Venezuela’s illegal detentions accelerate, rights group

When his sister Sugled Gasparini said goodbye to him, he did not know that it was the beginning of a nightmare that has not yet reached its conclusion.

Instead of returning home to El Hatillo, a leafy neighborhood in the southeast of the capital, Caracas, Jairo, a mechanic in town, was detained by the Venezuelan Military Counter Intelligence Directorate (DGCIM in the Spanish abbreviation), the most feared in the security device of incumbent President Nicolas Maduro. One of the forces.

Government Chief Prosecutor refused the report, saying that CNN did not have the jurisdiction to judge the situation in Venezuela through Tarek William Saab.

Although DGCIM operates as a police force within the armed forces, it is known to hold civilians, a sign that strong pressure has increased by the Maduro government. It is not clear how much information the AG Office knows about its activities or raids.

But Sugled did not know: he knew that only his brother was missing during the first 10 days after Jairo’s detention.

In an interview with CNN, Sugled said he was suffering from not knowing what it was. Her mother and father called Jairo in hospitals and morgues, and even among the great Venezuelan diaspora abroad. Sugled sent a picture of his brother through WhatsApp immigrant chats to Ecuador but heard nothing.

Sugled and John Jairo Gaspirini. Sugled shared this image as part of a WhatsApp-based campaign to try to find his brother when he disappeared.

Three days after his disappearance, Jairo’s girlfriend officially reported a missing person to the Venezuelan police, but the police took five days to respond. They said that her boyfriend might have been arrested. Jairo’s girlfriend refused to speak to CNN because of fear of security surveillance in Venezuela.

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Sugled heard Jairo’s voice again – a phone call from DGCIM’s famous detention center in Caracas, Boleita. He told CNN that his sister was fine and had made several short phone calls ever since.

“It was exactly 10 days,” he said. “Ten days without knowing him. When we call him in hospitals, morgues, 10 days when the mother is concerned to see his son. It’s not fair.”

‘Forced losses’

Sugled’s story is far from unique in Venezuela. According to the RFK report, “forced losses” became a pattern under Maduro.

International Criminal Court forced losing persons who have been delegated, supported or accepted by a State or political organization, or arrested, detained or kidnapped, then denied liberty or refused to provide information about their destiny or whereabouts. “

According to Venezuelan human rights NGO Foro Penal, in 2019, which collected data used in the RFK report, there were 524 losses since 200 the previous year. The RFK report was 235 in 2020, and “14 of these people continued to disappear from 31 May 2020, when the report was finalized.” Said.

The logic behind the disappearances is changing: According to the report, Maduro’s security forces use them to silence prominent political opponents, exemplify the wider population, instill fear in political opponents, or gain valuable information.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro came to the country annually at the National Constituent Assembly on 14 January.

Angelita Baeyens, one of the authors of the RFK report, typically showed a specific case: Ariana Granadillo disappeared twice in 2018 because she and her lawyer lived in the home of a distant relative. He became desolate and took up arms against Maduro.

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In an interview with CNN, Granadillo said he never participated in political activities before being detained. He said that a captive from DGCIM was held as a way to reach the relatives of Oswaldo GarcĂ­a Palomo, who lived in Canada in 2018 but returned to Venezuela in 2019 and was later detained by the army. .

Attorney General Saab rejected RFK findings when contacted by CNN last week. “I hope they also have a report of the US Police proving to be the most culprit on the planet,” Saab said angrily at the murder of George Floyd in the US in Minneapolis.

The arrest of John Jairo looks similar, his sister claims to have been detained for chatting with someone wanted by the government.

But the real reason is unknown. DGCIM did not submit an order to justify Jairo’s arrest and his lawyers could not speak to him.

Under the cover of Covid-19

The practice of enforced disappearance in Venezuela is not new. The RFK report documents cases from the past two years. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released in July 2019 Investigation into extrajudicial executions He wants Maduro’s security forces to dismantle one of these forces. Maduro wrote to Bachelet to reject the content of this report.
Venezuela's Maduro tightens power grip helped by coronavirus locking

According to the report’s authors, this dismantling did not take place and the coronavirus pandemic makes the situation worse. While the average disappearance was only a few days in 2019, arrests last longer, as courts are closed, movement is limited, and most of the Venezuelan bureaucracy is under lock.

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A spokesman for Voluntad Popular, a political organization that opposes Maduro, said cases like Jairo’s occurred almost weekly.

Alfredo Romero, head of a lawyer association working on this type of case in Venezuela, said the crash triggered a major violation of the right to defense.

Lawyers can no longer visit detainees or ask courts to access court documents. In some cases, prisoners were transferred from one prison to another without knowing the legal reasons, as required by their medical team.

Meanwhile, John Jairo remains in custody three months after disappearing. Her sister hopes that she will see her soon. “I just want to see him free.”

This story has been updated to fix the spelling of Sugled Gasparini’s name.

Audrey Ash reported from Atlanta, Stefano Pozzebon from Bogota and Jorge Luis Perez Valery from Caracas.

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