Report: Dictatorship Uses Political Prisoners as Torture Experiments

Reports indicate that a large number of perpetrators are Cuban nationals who arrive in the country to threaten the lives of Venezuelan political prisoners.

Acosta’s murder gives a glimpse of what happens behind bars in a dictatorship that physically and psychologically tortures political prisoners (PanAm Post photo montage)


Captain Rafael Acosta Arevalo’s autopsy reveals the extent of torture the Maduro regime perpetuates. The autopsy of Lieutenant Commander Rafael Acosta Arevalo revealed the level of torture perpetrated by the administration of Nicolas Maduro. The dictatorship beats, suffocates, electrocutes, and isolates political prisoners and even assassinates them.

The captain was beaten to death. He suffered cerebral edema due to generalized polytrauma. The forensic report indicates that he died from rhabdomyolysis: a rupture of muscle tissues that releases a harmful protein into the blood. According to the virtual encyclopedia Wikipedia, “these are substantial risks for people injured in disasters such as earthquakes and bombings.”

According to Zair Mundaray, Director of Public Prosecutions in exile, the medical evidence also indicates 16 broken ribs.

“Sixteen fractured ribs, eight on each side, the first three and the last in good condition, on both sides. Fracture of the nasal septum, excoriations in shoulders, elbows, and knees, hematomas in the inner thigh and both extremities. Injuries (whip-like) in the back and thighs, a fractured foot, multiple abrasions and signs of small burns in both feet (presumable electrocution),” Mundaray said.

Rocio San Miguel, human rights advocate and President of the NGO Social Watch, said the diagnosis certifies the version that Acosta Arevalo was tortured during his detention in the dungeons of the Directorate General of Military Counter-Intelligence (DGCIM), where he had been since June 21.

The report explains that the causes of rhabdomyolysis range from compression injuries, crushing, infections, to alcohol poisoning, heroin or cocaine and certain drugs such as statins and neuroleptics; in short, the lieutenant commander was tortured to death.

Acosta’s murder provides a glimpse into what happens behind bars in the dictatorship that physically and psychologically tortures political prisoners.

The regime ignores the law that it paradoxically signed in June 2013, ‘The Law on  Torture.’

The methods of torture

The headquarters of the Directorate General of Military Counter-Intelligence (DGCIM) in Caracas operates as one of the torture centers of Nicolas Maduro’s regime, where it holds more than one hundred inmates, including twenty high-ranking military personnel, isolated in basements without ventilation or sunlight; where they live a nightmare many could never have imagined.

There are more than 160 military members whom the regime has detained for political reasons. They are accused of “Treason to the Homeland” because it is the charge that entails many years of imprisonment.

The regime does not bring these soldiers to trial within eight hours. It does not notify the Attorney General’s Office, let alone the court because it tortures them to obtain the information it wants or the information that these prisoners are forced to record and sign. During all this time, the soldier is detained in violation of due process.

Depending on the case, the detainee is tortured. His eyes are covered with paper bags or newspapers with adhesive tape. He is handcuffed until Navy lieutenant Abel Anzola and Captain Jesus Gerardo Cardenas, who are trained in physical torture, arrive.

When the tortured military members scream, Colonel Hannover Esteban Guerrero is hearing them from his office in the basement.

“They threw him on the floor, beat him with sticks. Four men tortured him to talk about the alleged plot. They put a hood on him and tear-gassed him. They also suffocated him with plastic bags,” Molly De la Sotta Quiroga, the sister of naval captain Luis De La Sotta who was detained by the DGCIM, told Diario Las Americas.

Dozens of reports reveal the methods of torture used by the dictatorship against dissidents; but above all, some point out that the majority of the perpetrators are Cuban nationals who arrive in the South American country to threaten the lives of Venezuelan political prisoners.

In 2018, the international NGO Casla Institute documented 190 cases of torture whereby at least 11 of the victims claim that their repressions are foreign agents, specifically from Cuba.

The accounts indicate that the abuses are committed mainly in the General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence, which depends on the Vice Presidency of Venezuela, and where Lieutenant Commander Rafael Acosta Arevalo was tortured.

According to the document, the most common methods are beatings, chaining, and simulated drowning. Torturers also allegedly use tear gas and electric shocks to interrogate detainees.

Tamara Suju, human rights defender, affirms that the dictatorship systematically applies a “combo” or “welcome” package,” which consists of torture tactics such as kicking prisoners with military boots and beating them with batons, bats, gunstocks, as well as tying their hands and feet and stepping on them, while banging their heads against the wall. Many end up with massive wounds to the skull,” he points out. That “combo,” according to Suju, also includes covering the arrestees with plastic bags and introducing tear gas powders while hitting them in the ribs.

In 2016, the same international NGO brought before the International Criminal Court 55 cases of torture where the victims suffered suffocation, vinegar on the face, severe blows, and electric shocks.

A case in point is that of political prisoner Vasco Da Costa, who is still being held. He has been suffocated and beaten with blunt objects, with sticks with nail tips and sandbags. He has been beaten to the point of fainting with the butt of a pistol.

“They hit you. They hit you a lot in the mouth, the eyes, the face, the ears, the head. After you are hurt and everything is broken, they force you to defecate, and they grab the excrement, they spread it on your face, on your ears, everywhere and put a leather mask on you, and they hang you from that mask until you faint. When they wake you up, they do it again and again…” This is the account of Ana Maria, Da Costa’s sister, who was a Chavismo prisoner in 2004, and 2014 (released in 2017), and imprisoned again in 2018.

An article by Daniel Lara Farias in PanAm Post also reveals another type of torture: Denial of medical attention and cutting all communication with family, friends, and lawyers.

“The worst torture is the denial of medical attention, usually practiced in Venezuela. Attention is denied or delayed,” said Marcelo Crovato, who was a political prisoner only because he fulfilled his duties as a lawyer.

“Delaying the court proceedings is another form of abuse. Restricting visits is psychological torture. I could use the phone only five minutes each week and had to divide the time between talking to my wife, children, and lawyers. The solitary confinement is one more form of torture,” he added.

The regime uses a method of torture called “helicopter” on women where they “grab your hair, spin you around, and throw you against the wall,” explained Araminta Gonzales who currently lives in exile in Spain.

One of the countless people who are responsible

According to Sebastiana Barraez, a journalist and military source specialist, Colonel Hannover Guerrero is responsible for what happens in the basement of the DGCIM where most of the torture takes place.

Barraez reported that there is a framework “to prosecute, sentence, torture, and ignore the complaints of suffering by the military and civilians within the DGCIM and within the SEBIN.

He asserted that Hannover Guerrero is in charge of giving the orders in the DGCIM and that “there are even three torture sites very close to where the Colonel is.”

Barraez revealed that the structure of the regime includes officials, torturers, Cubans, Venezuelan military, military defenders, military prosecutors, military judges and forensic doctors “who sign the medical reports hiding the tortures.”

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