The presence of «the islanders» at the head of Maduro’s repressive apparatus introduces «innovations» to inflict more pain with electric shocks, asphyxiation or sexual violence, according to the annual report of the Casla Institute

In the last two years Cuban interference in Venezuela has intensified the methods of torture used by the Nicolás Maduro regime for the systematic repression of dissidents, introducing «innovations» that increase the suffering of the victims, according to the latest annual report of the Casla Institute, presented this Friday in Madrid by director Tamara Suju, and former Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Beatriz Becerra.

Piercing fingernails and toenails to pass wires for electric shocks, the systematic use of plastic bags to suffocate the tortured, crane-hoisting victims during interrogations, injuries to the genitals when inflicting sexual violence or intoxication with unknown psychotropic substances are some examples of the cruelty introduced by the so-called «islanders» at the top of the repressive apparatus, according to the document of the Prague-based Institute, which promotes Democracy and the rule of law.

According to Tamara Suju, «the regime has become more bloodthirsty, using torture as exemplary punishment.» Since 2017, she affirms, “the most terrible tortures are being registered, because the intention now is to take the victims to the point of asking their families not to report or say anything, because whatever they claim means losing their visits and lawyers for months.»

For years, Suju has been transferring the cases of torture and the list of those responsible to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Court, which in 2018 opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Venezuela and hopes to resolve its jurisdiction over the complaints early this year, to then assess the admissibility of the case.

Starting from the «general chaos» in which Venezuela is plunged, «where the humanitarian crisis intersects with systematic repression,» the Casla Institute study focuses on the use of torture, especially by the General Division of Military Counterintelligence (Dgcim in Spanish) directed by Iván Hernández Dala, and how the Cuban regime and its repressive structure have influenced to «increase, change or innovate the patterns of torture.»

Throughout 2019, the year that witnessed events such as the swearing-in of Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela in January, or the failed April uprising attempt, the Casla Institute received new testimonies referring to 83 direct victims of alleged human rights violations and crimes against humanity. «100% of the victims were tortured in detention centers or in military premises, with 13 of them in particular being also transferred to clandestine torture centers, where the victims screaming could not be heard by other witnesses.»

The aforementioned Dgcim, under the influence of Cuban officers, has become the cruelest repressor of both civilians and soldiers, being present in 95% of the reported cases of arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence, according to the Casla Institute.

«The intensification of the crime of torture and the terrible methods applied in 2019 were mostly directed by the Dgcim, also involved in acts of repression leading to murder, arbitrary detentions, torture and forced relocation of people; along with the National Guard, the Sebin (Bolivarian National Intelligence Service), the FAES (Special Actions Force), the PNB (Bolivarian National Police) and the Colectivos (paramilitary gangs armed by the regime).»

The organization warns in its report of «the importance of the Cuban presence in inducing the repression that the Venezuelan regime has meted out against the entire people,» on the basis of testimonies of former intelligence officers and deserters, as well as soldiers and civilians, who have indicated how the Cuban regime participates in inducing repression.

The head that «organizes, controls and knows everything about who they are, how many arrive, what they do and how they participate» is the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela, explains the report, emphasizing that «nothing happens without his knowledge.»  And it continues, «the Cubans constantly instruct FANB members and intelligence officers in repression, intimidation and follow-up techniques so that they investigate and spy on their own comrades and their families, political and social leaders, and directly follow up on social unrest.” In addition, these Cuban intelligence missions are carried out «with full knowledge» of the Minister of Defense, Vladimir Padrino, the Strategic Operational Command (Ceofanb) under Remigio Ceballos, and the Dgcim.

Besides, it explains that the G2 (Cuban intelligence) and the Gruce (Cuban Strategic Group in Spanish) would be directly involved in torture in Venezuela. The «islanders,» as the Venezuelan military and officials call them, would have their own operations room in the military facilities known as Fuerte Tiuna, in Caracas. Futhermore, Cubans accredited with Dgcim credentials «give orders to Venezuelan generals and train intelligence officials, who join other hundreds across the country, and are known as ‘The Accredited’ or “Parallel Dgcim,» the report adds.

The Casla Institute has registered that in 2018-19 three people died in State custody: Councilman Fernando Albán, former military officer Modesto Díaz and Captain Rafael Acosta. «In the last two years, beatings and torture for days and weeks are accompanied by hunger, dehydration, humiliation and physical and psychological abuse,» explains the organization, and adds: «The victims are deprived of food and water, and in many cases, when those are provided, they are forced to eat from the floor like animals.»

The New Methods

Among the patterns of torture detected in the last two years, the study points to «handcuffs and knots fastened for long periods of time, strongly adjusted on purpose to cause injuries on the wrists and even paralysis in the fingers», as well as «asphyxiation and drowning with plastic bags.» Whereas in the 2013-17 period that method represented 6% of the reports of torture by asphyxiation, in 2018-19 it rose to 54.6%, with 106 victims.

Electric shocks have increased, with 93 cases subjected to this torture in the last two years, with «innovations» to increase pain such as fingernail and toenail piercing to pass the wires. The victims are pierced with needles or metal objects on nipples and genitals or under the nails to make discharges, or cables are put in the testicles or the anus, explains the Casla Institute, among other techniques.

There are also two new patterns in the hoisting of the tortured: in some cases they are hung without touching the floor, tied with their hands in front or in the back for long periods of time; and in others cases leaving the toes barely to touch the surface, in some cases car wheel rims, staying for entire days in that position.

There are also developments in sexual violence. According to the report, in these two years 34% of the victims had injuries on their genitals, as a result of torture, such as intense and prolonged electric shocks, or blows with fists and kicks.

This is compounded by the use of unknown psychotropic substances. The organization has obtained testimonies from victims who claim they have been drugged or have felt dizzy while being tortured or interrogated. Chemicals are provided to the victims to drink, or powders are sprinkled on bleeding injuries.

In changing these patterns, the Casla Institute insists, «Cubans have been directly involved.»

Other novelties of these years are the use of a cold chamber in the basement of the Dgcim, the spraining of upper and lower limbs, the use of an armored truck and an elevator in the basement of the Dgcim, or clandestine torture centers.

During the presentation of the report, Beatriz Becerra called on the European countries to join in the complaints before the International Criminal Court. «These are crimes that do not prescribe,» said the Spanish former MEP, who asked that these tortures be «investigated and prosecuted.»

Along that line, Tamara Suju said: «I hope that some European country joins in the complaint before the ICC,» while criticizing Spanish MEPs who lined up with Maduro in a vote Thursday (referring to Unidas Podemos and EH Bildu, as well as Carles Puigdemont and Tony Comín). «Those on the side of tyranny are complicit in crimes against humanity, and history is going to hold that against them,» she warned.

For the director of the Casla Institute, it is also important “for Venezuelans, for international justice and for the victims of these crimes» that Luis Almagro be reelected as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), in the vote next March, given the support he has given so far to the cause of democracy for the Caribbean country. «We cannot allow the OAS to become a club of friends, as it was before,» she said.

Fotos Reuters Madrid