General Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, head of the feared Venezuelan secret police agency known as the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), on Tuesday night published an open letter in which he somewhat gingerly withdrew his support for dictator Nicolás Maduro.
Figuera is currently the highest-ranking official in the regime to turn against Maduro, although he came up short of explicitly defecting to the side of interim president Juan Guaidó.
Figuera’s letter professed personal loyalty to Maduro and criticized the general atmosphere of corruption in the Venezuelan government, damning Maduro primarily by implying he is not up to the task of restoring honest government or guiding the Venezuelan economy back to prosperity. His sharpest barb at Maduro was deeming it “irresponsible” to blame Venezuela’s decline “only on the American empire,” which is a staple of the socialist dictator’s rhetoric.
Figuera rejected charges of treason and insisted he has a “high sense of loyalty” to Venezuela and its institutions, which he said have been “looted” by “scoundrels.” He insisted his own ideals cannot be “bought or sold.”
The SEBIN chief said it was wrong for Venezuelans to “live in misery in a country so rich” and warned poverty and malnutrition under Maduro’s rule were inflicting “irreversible” damage upon a generation of young people.
Figuera called for “new ways of doing politics” to “rebuild the country,” without directly endorsing Guaido.
Fox News noted Figuera’s agency was responsible for holding dissident Leopoldo López, who has been under house arrest since 2017 but freed in time to stand beside Guaidó on Tuesday morning. Fox said it was “not immediately clear” if Figuera played a role in securing the release of López, who later sought refuge at first the Chilean and then Spanish embassies in Caracas.
The regime on Wednesday accused Figuera of plotting to release Lopez and overthrow the government. Maduro sacked Figuera and announced his replacement after his open letter was circulated. A U.S. official told the Washington Post on Wednesday that Figuera has gone into hiding.