Venezuelan leaders choose targets for torture, UN report finds

Investigators say screams often erupted in the halls of El Helicoid, the headquarters of Venezuela’s intelligence service agency. Inside the imposing, spiral-shaped building in the center of Caracas, they found that the detainees – who are often journalists, activists or anti-government – were regularly subjected to beatings, rapes, electric shocks, mutilations, asphyxiation. are and other types of torture,

Abuse orders – which international organizations and human rights leaders say are crimes against humanity – usually come from the highest levels of government: the president and his inner circle, according to a new United Nations report,

UN investigators concluded, “President Nicolas Maduro, supported by other high-level officials, stands as the chief architect in the design, implementation and maintenance of machinery intended to quell dissent.”

Tuesday’s report is the third report to be released by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela (FFMV) since 2019, when it began assessing the country’s human rights violations. previous document Delve into the justice system’s response to such violations, along with extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and torture in Venezuela. But by interviewing about 250 people, the FFMV says it has identified a chain of command that works to silence, discourage and quell protests against the government.

“When it comes to finding out who is responsible, this has been the most blunt report,” Venezuelan political analyst Andersen Sequera told The Washington Post. “This shows the real reason why we have not been able to recover democracy and freedom in Venezuela – because we are facing an authoritarian regime that is capable of murder, torture and persecution in order to remain in power.”

The report’s evidence points to Maduro, his closest allies, and two state military and civilian intelligence services – namely the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN).

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Manuel Ricardo Christopher Figueira, the agency’s former director, told investigators that at El Helicoid, where Sabin operates, “the main orders came mainly from President Maduro.” The country’s former vice president and member of the National Assembly, Diosado Cabello, will also provide a list of targets to be detained – mainly civilians, high-profile critics and opposition members. The government will then survey those targets, sometimes breaking their phoneAccording to the report, arresting or abducting them without a warrant, before putting evidence on them.

The detainees told investigators that once inside the prison, they were subject to persecution From threatening to kill their families to forcibly feeding feces and vomit. Some recalled that he was placed on a “la senorita”, a device that lifts and deforms the body before being put into a tank of water. At other times, they were kept inside rooms with cold temperatures, in bright lights and in isolation – a form of psychological abuse that distorts the senses, the report said. The investigators found that the detainees also experienced frequent sexual violence.

“A male captive told that Sabin agents threatened to rape him, and forced a gun inside his mouth,” the report details. “When he started crying, they laughed. The agents then sought his blessings.”

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Those acts were closely mirrored in Boleta, about eight miles east, which houses the DGCIM’s detention room and administrative offices. The report said the prisoners include current and former military officers, some of whom are accused of conspiring against Maduro or not showing sufficient support for the government. Similarly to Sebin’s modus operandi, “in some cases, President Nicolas Maduro and others in his inner circle, as well as other high-level officials, were involved in the selection of targets,” according to the report.

Investigators registered more than 120 cases of torture in Boleta. In one, DGCIM officials created a game using a long stick where they “watched the detainees fall backwards on the stick to see if it would enter their anus,” according to the report. another man was made to conduct The “torture session” of other detainees.

“Guards told him to hit five men on the head after they were forced to jump up and down and then kneel while naked. The men were in their sixties and seventies,” the investigators wrote.

The report also details the abuses orinoco mining arch, a group of gold mining lands in southern Venezuela that have become lawless as the state and armed criminal groups fight for control of the precious mineral – leaving the local population, including indigenous communities, engulfed in violence. According to investigators, they have also been subjected to extortion, murder, disappearances, beatings, sexual violence and lack of rule of law.

“Our report highlights the need for further investigation of this sector, which is, paradoxically, a nearly forgotten region of the country, which at the same time generates vast amounts of legitimate and illegal money from minerals, Patricia Tappata Valdez, a member of FFMV, said in a news release.

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Venezuelan government entities, including Sabin, the DGCIM and the office of the president, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Post. However, when the first report was published in 2020, the government – ​​which did not allow FFMV to enter Venezuela – denied its findings. country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Jorge ValeroIs Emphasizing that Venezuela is “a free, democratic, sovereign and independent nation where human rights are respected.”

Political scientist Sequeira disagreed: “This is not a democracy with problems. The report shows that regime change is not just a democratic ideal, it is necessary. The truth is that any day a citizen in Venezuela could be a victim of these crimes.

The findings, Sequeira said, put pressure on the international community to “assess deeply whether they will continue to turn a blind eye to crimes against humanity in Venezuela, or take a stand to protect victims by taking action against the regime.” “

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This, he said, is a violation of human rights that has played a major role in addressing Venezuela’s immigration crisis – which has forced almost 7 million People fled the country since 2015, along with many people seek refuge in the United States of America.

But the biggest stress, he said, falls on Colombian President Gustavo PetroWho has restored diplomatic relations with Venezuela that ended in 2019. Last week, Maduro said that Petro asked him to serve as one. guarantor in peace talks It will begin later this year between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army, the country’s largest left-wing guerrilla group.

“The question for Petro will be: Can an accused of crimes against humanity be a guarantor in a peace treaty that is so important to his government?” Sequeira thought.

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