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Acquittal of alleged drug baron in journalist's murder is "a victory for impunity", warns RSF

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF calls for a review of the trial of alleged regional drug baron Ceferino García, who was acquitted by a court in Maturín, in the northeastern state of Monagas, on 28 August 2008 of masterminding the murder of Mauro Marcano. A radio and newspaper journalist, Marcano was gunned down outside his Maturín home on 1 September 2004.

"This verdict is a victory for impunity over justice and highlights the ability of drug traffickers to obtain protection from local officials," RSF said. "It will enable wrongdoers to continue sowing terror without fear of prosecution. We urge the judicial authorities not to yield to pressure and intimidation and to continue their investigation, so that Marcano's murder does not remain unpunished."

Arrested with false papers in nearby Trinidad and Tobago in 2006, García was brought back to Venezuela and charged with Marcano's murder. At the end of a trial consisting of 11 hearings, a jury found on 28 August that there was not enough evidence to link García to the murder and acquitted him.

The judge in charge of the case, Larry Siluera, nonetheless thought there had been enough evidence to convict García, pointing out that Marcano had accused García in newspaper articles of heading a drug gang known as the Cartel del Sol.

Marcano hosted a programme on Radio Maturín 1080 AM and was a columnist for "El Oriental", a local daily. His daughter, Yasira Marcano, voiced outrage after García's acquittal. "It seems the verdict was decided in advance," she said. "During the final hearing, García was complaining that it had not yet been issued. He already knew what the verdict would be."

Former vice-president José Vicente Rangel, a columnist with the "Últimas Noticias" daily, described the verdict as "Marcano's second death." RSF shares his disappointment and reiterates its solidarity with the Marcano family.

Updates the Marcano case:

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