Venezuela: Maduro Loyalist Behind Opposition Politician’s ‘Suicide’ Returns as Intel Chief

In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, right, accompanied by his Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, waves upon his arrival to Fort Tiuna for a meeting with troops, in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 2, 2019. (Jhonn Zerpa/Miraflores Press Office via AP)
Jhonn Zerpa/Miraflores Press Office via AP

Socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro hailed the return of an accused murderer to head Venezuela’s top intelligence agency (SEBIN) this week amid the military uprising led by interim President Juan Guaidó, recognized as South American country’s rightful leader by the U.S. and dozens of other countries.

Gustavo González López, who served under socialist Bolivarian Revolution godfather Hugo Chávez, has described the October 2018 death of opposition councilor Fernando Albán as a suicide, dismissing claims of murder by human rights activists.

Albán reportedly died while in the custody of the López-led intelligence agency.

He took the reins of SEBIN in 2014 after a wave of anti-government protests that ended with dozens of young people killed and opposition party leader Leopoldo López prisoner, Infobae reports.

González López reportedly left soon after the alleged “suicide” of Albán.

On Tuesday, Maduro announced that he has replaced Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, considered one of the leaders of Guaidó’s military uprising.

López resumed his position as director in the midst of the desertions and mistrust currently plaguing the Venezuelan intelligence service, Argentine news outlet Infobae pointed out.

“I want to greet the new director of the Sebin, General in Chief Gustavo González López, always in combat, always active,” Maduro declared Tuesday, following Guaidó’s call for a full military uprising.

Referring to Maduro’s remarks, Infobae notes:

The comments marked the return to the SEBIN – the Chávez intelligence service – of González López, who had been displaced from that same function on October 8, when the opposition councilor Fernando Albán was found dead in an episode that [the Bolivarian socialists] described as a suicide, but that opponents and human rights activists claimed was a murder.

Human rights group PROVEA described López’s return to the intel chief post as a high-risk threat to human rights in Venezuela.

The group accused the new intelligence head of “a wide range of violations” including the “death of Fernando Albán.”

In 2015, the U.S. sanctioned the new intelligence head for human rights violations, a designation that he reportedly considers a badge of honor since it led to Maduro naming him the minister of interior.

The European Union (EU) followed suit in sanctioning him.

“López served as Security and Intelligence Adviser to the Presidency since last January. He was previously Minister of the Interior and Justice portfolio between 2015 and 2016 and Director of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) between 2014 and 2018,” NTN24 notes.

Joined by about 50 other countries, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has recognized Guaidó as the democratic leader of Venezuela, noting that all options are on the table for a transition away from Maduro.

This week, Guaidó, backed by some members of the Venezuelan military, launched an uprising to oust the Chinese- and Russian-backed Maduro.

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