With Venezuela in the middle of a massive humanitarian crisis, why is it important to focus on detention?
These issues are inseparable. The humanitarian crisis has fueled widespread discontent with the government. Last April, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the government-controlled Supreme Court’s attempted power-grab from the legislature. But these protests grew and extended throughout the country in large part because of the generalized discontent many felt, not only with the government’s authoritarian practices but also with its handling of the humanitarian crisis. The government’s response to the protests was widespread brutality. The scope and the severity this year has reached levels we hadn’t seen—with security forces and armed pro-government gangs called “colectivos” repressing peaceful protesters, and detainees subject to terrible abuse, including in some cases torture.
How many cases did you document?
We interviewed more than 120 people, the majority abuse victims or their relatives. We also collected information that corroborated that testimony, and documented 88 cases of alleged abuse involving at least 314 victims. We concluded that many of the abuses by the security forces were systematic. We also identified high level officials—including the president, the defense minister and the interior and justice minister—who failed to prevent or prosecute these abuses under their watch.
What types of torture did you uncover and who was behind it?