Diplomat's murder in Kenya shocks Venezuelans

Associated Press
FILE - In this July 27, 2012 file photo, a Kenyan police officer stands outside the charge d affaires residence in Runda estate in Nairobi, Kenya.  Career diplomat Olga Fonseca was sent to Kenya to take charge of the Venezuelan Embassy and fire all the remaining staff. But less than two weeks later, on July 27, she was found dead in the ambassador's residence.  Her killing has become a political issue back at home, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez faces the toughest re-election battle of his political life. His opponents have seized on the case to argue that Venezuela's diplomatic corps is in shambles. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, File)

View gallery

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Olga Fonseca was sent to Kenya on a mission she knew was difficult and possibly even dangerous. She was so worried about the assignment, according to her brother, that she had asked her relatives to go with her. None of them went.

The career diplomat had been asked to take charge of the Venezuelan Embassy and fire all the remaining staff, he said. But less than two weeks later, on July 27, she was found dead in the ambassador's residence in one of Nairobi's ritziest neighborhoods. Her body was discovered in bed, underneath a blue sheet, and her hands were bound behind her back with sisal rope. Police said she had been strangled.

The murder shocked Venezuelans, especially after Kenyan police charged the embassy's first secretary with the killing. Kenyan authorities say they suspect Fonseca was the victim of a leadership battle at the embassy, but more than a month later, clear answers about the crime remain elusive. Neither the Venezuelan government nor the Kenyan police have explained how Fonseca ended up dead just days after arriving.

Meanwhile, her killing has become a political issue back at home, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez faces the toughest re-election battle of his political life. His opponents have seized on the case to argue that Venezuela's diplomatic corps is in shambles.

Francisco Fonseca, an older brother of the dead diplomat, said he remembers clearly his last conversation with her at a going-away party a few days before she left for Kenya in mid-July.

"She told me she was worried because what they had told her to do was go to Kenya to get rid of the entire staff and organize the embassy again with new staff," he said. The experienced 57-year-old diplomat, who had last been director for Africa in the Foreign Ministry, was replacing Ambassador Gerardo Carrillo Silva, who had abruptly been relieved of his post.

Fonseca's brother said she didn't explain why she was instructed to fire employees at the embassy. But in retrospect, he said, her concerns may have been linked to news reports that some Kenyan employees had accused Carrillo of sexual harassment. The Kenyan newspaper The Star reported that those who had lodged the complaints included a cook, a driver and a security guard.

Carrillo has denied those accusations, telling the Venezuelan newspaper Ultimas Noticias that he was called home by the Foreign Ministry in May and suspended from his post without explanation.

The spotlight has now focused on Dwight Sagaray, the first secretary charged with Fonseca's killing.

Carrillo, for one, said tensions at the embassy rose in 2010 after Sagaray's arrival, and embassy employees "refused to recognize my authority."

Venezuela's government has left Sagaray to fend for himself, waiving his diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

Sagaray, a 35-year-old lawyer, has sat in a Nairobi jail ever since he was arrested, just hours after an embassy worker discovered Fonseca's body. There was a little blood in the sitting room downstairs, which police said suggested that there might have been a scuffle. Also charged with murder is Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, a doctor and friend of Sagaray's who Kenyan prosecutors say is in hiding.

Juana Sagaray, a sister of the jailed Venezuelan, said her brother has told her by phone that he's concerned his case has been handled in an "irregular" way, with authorities not allowing him to be freed on bail while the trial is pending. Police in charge of the investigation didn't return calls seeking comment.

The sister also said she was surprised at how quickly his diplomatic immunity was waived, and hopes Venezuela's government may still provide him legal assistance.

"We're very distressed because we don't know how he is," she said. "I'm certain my brother is innocent because I know him, because I saw him being born, because I grew up with him, because we came from a humble but very honest family."

Stephen Biko Ligunya, who is Sagaray's defense lawyer, said his client was falsely accused. He said that the prosecution is describing the motive behind the murder as a power struggle between Fonseca and Sagaray.

"On our side we will be contending that our client had no designs for the ambassadorial seat at the embassy," Ligunya said. "There is nothing new about power struggles or competition for his high position, but it doesn't result in murder. In so far as they are trying to pin the murder on Dwight, they don't have a motive and they are clutching on straws."

Sagaray's bail application will be heard on Sept. 27, the lawyer said.

Venezuela's government has said little about the killing, but it has denied reports in Kenyan newspapers that Fonseca was killed because she had learned about drug trafficking at the embassy. Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami recently told reporters a leading theory is that the killing was linked to "labor problems." The Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

The Fonseca family is mourning the loss of a woman they remember for her fortitude and professionalism.

