Ronald Ojeda
Ronald Ojeda Ronald Ojeda

Ronald Ojeda, a Venezuelan dissident who had been missing for over a week in Chile, was found dead on Friday. Law enforcement officials found Ojeda's body in Maipú, an area in the metropolitan area of Santiago, the Chilean capital.

The finding was confirmed by prosecutor Héctor Barrios, who said Ojeda was killed between "seven and ten days ago, coinciding with the date of the kidnapping." "During the afternoon we found a body inside a suitcase and buried under cement," he had said before confirming it was Ojeda.

Barrios labeled the operation as a "complex one, with ties to organized crime," and said a 17-year-old Venezuelan who is in the country illegally has been arrested in connection with the killing. He added that there are other outstanding arrest warrants and that law enforcement has conducted raids in different areas of Santiago.

Ojeda, a former member of the Venezuelan army who defected and denounced Maduro, was kidnapped last Wednesday by a group of people pretending to be members of the Chilean police.

The government has become a plaintiff in the case, signaling its interest in finding out what happened. So far, the Gabriel Boric administration hasn't drawn any conclusions but said it does not rule out any hypotheses.

The government had also ordered all border checkpoints be reinforced upon the possibility that Ojeda had been removed from the country, and requested collaboration from Interpol.

Even though the investigation has not pointed any fingers so far, El País outlet recalled that these kind of killings have been linked to Los Gallegos, an organized crime group considered to be the operating arm of Venezuela's Tren de Aragua.

Opposition members have argued that Ojeda was a target of the Maduro government, pointing to the fact that his name was on a list published in late January along with other ex military members who, according to the Venezuelan government, were "involved in conspiracies" aimed at assassinating president Nicolás Maduro.

The plot, which the government says was dubbed "white bracelet," is the same one for which it arrested human rights activist Rocío San Miguel earlier this month. The decision catalyzed even more political turmoil, as Maduro expelled a United Nations mission from the country after it voiced concern about it and said that its "wave of repression" was against international law. The Biden administration has also condemned the detention and urged the administration to immediately release the activist.

Ojeda was arrested by the Maduro government in 2017. Back then, he was accused along with three other military members of being involved in "conspiratorial acts and the planning of terrorist actions." They were formally accused of rebellion, mutiny and treason.

Ojeda escaped in November 2017 while being transported and, once safe, said he had been subjected to torture while in prison. He left for Chile shortly after and has been advocating against Maduro ever since. The Chilean government granted him political asylum in 2023.

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