Un hombre en una de las protestas del 23 de febrero en Caracas. / RAUL ARBOLEDA (AFP)

A Venezuelan NGO Documents 18 Cases of Torture During the Protests

The Venezuelan Penal Forum assures that opposition members have been savagely beaten and abused by the police and the military


Caracas 24 FEB 2014 – 02:06 CET

His mother asks that her son’s identity, and hers, remain in reserve for fear of reprisals. On February 12, while returning from a protest called by the opposition to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, which culminated in two deaths, he was arrested by agents of SEBIN (Bolivarian Intelligence Service). The family did not know his whereabouts until 30 hours later, when he was presented in court. He was given, she says, a savage beating that included a repertoire of torture: from electric shocks in the neck, placement of plastic bags over the head, to beating with sticks. “Not to mention the psychological torture. They told him that they were raping me and his sister,” she says, calm but moved, almost ready to cry.

This young man, a law student at Universidad Santa Maria of Caracas, is 23 years old and is the grandson of Galicians. Like him, two other Spanish nationals have been savagely tortured by police and Venezuelan soldiers for participating in the riots that from early February have paralyzed Venezuela, according to human rights advocacy organization Venezuelan Penal Forum. The most shocking case is that of Juan Manuel Carrasco, also a descendant of Spaniards, who according to his mother Rebecca Gonzalez was raped with the barrel of a gun. The Attorney General has denied that this version was made know during the presentation of Carrasco in court.

A total of 18 stories of torture are known by the Venezuelan Penal Forum. “All detainees had their right to defense violated. They are not allowed to contact their lawyers, and they are forced to sign a document in which they acknowledge that they have had legal representation”, denounces Alfredo Romero, director of the NGO.

The opposition has also taken advantage of this issue to keep the reasons for the protest alive. On Saturday, during his speech at the last major concentration against the government, the presidential candidate Henrique Capriles wanted to take the time to talk about those who were tortured. He cited the case of a young man who was hit so hard in the head with a helmet, that the helmet broke. In his opinion, it is obvious that the Maduro government tries to cover up these claims. The story of the chavismo emerges over the repression suffered by the Venezuelan ultra-left during the bi-partisan democracy (1958-1998).

The Venezuelan Penal Forum is aware of the death of seven people, most of them occurring after cruel and inhuman treatment. There is the case of Geraldine Moreno, a young woman murdered in Valencia, Carabobo State, when she received pellet shots to the face. But the death toll rose to 11. On Sunday President Nicolas Maduro added to the tragic sum the name Danny Vargas from the Andean state of Táchira, the region where the central government has acknowledged serious law and order problems. Vargas died in a guarimba (street barricade) when he was stabbed by a person who, according to the Venezuelan leader, had been humiliated by opposition protesters.

That version seeks to support a thesis that the government has been sustaining since Friday night. That the barricades are nests for the most radical anti-Chavez sectors, capable of also causing the death of people outside of the rally. On Friday, a biker, Elvis Duran, died after crashing into a rope placed by opponents who sought to prevent traffic flow in the residential sector of Horizonte, in eastern Caracas.

Maduro himself has taken these two cases as another way to show that he is facing a “prolonged and fascist coup attempt.” Due to the case of biker Durán, the President ordered the arrest of retired Army General Angel Vivas, whom his government holds responsible of “training the fascists” and to suggest placing ropes across the barricades.

This Sunday, state security attempted to raid Vivas’ residence, in the Prados del Este neighborhood of southeast Caracas, but the officer himself and the neighbors prevented it. Armed with a rifle and a pistol, Vivas shouted from his yard at the group seeking to retain him that he would not hand himself over. “I do not recognize the genocidal authority of the Castro (Fidel and Raul) in Venezuela. I am trained to give my life for Venezuela. I can not surrender to a Cuban order. I won’t let you come into my house and if you do, I will exercise my right to self-defense.” It was a long speech that he capped by shouting: “You come and get me, Maduro.”

Neighbors took to the streets banging on their pots and waving Venezuelan flags. Others closed-off streets in a 1 kilómeter radius by bringing out old junk from their homes–useless mattresses–and placing them on the roads along with dry branches and trash bags. During the Venezuelan night (dawn in Spain) Vivas remained holed up in his house. Attorney Jose Antonio Zaa was able to talk to him and said his client would surrender only if his detention is consistent with the principles of law. “We want to know why he’s being charged, what crime he committed. We want to have a guarantee that they will not be left in custody,” he explained.

Vivas keeps a pulse with chavismo because, while an active Army officer, he demanded before the courts in 2006 the the use of the slogan “Homeland, Socialism or Death”, be suspended. The use of the slogan in greeting and farewell, was one of the changes the deceased Hugo Chavez introduced in the Armed Forces.

Source: Meza, Alfredo.”Una ONG de Venezuela documenta 18 casos de tortura durante las protestas“. El Pais. 02-24-2014.

Translated by #infoVnzla


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