Over 2,000 have been arrested made ever since this protest cycle began 46 days ago today. Brutal repression and systematic violation of civil rights have been amply documented, but according to today’s El Nacional’s front page story news, we’ve hit a new low.
On May 4th, after riots and lootings shook Valencia, in Carabobo state, leaving at least one dead and several wounded, 40 civilians were taken into military custody. 37 detainees have alleged during their court hearings that they were beaten by their military captors. They claim their heads were shaved, and one of them complained he received cigarette burns. But that is not the worst of it.
According to Luis Betancourt, a coordinator for Foro Penal (an NGO set up to give legal aid to victims of political repression) 15 of the detainees told a military judge that they were force-fed pasta topped with grass and excrement. They said tear gas powder was rubbed on their noses to make them open their mouths.
37 detainees have alleged during their court hearings that they were beaten by their military captors.
This qualifies as torture and inhumane treatment, punishable crimes according to the Special Law to Prevent and Sanction Torture and Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment. (Passed in 2013 while Diosdado Cabello was speaker of the National Assembly.)
It also presents serious risks to the victims’ health: many diseases are transmitted vía fecal-oral route (viruses, parasites and also bacteria), and there are few medicines in Venezuela to treat these.
According to Foro Penal, such practices are increasing. Eight people taken into custody on May 6, after knocking down a Chávez statue in Villa del Rosario, Zulia state, accused law enforcement of rubbing itching/tear gas powder on them.
The same method was used in Sucre state, where nine people were taken into National Guard custody after taking part in an opposition march on May 8th. During their court martial, eight detainees, again, civilians, told their military judge that itching powder was rubbed on their faces and that they were heavily battered by authorities.
As part of Plan Zamora, civilians have been taken into custody by military authorities and brought to military justice, a practice deemed inconstitutional. In response, the Prosecutor’s office demanded that the 14 detainees at Villa del Rosario get tried by a civilian court.
These claims are beyond sordid. They make you wonder what ever happened to the values of the military authorities who are supposed to protect and safeguard the people of our country.
The National Guard’s motto is “El Honor es su Divisa” [Honor is our currency].
It should be changed to el honor no se divisa.