Riot at SEBIN HQ

Your daily briefing for Thursday, May 17, 2018. Translated by Javier Liendo.

Photo: El Pitazo

The agents of the Bolivarian Service of National Intelligence (SEBIN) have been responsible for torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments. Several human rights organizations have denounced this before all possible instances and the Venezuelan State has done nothing against the systematic violations, proving that SEBIN has become a State within the State. The rebellion at El Helicoide gradually came to light through videos showing very different versions of the men we knew it’s so hard to see how much they’ve changed! , political prisoners with a wide range of abuses against them and that yesterday, rioted to demand that 76 people with release warrants be freed; that their lawyers are allowed to visit them, and that the most vulnerable receive medical attention, along with fair trials.

Four demands that sum up the need that the Venezuela State comply with the Law. Several National Assembly lawmakers and NGOs such as UCAB’s Human Rights Center, Provea and the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict denounced the attacks against political prisoners held at El Helicoide, demanding the Ombudsman’s Office to investigate SEBIN director Gustavo González López and other officers responsible for guarding political prisoners.


“We want to see someone, we want to face up to this dungeons where people are killed and the human rights of all the Venezuelans held here are violated,” demanded former mayor Daniel Ceballos, accompanied by San Cristóbal councilman José Vicente García, Polichacao officer Fred Mavares and Lorent Saleh.

“We’re determined to resist whatever comes, even with our lives, so that people can hear and see what’s happening in the dictatorship’s dungeons,” added Ceballos. Lorent Saleh said: “We’re tired of the imprisonment of minors here. There’s people here who’ve been issued release warrants and should be free,” adding the existence of prisoners without trials, prisoners who have been denied transfer to court. Gregory Sanabria, a student from Táchira who was imprisoned in 2014 for protesting, was beaten and wounded. Villca Fernández denied imposed prosecutor general Saab’s statements: “What Tarek William Saab said is completely false, this isn’t a clash between common prisoners and political prisoners. We’re all in here together,” also demanding the visit of representatives from the Episcopal Conference, the Red Cross and the AN’s Human Rights Committee. The families of common prisoners decided to not talk, because “they’re going to beat our sons and husbands to death,” El Pitazo reported.

Last night

At 10:35 p.m., Daniel Ceballos, Lorent Saleh and Villca Fernández offered live statements for CNN en Español, denying prosecutor Tarek William Saab’s statements, who said that the families were properly informed, that the situation was calm and that there are no minors held at SEBIN HQ, even though their parents were right outside El Helicoide; his greatest effort about the case after writing a couple tweets. Meanwhile, Diosdado Cabello said in his TV show: “We’re not going to fall for provocations (…) they set up a fight in those SEBIN dungeons with people who are there for crimes against officers (…) because they needed that to create some sort of situation of internal order. They couldn’t and they won’t”; but the rebellion (and its dissemination) couldn’t have been effective without the cooperation of some SEBIN officers; most wonder, what were their incentives? Villca Fernández explained that the prisoners have no right to light, food or water. Daniel Ceballos said: “We’re resisting violent break-in attempts, they’ve used tear-gas, they’ve fired at us. We ask the country to resist as we’re doing…”. As I wrote this, several National Assembly lawmakers were accompanying the families and lawyers in front of El Helicoide, demanding answers to the situation. We all fear the reprisals they could suffer, this was a long night.

Press freedom

The government got what it has long sought with attacks from National Guard officers against lawmakers and journalists who tried to access the Federal Legislative Palace on Tuesday: an alleged assault against an officer. Most State forces have kept women at the vanguard of all blockade spots against opposition protesters. The videos, from all perspective, show that lawmaker Juan Requesens didn’t attack sargeant Surielis López, but even the Defense Ministry played into the narrative and showed the sergeant with cervical collar, announcing that she’s on leave, omitting that all sort of excessive force against civilians by State forces (regardless of the culprit’s gender) is a human rights violation.

They’ve said nothing about the attacks against freedom of information and press freedom. Meanwhile, the National Association of Journalists demanded prosecutor Saab to open an investigation about the incident. The Inter American Press Association also condemned the attack against journalists and lawmakers. Additionally, the police department of Vargas state is investigating La Verdad de Vargas journalist José Ángel Prada for reporting on the fare price hikes in public transport, also summoning the journal’s chief editor Amy Torres. Lastly, Barinas newspaper La Prensa will shut down its printing presses for lack of newsprint and will stop circulating starting next Saturday, May 19, leaving Barinas without press. Another accomplishment of the Alfredo Maneiro Editorial Corporation, which has already pushed 45 newspapers out of circulation, seven of them in 2018 alone.

The disconnected statements issued by Nicolás and the remaining candidate don’t stand to the importance of this riot, they’re irrelevant when compared with the courage needed to stand up to your executioners in their territory. Saab spoke of sending Prosecutor’s Office’s prosecutors to El Helicoide, but journalist Javier Ignacio Mayorca said that they weren’t allowed to enter.

Todd Robinson, U.S. chargé d’affaires in Venezuela, also left the Foreign Ministry without answers.

Whether Ecuador supports the May 20 process and Canada doesn’t, as denounced by Jorge Arreaza, is irrelevant. A more coherent piece of news, was what Nicaraguan student Lesther Alemán told dictator Daniel Ortega: “We can’t negotiate with a murderer, because what’s taken place here is a genocide,” the kid said.

We went to bed last night in fear that our own genocide continues. As we do every night.

Venezuelans continue starving to death, dying for lack of medicines, for the sadism of a government that’s incapable of admitting the collapse it caused. And this is how they want to hold “elections.”

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.