the arrest on Sunday of a man believed to have gunned down journalist Orel Sambrano in 2009 in reprisal for his reporting on drug trafficking, the local press reported.

Venezuelan investigative police, known as CIPC, arrested former police officer David Antonio Yánez Inciarte during a police drug raid in the city of Moron, department of Carabobo, according to local press reports. Yánez was taken into custody, the press said.

CIPC director Wilmer Flores Trosel, who participated in the police proceedings, told Caracas-based daily El Universal that Yánez was responsible for executing the crime.  

This is the third arrest in the Sambrano murder case. On February 13, 2009, Venezuelan authorities detained Rafael Segundo Pérez, a former sergeant for the Carabobo police, in connection with Sambrano’s killing in January 2009. Pérez was accused of being a hired assassin and conspiring to commit a crime, police told the local press. José Manuel Luque Daboín was arrested in July in connection to the murder, the local press said. Both men are still in jail; no trial date has been set yet.

Local authorities are also investigating whether local businessman Walid Makled plotted the murder. Authorities issued an arrest warrant in February 2009 for the businessman, but he was believed to have left Venezuela. Colleagues told CPJ that Sambrano had published a number of investigative pieces concerning the Makled.

“We welcome the arrest of the alleged gunman in the murder of Orel Sambrano,” said CPJ Americas Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. “Venezuelan authorities must now ensure that all those involved in Sambrano’s slaying, including the masterminds of his murder, are brought to justice.”

Sambrano, 62, was director of the local political weekly ABC de la Semana and Radio América. Local sources told CPJ that he was widely known for his investigations on drug trafficking and commentaries on local politics. On January 16, 2009, a motorcycle-riding assailant shot Sambrano to death in Valencia, 95 miles (150 kilometers) west of Caracas, according to CPJ research