The New York Times published a story Sunday which makes clear that protesters in Venezuela have been suffering tremendous abuse at the hands of the country’s police and soldiers. The crackdown is so severe that even some allies of President Maduro are calling on him to tone it down.
The Times article contains a number of stories of individuals who were beaten or killed. It opens with Clipso Martínez who was shot with plastic shells at such close range that pieces of his shattered car keys had to be dug out of his leg.
He was lucky compared to 23-year-old Geraldín Moreno. She was banging a pan in protest when soldiers on motorcycles pulled up in front of her apartment complex. Moreno tried to run but tripped. That’s when “a soldier got off his motorcycle, pointed his shotgun at her head and fired.” The round contained plastic not metal but it was fired so close that pellets went through her eye and into her brain. She died in surgery. No one has been arrested for the murder.
The Times also tells the story of Keyla Brito who, along with her teenage daughter, was arrested by the National Guard and taken to a prison for women along with six other women who had been detained:
soldiers beat them, kicked them and threatened to kill them, according
to Ms. Brito, her daughter and two of the other women. Male soldiers
threatened to rape them, they said.
Brito said that a soldier cut off her waist-length hair, leaving it
ragged. Her daughter and the other women underwent similar haircuts,
The women said they were released only after being made to sign a paper stating that they had not been mistreated.
Luis Gutiérrez was kicked in the fact until his nose was broken and doctors needed to install metal plates to rebuild his forehead. Oswald Torres said he was kicked by soldiers who pretended he was a soccer ball. Eventually he was hit in the head by a soldier’s helmet so hard that he heard his own skull crack before passing out.
These are just a few of many similar stories. The Times notes that the Penal Forum has “documented 70 cases of alleged abuse so far.” Many of the victims describe “similar patterns of abuse” which often involve being made to lie on the ground so that soldiers can kick them.
President Maduro called for Council for Human Rights intended to look into the reports of abuse. But as the Times points out “critics complained that the council included the same government
officials responsible for the security forces implicated in abuses: the
defense minister and the interior minister.”
According to the government there are currently 197 people in prison out of the 2,000 arrested in connection with the protests.