Retired Brigadier General Ángel Vivas of the Venezuelan military, an outspoken critic of the socialist regime who refused to hand over weapons and accept arrest for years, is suffering severe medical harm after being beaten and tortured by secret police, his family contends.
Dictator Hugo Chávez ordered his arrest before his death after Vivas challenged the new Bolivarian Socialist motto for the Venezuelan military, “Nation, Socialism, or Death” – the same as the Cuban motto. He was convicted of “insubordination” and sentenced to prison, but instead armed himself and went home, refusing to accept the arrest. Vivas was finally taken to a Secret Police (Sebin) prison in early April following the start of a new wave of anti-socialist protests.
Viva’s family told the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional that the 60-year-old was beaten severely upon being apprehended on April 7 and displayed signs of being tortured in prison, among them a wound on his temple that has affected vision in his left eye, complete loss of hearing in his left ear, what appears to be a broken rib, and a severe lower back injury that appears to have damaged his internal organs. His family, who saw him for the first time since his arrest on Wednesday, say he is now also unable to stand up straight, uses a cane, and has lost a significant amount of weight.
“His health condition is extremely critical,” one relative told the newspaper.
Viva’s wife, Estrella Vitora, denounced the torture of her husband on Twitter this week. Vitora adds that Vivas told her he was shot in the ear and had the wound sutured without anesthesia. There is no evidence that Vivas has had access to medical professionals since his arrest.
A journalist, Daniel Colina, published Vivas’ mug shot in late April, and reported that authorities had not provided Vivas with arthritis medication he is dependent on or addressed his hypertension. At the time, the injuries his family reported this week were not overt, indicating that he had been subject to beatings and torture within the last two weeks.
Me informan mis fuentes que el Gral. Ángel Vivas se encuentra con Hipertensión elevada y tiene que tomar un medicamento para la artritis. pic.twitter.com/ZAnLqAM1Ad
— Daniel G. Colina (@danielgcolina) April 29, 2017
Vivas was arrested on April 7 in an operation his daughter, who witnessed it, says involved a false accident to lure Vivas out of his home. That day, a car crashed into the front of his home. Upon leaving his house to check if anyone had been hurt, an unmarked car approached carrying an estimated 20 armed men, who beat Vivas and whisked him away.
The original order for Vivas’ arrest was handed down during the Chávez era, when Vivas legally challenged the imposition of a new, socialist military motto. After the order for his arrest, Vivas locked down in his home and became more vocal in opposing the government, particularly on social media. Vivas contended that the Venezuelan military had been colonized by communist Cuban military leaders, who had been imported to indoctrinate new recruits, and refused to hand over his weapons. Vivas called for Venezuelans to “resist Cuban invasion and the traitors that support it” and called the Cuban flag “the flag of our worst enemy” in 2014.
During this latest wave of protests, triggered by an attempted Supreme Court takeover of the nation’s legislature, the Venezuelan opposition leadership have repeatedly called upon the military to abandon dictator Maduro and refuse to attack unarmed civilian protesters. Most of the opposition leadership has nonetheless remained notably silent on Vivas’ case. On his blog, Vivas denounced the opposition shortly before his arrest.
In one blog post in particular, reproduced by the Miami outlet Martí Noticias, Vivas wrote, “no politician and no Venezuelan political organization has given me even the least bit of support that I need, and not just that, they have ignored me, to them I don’t exist.”
“They are not really politicians, since they do not defend the interests of their country but their own interests,” he continued, “and those of the organizations to which they belong and international organizations to which they are affiliated ideologically and from which they receive money (the Socialist International).”
Multiple prominent members of the opposition, including the political prisoner Leopoldo López, are members of the Socialist International. One of the organization’s vice presidents, Henry Ramos Allup, is a leader of the opposition in Venezuela.