On a previous diplomatic assignment as second secretary in Gabon between 1989 and 1992, she became ill with the muscular disorder myasthenia gravis, which caused her vision to fail, her brother said. He said Fonseca years later underwent surgery in Cuba, and began taking steroids to treat the condition.

Since 2005, she had been working in the Foreign Ministry helping to oversee missions in Africa, and Fonseca's brother had never thought anything would go wrong on the assignment in Nairobi.

"Nothing ever intimidated her," he recalled. "She was always out front and ready for anything."

Fonseca was buried last month in her hometown of Acarigua.


Associated Press writer Tom Odula contributed to this report from Nairobi.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Massive Alligator Strolls Casually Past Florida Tourists

      Video shows the gator without a care in the world.

      Inside Edition
    • Defiant EU nations ready themselves for Trump presidency

      European Union nations bracing for the looming Donald Trump presidency showed defiance Monday in the face of the president-elect's stinging comments on everything from NATO and German cars to the crumbling ...

      Associated Press
    • Grieving Husband Demands Harsher Sentence for 'Melrose' Star Who Killed His Wife: 'Justice Has Not Been Done'

      Actress Amy Locane-Bovenizer will not return to prison for the fatal drunken driving crash that killed Helene Seeman.

      Inside Edition
    • Green fouls LeBron, appears to mock him for flopping

      OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Draymond Green and LeBron James went at it again in the first half of the Cavaliers' visit to Golden State on Monday.

      Associated Press
    • Grandfather Stops Kidnapping In 'Tug of War' With Woman in Park Over 3-Year-Old: Cops

      Cops say Lindsay Frasher wrapped her arms around the girl, but her grandfather refused to let go.

      Inside Edition
    • Gambia Supreme Court judge declines to rule on president's election challenge

      By Lamin Jahateh BANJUL (Reuters) - The top judge in Gambia's Supreme Court declined on Monday to rule on President Yahya Jammeh's petition to overturn his election defeat, as many Gambians wait nervously to see how the veteran leader will react to his rival's planned inauguration this week. Jammeh initially conceded defeat to opposition leader Adama Barrow following the Dec. 1 poll but later changed his mind, drawing widespread condemnation and the threat of a military intervention by regional neighbours. Whether Gambia succeeds in swearing in Barrow is viewed as a test for democracy in West Africa, a region which is seeking to draw a line under a history of coups and autocratic rule.

    • Teen slain in 'rape-murder fantasy' was friend to the lonely

      GLENSIDE, Pa. (AP) — The smiles radiate from photos posted online by friends: Grace Packer sporting an impish grin as a toddler, floating happily in a pool as a young teen, leaning in to talk to a friend at her school lunch table.

      Associated Press
    • Apple’s TV plans are finally starting to take shape

      Apple finally seems to be warming up to the the fact that it needs original programming if it ever hopes to compete in the TV space. To be sure, there are no shortage of movies and TV shows available for purchase and rental via iTunes, but Netflix has demonstrated that a stable of high-quality and exclusive content is what really moves the needle in today's ever-evolving entertainment age. Late last week, word surfaced that Apple was finally preparing to dive into the realm of original content head first. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal , Apple has been busy talking with producers about developing episodic shows similar in style to hit shows like HBO's Westworld and Netflix's Stranger Things . This is a promising development given that shows like  Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps  aren't exactly thrilling programs capable of attracting a wide audience in the same way that a show like House of Cards can pull in viewers. In the wake of that report, Apple Music chief and longtime music industry veteran Jimmy Iovine explained Apple's goals in the media space while appearing at a Television Critics Association event this past weekend. Iovine's remarks were originally relayed by The Hollywood Reporter . "At Apple Music, what we're trying to create is an entire cultural, pop cultural experience, and that happens to include audio and video," Iovine said. "If South Park walks into my office, I am not going to say you're not musicians, you know? We're going to do whatever hits popular culture smack on the nose. We're going to try." Reports indicate that Apple's first stab at compelling original programming may hit Apple Music before the end of the year. As a final point, it's worth noting that Apple's deep pockets could certainly help it roll out any number of hit shows. As we've explained previously, Apple would only need $538 million in order to cumulatively produce one season of each of the following shows: Game of Thrones Breaking Bad House of Cards Orange is the new Black Arrested Development Mad Men Marco Polo The Wire The Big Bang Theory Sons of Anarchy All in all, it's reassuring to see that Apple finally seems to have a semblance of a strategy in a space that it's ignored for far too long.

