The former head of Venezuela’s national intelligence service, Manuel Cristopher Figuera, on Wednesday denied he ordered the torture of political prisoners, despite previously apologizing for his involvement in that very crime.
During an appearance on PBS, Figuera once again apologized for his role in the abuses committed while he served as director of the national Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), but denied carrying out or ordering the torturing of any prisoner.
“I carry that burden because there are many people who have suffered at the hands of people from that institution,” he said of the SEBIN. “I don’t like to talk about the issue of torture because I think it’s grotesque. We have seen movies. We read books about what people do when they have a prisoner.”
“I have asked people to forgive me because I was part of those structures that support Maduro, although I did not directly order torture or [personally] torture anyone,” he continued.
The 55-year-old intelligence officer is currently engaging in an apology tour across international media following his defection from the Maduro regime in April. He is currently residing in the United States, where he has met with officials to discuss their attempts to oust the regime. Last month, he asked victims of his crimes for forgiveness, including for his role in what he personally described as the “torture” of the Venezuelan people.
“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 told Colombian television network NTN24. “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.”
In an interview with the Associated Press last month, Figuera also provided details of Maduro’s personal involvement in human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and the framing of political dissidents. At one point, Maduro reportedly asked him to arrest President Juan Guaidó’s mother but eventually settled on his Chief of Staff Robert Marreno, who still remains in jail on allegedly false weapons charges.
Allegations of widespread human rights abuses at the hands of the Maduro regime were recently corroborated by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who as the former socialist president of Chile was widely seen as sympathetic to the chavista cause.
In her report published this month following a week-long inspection of the country, she charged authorities with “grave human rights violations” that included a “shockingly high” number of extrajudicial killings, as well as “arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment, and torture.”