Photo: Aljazeera America

There’s what you think you know. And then there’s what you can prove.

It’s a distinction not everyone fully appreciates, and one that’s certainly come under assault in the era of Fake News, Twitter-bot armies and neolengua. But to a few, hardy, old-fashioned souls, documenting what people vaguely sense happened is still a pastime worth pursuing.

The 85-page report, “Crackdown on Dissent: Brutality, Torture, and Political Persecution in Venezuela,” documents 88 cases involving at least 314 people, many of whom described being subjected to serious human rights violations in Caracas and 13 states between April and September 2017. Security force personnel beat detainees severely and tortured them with electric shocks, asphyxiation, sexual assault, and other brutal techniques. Security forces also used disproportionate force and carried out violent abuses against people in the streets, and arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted government opponents. While it was not the first crackdown on dissent under Maduro, the scope and severity of the repression in 2017 reached levels unseen in Venezuela in recent memory.

“The widespread vicious abuses against government opponents in Venezuela, including egregious cases of torture, and the absolute impunity for the attackers suggests government responsibility at the highest levels,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “These are not isolated abuses or occasional excesses by rogue officers but rather a systematic practice by Venezuelan security forces.”

“It’s no longer only about political leaders, it’s no longer about public figures, it’s just regular citizens – it was me,” said Ernesto Martin (pseudonym), 34, who was detained in his home for publicly criticizing the government, and tortured to confess to alleged links to the political opposition.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of human rights violations, Human Rights Watch and the Penal Forum found no evidence that key high-level officials – including those who knew or should have known about the abuses – have taken any steps to prevent and punish violations. On the contrary, they have often downplayed the abuses or issued implausible, blanket denials.

This matters. It matters legally, as we seek to leave a documentary trace today so yesterday’s abuses can be punished tomorrow. It matters diplomatically, as we present third party governments with evidence that what we say – we say not just because we don’t like the government, but because there’s tangible, documented evidence of systematic abuse. It matters historically, as we fight to make sure what’s happened to Venezuela doesn’t just fall down the same old memory hole it always did. And it matters in human terms, as we honor the standards of rational evidence, level-headed investigation and respect for the capital-t Truth our civilization is founded on.

Make no mistake about it: this matters.

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  1. I dont know if there is any hope of seeing this bunch of murderers having a fate like Mladic. Even one with as much delay in justice as his.

    But without this kind of hard work, the chances are none. So yes, it is important.

  2. From Calvary to Andersonville, Auschwitz, and beyond the cry of “I was only following orders” have echoed throughout history. Those who paid the price for their crimes were held accountable because of evidence. Unless, of course, you had a unique skill like Werner Von Braun that convinced society to forgive and forget.,,as long as rockets were built. Doesn’t sound like current crop running Venezuela is comprised of rocket scientists so they might want to start writing their “I was only following orders” plea.

  3. Chavistas dread the idea of post-chavismo. They probably think of Gaddafi or Mugabe, hence, like death, one tries to postpone it as much as one can.

    Then again, there is the truth and reconciliation option, but that, I hope, is too late for them.

    One other sobering read today was Aporrea’s explaining hyper inflation.


    Por cada billete de 100 Bs te dan casi 200 Bs, por uno de 500Bs te dan casi 1.000 Bs, y así sucesivamente hasta el novísimo billete de 100 mil bolívares, por el cual te dan casi 200 mil Bs por cada ejemplar….

    El segundo objetivo de ese dinero físico colectado en Cúcuta y Maicao es pagar la gasolina, los alimentos y las medicinas robadas en Venezuela y comercializadas en Colombia, fundamentalmente a mafias venezolanas (y colombo-venezolanas).

    I guess these guys also believe in the theory of Miasma and Phlogiston too.

    • I read it and had a good laugh. The lengths they will go to to make their theories work is amazing.

      And like all good conspiracy theories, not a shred of proof is required… that there is no proof just goes to show how deep the conspiracy goes! (Just don’t ask them how THEY got this deeply held secret information! Their heads might split in two trying to explain that incongruity.)

  4. Yikes.

    No, it does not matter. At all.
    It only would matter if there was any secrecy or doubt of the atrocities the dictatorship has committed.

    There is no doubt, nor secrecy. The whole world knows it.

    We should not allow ourselves to be persuaded once again to waste any more time appeasing the complacent “opposition” with bureaucratic, substance-less chores.

  5. Quico this whole quinceara thing is so boring, no one cares about the past. Please report on the battle going on between Maduro and Ramirez. This is the story.


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