Photo: Notimérica retrieved

Last year was a nightmare for Ariana Granadillo.

A 21-year-old medical student from Río Chiquito, a rural community in Monagas, Ariana moved to Caracas for an internship. Her horror wasn’t just from the humanitarian crisis making everything harder for doctors and patients: she stayed at a family member’s home, a military officer that, turns out, is under investigation by the Venezuelan government for alleged conspiracy.

In February, agents from the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) took her away. In detention, officers taped folders to her head to block her vision, beat her, and touched her body, demanding info on the homeowner’s whereabouts. She was released two days later, without explanations.

In May, DGCIM agents detained her again without a judicial order, this time with her parents, at their own home in Miranda. Authorities kept them incommunicado for a week, keeping their whereabouts secret to Foro Penal lawyers, who took on the case.

Granadillo says that agents abused her to make her disclose the officer’s location. They put a bag over her head, tied her hands behind her back, and held her legs. When she told them she knew nothing, she says they pressed the bag on her head until she nearly passed out. They released her (and her parents) a week later, no charges again.

Charges finally came in July. Police officers took Granadillo off a bus in June, held her in jail, then transferred her to military intelligence HQ in Caracas. She was taken before a military court after a month of reclusion, and charged with instigating rebellion, according to Foro Penal. She was accused of having phone conversations with her relative’s wife, and receiving money from her. Granadillo told her lawyer that she had regular contact via phone with the wife while she lived in her home, and the only money she got was for expenses to care for the owners’ dogs.

She was conditionally released, but cannot leave the country and must check in with a judge every eight days.

Granadillo is not the only person being put through hell by authorities, just because they are related to suspects of conspiracy or rebellion.

In a recent report by Human Rights Watch and Foro Penal, we analyzed information about 32 people. Not only are intelligence agents detaining and torturing members of the military who are suspected of rebellion, they’re also going after their families and other acquaintances.

In most cases, members of DGCIM or the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) carried out the arrests. Victims include military officers of various ranks and civilians accused of collaborating with Oscar Pérez, the rogue police officer killed after throwing an alleged grenade from a helicopter at the Supreme Tribunal of Justice building. In some cases, family members, including offspring, parents, or partners of suspects, were detained to find out where an alleged plotter was.

Detainees were beaten, asphyxiated, the soles of their feet cut with razor blades, given electric shocks, deprived of food, forbidden to go to the bathroom, and even threatened with death. Several didn’t have access to their families or lawyers for days. During detention in prisons or military intelligence headquarters, they lacked adequate medical treatment.

The crimes they’re accused of include “treason” and “instigating rebellion;” their lawyers say the charges are fabricated and not supported by any real evidence. Human Rights Watch asked the Venezuelan government to describe the basis of these charges, and the evidence it had against the suspects, and received no response.

These aren’t isolated cases. They’re part of a widespread abuse pattern by Venezuelan security forces, that we’ve documented since 2014, thousands of arrests, with cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, all against real and imagined government opponents. There are also at least 31 torture cases.

Impunity for these abuses is deliberate, so Granadillo (and others) won’t find justice at home. Since those responsible for these aberrations are more likely to be rewarded than punished in Venezuela, it’s key to explore avenues available to hold them accountable abroad.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. This has been the motive operandi of the SEBIN for a while now. If they can’t find you, they grab whomever they can that they figure is close to you and torture them and tell them to pass the message on to the person they are looking for. Quite effective actually. Horrific but effective. “Tell your piece of shit son that if he doesn’t show up we are coming for you next (to the mother) and his little (12 year old) sister.” Then the other one snickers something about “breaking her in”… Actual words spoken to the neighbor who lives in front of me by SEBIN agents. Despicable practices by demons who are completely above and beyond any laws here in Venezuela.

  2. Cuban methods used by Cubans and their Marxist believers in VZ. And still people go on vacations in Cuba, or heads of states hug and shake hands with that dictatorship like spineless Obama. Still there are “people” here on CC that believe and support Marxist-Socialist way of thought.
    Socialism is as socialism does, would Edmund Blackadder say.

      • I work 7 days a week, never less than 15 hrs a day, sometimes up to 18 hrs a day. I build 2 1/2 days of vacation every month. I can however retire in 2 years time at the age of 50 with my own financed pension plan. Working hard has it’s rewards!!

        • Put it this way. If your occupation involves driving, working near heavy machinery or gas lines, or following any kind of safety procedures, you’d be considered a danger to yourself, your coworkers, and the public. And it does not sound to me like you are an office clerk.

          Why don’t you work a little less and successfully make it to retirement at say, age 52 instead?

        • Do it Duncanvd!!!! I busted my tail like that for almost 20 years and then retired at age 47 and never looked back. Wouldn’t have had it any other way. Most people work a job they don’t like, for far longer than they want, then finally retire and promptly die.

        • I hope your job takes you to certain places out of the reach of the US Internal Revenue Service. They just LOVE citizens who work 18 hr days!

  3. I recall another government faction of radicals who follow the family members of the opposition to their homes, dinner, and time with families.

    The leftists will go to any lengths to torture their opponents. At home, work, play, school…etc. nothing is off limits any more.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here