[5/17/17/ KARINA MARTIN] Venezuelan regime steps up torture: The Venezuelan security forces have increasingly detained and arrested innocent protesters in the latest wave of demonstrations against Nicolás Maduro’s regime, which began 46 days ago.
The Chavista government has also stepped up its use of torture against members of the opposition. Human rights activists have registered numerous acts in which the police and military have violated international standards again, for instance obtaining confessions through the use of force and prosecuting civilians in military courts.
Luis Betancourt, head of Foro Penal, an NGO based in the city of Carabobo, reported that he has received “many complaints” from victims of government officials’ “brutal treatment.”
“Out of a group of 40 people arrested for alleged looting, 37 reported that they were beaten before their hair was forcefully shaved off their heads,” Betancourt said.
He added that “most of the detainees are beaten once they are arrested, while they are being transferred to a temporary detention site where they are to be brought before a judge… One was beaten and a black hood was placed over his head, he asked for medical assistance because he felt that one of his ribs had been misplaced.”
Betancourt also mentioned other cases of torture against detainees. “One victim said he had a cigarette buried in his arm, while 15 reported that they were forced to eat pasta with grass and excrement. The regime’s officials forced dust from tear gas canisters up their noses to pry open their mouths. They then shoved the pasta with excrement in their mouths and made them swallow it,” he said.
In the northern city of Carabobo, which provides much of Venezuela’s food and supplies, more than a hundred shops were looted as the authorities looked on without intervening. After the regime militarized the city’s streets, the authorities have arrested dozens of alleged looters.
Torture in Venezuela is not limited to Carabobo. Laura Valbuena, an NGO officer, stated that, in the western state of Zulia, “eight detainees in the city of Villa del Rosario were brought to military justice on May 6. They accused officials of spraying their face with a white powder that burned their skin and made it itch. They also threatened them with incarceration.”
In the northeastern state of Sucre, eight demonstrators were brought before a military judge and were also physically abused by guards who threatened to kill them.
Venezuelan law dictates that those who torture or commit cruel, inhumane, or degrading acts against others can be sentenced to prison for up to 25 years, with a minimum sentence of 13 years.
According to Alfredo Romero, who heads the Foro Penal Venezolano association, “what is happening is very serious. We have registered these new torture cases with the public prosecutor.”
Since the start of this year’s massive protests against the Maduro regime, 2,000 protesters have been detained and 237 are currently deprived of their liberty. 1,500 have been brought before civilian courts according to independent reports.