Photo: Control Ciudadano, retrieved

This Saturday morning, we were surprised by news of the release and deportation of 59 Colombian citizens who were arrested in Caracas, in August, 2016. They were imprisoned for almost three years, accused of being part of a group that would commit terrorist actions during a protest, but they were never tried and the accusation of “terrorism” against them came up in November last year. The 59 Colombians were only part of another tale about an alleged coup that would assault Miraflores Palace, which Nicolás would mention 15 days after the arrests, proud of of the capture of dozens of Colombian “paramilitaries.” There was little information about their transfer from Caracas to Táchira, but Colombian Immigration reported on the contingency plant to receive them and narrated their arrival, while the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights celebrated their release.

Acosta Arévalo’s murder

Hours later, the “joy” for the release of the Colombians would vanish with reports of the murder of Navy captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo, who was one of the detainees after another alleged coup plan dismantled by intelligence services after 14 months of monitoring, said Communication minister Jorge Rodríguez on Wednesday, in a statement where he showed videos and recordings of phone conversations about the plan. Acosta Arévalo was detained on June 21st by agents of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM,) the day High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet left the country. In a video on social networks, his wife Waleska Pérez denounced his disappearance, a status he had until Rodríguez’s statement five days later. 

Yesterday, June 28th, Waleska Pérez requested the Inter American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) to issue protective measures because his husband’s life was threatened by the tortures he endured.

When the judge suspends the hearing

In Jorge Rodríguez’s narration, captain Acosta Arévalo (aka “Gonzalo”) was a specialist in explosives and in the plan, he was meant to place them in Fuerte Tiuna’s communication antennae, in the La Cabrera tunnel and in the Valle-Coche freeway to block transit. The NGO Control Ciudadano condemned the Acosta Arévalo’s murder, and reported that he died at 1:00 a.m. in the Dr. Vicente Salías Sanoja Military Hospital located in Fuerte Tiuna, “due to the lethal tortures that he suffered during a week since his arrest by State agents.” Control Ciudadano added that Acosta Arévalo died an innocent, because he wasn’t formally indicted by the State which, violating due process, attempted to present him before the Third Control Military Court, “eight days after his arrest, with such serious abuses against his integrity, that that the judge ordered his immediate transfer to the nearest hospital, just a few meters from the Martial Court.”

With impunity

Acosta Arévalo’s lawyers, Alonso Medina Roa and Alonso Medina Díaz, said that yesterday afternoon, the relatives were waiting for the autopsy outside the Bello Monte Morgue. Control Ciudadano says that, on June 20th, they explained to Michelle Bachelet how the military violates human rights in Venezuela even against their own officers, emphasizing that the offices of the main intelligence bodies (DGCIM and SEBIN) operate as holding facilities “without any judicial control,” and they forge criminal records that they show on State TV. Rocío San Miguel said that the accusations made by Jorge Rodríguez and Diosdado Cabello against Acosta Arévalo “showing alleged incriminating evidence, without due judicial control and without ever presenting him before court, are acts of State terrorism, which have led to the murder of this military officer.” She added that the murder by torture reflects the reach of the impunity with which State intelligence bodies work.

Reactions

Various human rights organizations and many public figures have denounced Acosta Arévalo’s death and demand that the State open an investigation to prosecute the culprits. Lawyer Joel García explained that responsibility is shared not only by the agents who tortured him, but also by their superiors, the prosecutors and the judge, “as well as the anatomopathologist who conceals the real cause of the death.” The arrest without judicial control allowed for his torture and murder. Caretaker President Juan Guaidó condemned the death and asked the military not to remain indifferent: “Absolutely nobody can remain indifferent before this horror and much less the men and women of the Armed Forces (…) Military family: you’re not alone, there will be justice,” he wrote.

Other information

Journalist Ibéyise Pacheco said that it was judge Maikel Amezquita who ordered the captain’s urgent hospitalization and reported his death. She also said that when the DGCIM took Acosta Arévalo to court this Friday on a wheelchair, “he looked barely alive. He couldn’t move his feet or hands. He had excoriations on his arms, traces of blood on his nails, signs of blows in the torso and he was almost unable to speak. The captain had lost the sense of the time he’d been under custody and only managed to appoint his defense lawyer and ask him for help.” That’s why judge Amezquita order officers to take him to the hospital and postponed the hearing. The other detainees also showed signs of torture, but they had their hearing. The police report on Acosta Arévalo’s file says that the captain “was walking normally when he was detained. Two witnesses signed this report. He was then taken to DGCIM,” Pachecho added.

I don’t know if this cruel murder is meant to discourage other soldiers wishing to split from the regime or if the release of the 59 Colombians is meant to diminish the effect, but the uproar is general. I only hope that his grieving relatives can get justice, and relief for their pain.

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