The former head of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, made a public apology Tuesday to victims for crimes he committed on behalf Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime.
During an appearance on the Colombian television network NTN24, Figuera asked his victims for forgiveness and pledged to try to make amends by agreeing to testify in any possible tribunal.
“The people who were victims of abuse, of the torture in Venezuela, I want to ask their forgiveness, because I was partly responsible for the Maduro regime’s abuses and their criminal enterprises,” he said. “You can count on me and if I have to testify so that justice is done with the victim’s relatives, I will not hesitate to do it.”
— Idania Chirinos (@IdaniaChirinos) July 10, 2019
Allegations of abuses were recently corroborated by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who published a report charging the Maduro regime with “grave human rights violations.” These violations included a “shockingly high” number of extrajudicial killings, as well as “arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment, and torture.”
Figuera’s comments come days after he gave an extensive interview to the Associated Press where he provided details of Maduro’s personal involvement in human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and the framing of his political opponents.
As an experienced Cuban-trained intelligence officer, the 55-year-old Figuera was closely involved with Maduro’s attempts to crush legitimate president Juan Guaidó.
Figuera claimed Maduro asked him to arrest Guaidó’s mother, but Figuera eventually dissuaded him from the idea on the grounds that she was suffering from cancer. Maduro then turned his attention to Roberto Marrera, Guaidó’s chief of staff, for imprisonment. When Figuera contested that they had no legal grounds on which to arrest him, Maduro told him to find a way.
“What do I do to put him in jail?” he recalled asking Maduro. “He told me: ‘That’s not my problem. Take him prisoner, arm him with weapons. See what you do.’” Soon after, SEBIN agents arrested Marrero on charges of running a supposed “terrorist cell,” and he has remained in prison ever since.
Figuera remains the only senior member of Maduro’s military and security forces to defect from the regime. Most senior military officers were appointed on the grounds of their loyalty to the socialist cause, now enjoying exorbitant salaries and a high-level of influence in the country’s affairs.
Since his defection at the end of April, Figuera has met with U.S. officials including the Trump administration’s Special Envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams, to discuss ways of ousting the regime and instigating a transition to democracy. The Treasury Department has also reversed targeted sanctions against him.
“I’m like a soldier who raises the flag upside-down to signal distress,” he said in last week’s interview. “My mission is to seek help to free my country from disgrace.”