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Asphyxia and Drills: How Political Prisoners in Venezuela Get Tortured

By: Sabrina Martín - @SabrinaMartinR - May 31, 2016, 3:25 pm
torture in Venezuela
Torture in Venezuela: the Venezuelan opposition says Maduro has become a “modern dictatorship.” (El País)

EspañolBeing an opposition activist in Venezuela these days could get you locked up in prison for political reasons, risking your life.

According to the Venezuelan Penal Forum, an NGO that defends human rights in Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro’s regime is keeping 96 political prisoners, many of whom are being tortured in underground cells.

A documentary called “The Tomb,” based on real-life accounts, reveals how young detainees live under the watch of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), spending weeks or months in 4 x 6 foot cells below the ground.

They undergo interrogation and torture sessions which often involve making confessions or give up names in order to see the sunlight or go home.

The head of the Venezuelan Penal Forum has called the current government a “modern dictatorship.” He claims that the state security apparatus has perfected forms of torture and intimidation against those who oppose the Chavista elite.

According to complaints before the Venezuelan Penal Forum, the government allegedly tortures political prisoners into making false confessions.

What Torture in Venezuela Looks Like

On Sunday, May 29, attorney and defender of human rights José Vicente Haro recounted on Twitter the experience of Araminta González, who was detained during a protest at the end of 2014.

They place a bag over their heads and before closing it off to induce asphyxia, they spray insecticide into it…

Then, they set off electric charges on various body parts and increase the strength if the tortured person refuses to cooperate.

During this torture process that takes place in the torture room of the SEBIN [intelligence agency], they beat up the tortured person

In some cases, if the tortured person is male, he gets a wood stick up his anus


The attorney described other cases of torture that applied to political prisoner Marcos Coello, who tried to flee Venezuela before they could sentence him.

Haro explained that there is a type of torture called the “Massage of the CICPC,” in reference to the “Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas” — or Organization for Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigation.


In the Anti-terror division of the CICPC they capture people (Avenue Urdaneta), there are some cells with some tortured people.

They put a bag over the head to asphyxiate them and then inject insecticide into it…

Then they put sticks or bars of wood around the body and wrap the person with rubber foam or “thin mats.”

They start beating the person up, hitting, kicking, accompanied by insults of all kinds

All this has the goal of producing or inducing a false confession. If the person doesn’t cooperate, they go to the next level like [they did] with Araminta González.

…they put a drill to the person’s ears and threaten to drill their body if they don’t give names and confess.

In addition, they use the “helicopter,” a tool that slowly takes off small pieces of the scalp.


Another story he tells is of  Christian Manrique, a student who disappeared for more than 24 hours after being arrested for “taking orders from opposition leaders.”

According to the website Cuentos de la Quinta, the police locked Manrique in the Tomb and threatened to kill him.

A pistol was put in his mouth until he confessed to being paid by opposition leaders to make disturbances during a protest. Local media reported that torture also involved making cuts on his stomach.

“Battered and tortured, he was abandoned in El Paraíso, a popular area in Caracas, with the agents telling him he should go to a friend’s home.”

Sabrina Martín Sabrina Martín

Sabrina Martín is a Venezuelan journalist, commentator, and editor based in Valencia with experience in corporate communication. Follow @SabrinaMartinR.