Death of Consul's Daughter Spurs Venezuela Outcry

19 Mar 2012

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Chilean Consul in Venezuela, Fernando Berendique (right front), helps to carry the coffin with the remains of his 19-year-old daughter Karen to a waiting hearse, in Maracaibo, Venezuela

The killing of a Chilean diplomat's teenage daughter by police is reigniting concerns among Venezuelans about excessive force by officers and their alleged involvement in rampant violent crime.

Nineteen-year-old Karen Berendique was riding in a vehicle with her older brother and another young man when police at a checkpoint opened fire early Saturday in the western city of Maracaibo, said her father Fernando Berendique, Chile's honorary consul in the city, reports The Associated Press.

He said they ignored a police command to stop, fearing the officers might be robbers.

Twelve police officers were detained in the case and are under investigation, the Justice Ministry said.

Radio program host Beatriz Navas said on Sunday that many Venezuelans are concerned about police abuse and officers' involvement in violent crime.

"I wouldn't have stopped and they would have killed me, too," Navas said. She also criticized the widespread police practice in Venezuela of setting up such checkpoints, saying police should instead be investigating crimes.

President Hugo Chavez's government expressed condolences to the family as well as to the Chilean government, and pledged that those responsible will face justice.

"We reject and repudiate this type of bad police practice," judicial police chief, Jose Humberto Ramirez said.

He said the officers had been in the area to investigate car thefts and hadn't set up cones as police typically do for checkpoints. Ramirez called the shooting inexplicable.

"They'll have to respond in criminal court," Ramirez said.

Opposition politicians also joined in the criticism.

"They shoot first and aim later," Ricardo Sanchez, an opposition lawmaker, said at a news conference Sunday.

Berendique's father told reporters on Saturday that his daughter had been on the way to see some friends when she was shot.

Tags: News, World, Venezuela

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