      BGR News
    • Who are the 8 richest people? All men, mostly Americans

      The eight individuals who own as much as half of the rest of the planet are all men, and have largely made their fortunes in technology. Most are American, with one European and one Mexican in the mix. ...

      Associated Press
    • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrated across the country (21 photos)

      Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 15, 1929. King was a Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian, and civil rights leader who practiced peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience to protest racial inequality. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tenn., while planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., for the Poor People's Campaign. Riots broke out in cities around the U.S. in response to King’s death. (AP) Each year, the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated across the nation. Here's a look. See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr.

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • Mark Hamil as ‘The Joker’ thrashes Donald Trump yet again

      Outside of his memorable roles in Star Wars , Mark Hamill over the past few decades has enjoyed an incredibly successful run as a Hollywood voice over actor. Taking a look at Hamill's impressively long resume, his voice work as the Joker from  Batman: The Animated Series  truly stands out as something iconic. Last week, Hamill thought he'd have a little fun and decided to record one of Donald Trump's widely circulated tweets using his patented and quintessentially evil Joker voice. The result was nothing short of stunning. This week, Hamill was at it again, this time reading Trump's recent Twitter tirade about Meryl Streep. As for some quick background, Streep during last week's Golden Globe Awards show trashed President-elect Donald Trump without mentioning him by name. "There was one performance this year that stunned me," Streep said in part. "It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good, there was nothing good about it, but it was effective and it did its job. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back." Never one to ignore a insult or even a perceived slight, Trump predictably took to Twitter where he called Streep "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood." In a new audio recording titled "Return of Trumpster", Hamill once again delivers a homerun. And for anyone who missed Hamill's first effort, here it is below for your listening enjoyment. https://twitter.com/HamillHimself/status/817901534948179968?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw As Trump prepares to take over the Oval Office this week, we can expect to hear more Hamill as Joker as Trump audio recordings in the weeks and months ahead.

      BGR News
    • Inside Edition
    • Chiefs' Andy Reid believes holding should have been no-call

      KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs coach Andy Reid doesn't believe the holding penalty on left tackle Eric Fisher that cost Kansas City a tying 2-point conversion against Pittsburgh on Sunday night should have been called.

      Associated Press
    • Inside Edition
    • 8 Injured in Shooting at Miami's MLK Park

      Miami-Dade police say eight people including five children were injured in a shooting at MLK park Monday following the city's annual MLK Day parade. (Jan. 16)

      Associated Press Videos
    • Istanbul gunman captured after more than 2 weeks on run

      ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish police captured the gunman who carried out the deadly New Year's nightclub attack in Istanbul, with officials saying Tuesday that he's an Uzbekistan national who trained in Afghanistan and confessed to the massacre.

      Associated Press 46 min ago
    • Elite North Korean defector says more diplomats waiting to defect to Seoul: Yonhap

      More high-level North Korean diplomats are waiting to defect to South Korea from their overseas posts in Europe, Pyongyang's former deputy ambassador to London said on Tuesday, according to the Yonhap News Agency. Thae Yong Ho defected to South Korea in August last year and since December 2016 has been speaking to local media and appearing on variety television shows to discuss his defection to Seoul and his life as a North Korean envoy. "A significant number of North Korean diplomats came to South Korea recently," Thae said, according to Yonhap.

    • 2017 Chevrolet Volt Premier vs. 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Advanced

      The first Chevrolet Volt came to outrun the Toyota Prius. The new one hopes to kill it. A tale of two plug-in hybrids.

      Car and Driver
    • Ice cracks force shutdown of UK Antarctic station

      A British research station on an ice shelf in Antarctica is being relocated and shut down over the winter because of fears it could float off on an iceberg, the British Antarctic Survey said on Monday. Sixteen people who were due to stay during the Antarctic winter between March and November will now be moved out, the BAS said in a statement. "It is prudent for safety reasons to shut down the station as a precautionary measure and remove its people before the Antarctic winter begins," it said.

    • Trump 'won't be worse than Obama,' says Venezuela's president

      Venezuela's socialist leader said on Monday that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump was the victim of a global "hate campaign" and could not be worse than outgoing Barack Obama. On the campaign trail, the conservative Trump criticized Venezuela's ruling Socialists for oppressing their own people, but Maduro refrained from firing back in his first public comments on the Republican's election win. "He won't be worse than Obama, that's all I dare say.