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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

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In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                  

Bolivarian Republic of


Prison conditions in Venezuela remain among the worst in the Americas. Pranes, or gang leaders who operate from prisons, freely coordinate criminal networks throughout Venezuela.

The police and military have been prone to corruption, torture, and extrajudicial killings.  [Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

Description: Description: Venezuela

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Venezuela.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Venezuela

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 12 August 2021]


Press and NGOs reported that beatings and humiliating treatment of suspects during arrests were common and involved various law enforcement agencies and the military controlled by the illegitimate Maduro regime. Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners were also reported during the year. Regime-aligned authorities reportedly subjected detainees to asphyxiation, electric shock, broken bones, being hung by their limbs, and being forced to spend hours on their knees. Detainees were also subjected to cold temperatures, sensory deprivation, and sleep deprivation; remained handcuffed for extended periods of time; and received death threats to themselves and their relatives. Detainees reported regime-aligned security forces moved them from detention centers to houses and other clandestine locations where abuse took place. Cruel treatment frequently involved illegitimate regime authorities denying prisoners medical care and holding them for long periods in solitary confinement. The latter practice was most prevalent with political prisoners. NGOs detailed reports from detainees who were victims of sexual and gender-based violence by regime-aligned authorities. The FFM found that regime-aligned security forces, specifically the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and DGCIM, subjected detainees to torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and that high-level regime officials committed, ordered, or contributed to the abuses or were aware of their activities and failed to prevent or stop them.


Most prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to gross overcrowding, food shortages, inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care, systemic violence, and poor infrastructure.


Despite constitutional protections that provide for timely trials, judges reportedly scheduled initial hearings months after the events that led to the detention. Proceedings were often deferred or suspended when an officer of the court, such as the prosecutor, public defender, or judge, failed to attend. Prisoners reported to NGOs that a lack of transportation and disorganization in the prison system reduced their access to the courts and contributed to trial delays.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 16 May 2020]


Prison conditions in Venezuela remain among the worst in the Americas. Pranes, or gang leaders who operate from prisons, freely coordinate criminal networks throughout Venezuela.

The police and military have been prone to corruption, torture, and extrajudicial killings. The OHCHR, in its July 2019 report on Venezuela, said there had been at least 2,124 deaths during security operations in the first five months of 2019. It further asked the government to dissolve the special forces unit known as FAES, whose members, it said, stand accused of a “shockingly high” number of extrajudicial executions during security operations.

NGO Reports Widespread Torture in ‘Open-Air Concentration Camp’ Venezuela

Frances Martel, Breitbar News, 28 Nov 2018

[accessed 1 December 2018]

Suju revealed that her group had confirmed at least 106 cases of torture, 61.3 percent against members of the military. Last year, the same report found that a majority of the incidents of torture documented were against civilians. Among the types of torture on record were “electrocution, drowning, and asphyxia.” Six of the cases mentioned also involved rape by members of state security.

Suju went into explicit detail about some of the torture, particularly electroshock. In one case, she told the OAS, one of the victims was electrocuted through their underarms, causing the person’s toenails to explode.

Saleh says he saw regular beatings in the Helicoide, people “crucified” as a form of torture, and prisoners forced to attack each other. In the “tomb,” torturers would reportedly draw significant blood from a political prisoner before interrogation to make them lightheaded or force them into stress positions for up to a week without being allowed to move.

Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela: How Freed Activist Endured 4 Years Inside Brutal Torture Chambers

Robert Valencia, Newsweek, 16 November 2018

[accessed 21 November 2018]

Let’s talk about what you endured in prison -- El Helicoide is an overcrowded, old building where you find murderers, bankers, entrepreneurs, drug traffickers and a large group of political prisoners. It is controlled by Venezuelan intelligence and is more violent. It is the epitome of physical torture and sadism.

On the other hand, La Tumba is a modern and sophisticated place located underground. It has a glaring white light and is a low-temperature laboratory that looks more like a madhouse because it’s used for psychological torture. Prisoners live under 24-hour surveillance, and there’s absolutely no communication with anybody. You can feel the state’s sheer oppression; you don’t know what time it is because it doesn’t exist there, and you lose the notion of everything.

Accounts of brutal torture further isolate Venezuela. But we need justice

Diego Scharifker, student leader from Caracas, Washington Post, 6 June 2018

[accessed 6 June 2018]

Efraín Ortega, a 42-year-old with a college degree in administration and computer science, was unlawfully detained in Caracas on July 24, 2014. He was tortured and beaten, his body taped with cardboard and newspapers to avoid leaving marks. He was later handcuffed with his arms behind his back and hung until his shoulders gave up. He was finally released on Oct. 6, 2017, after his preliminary hearing was postponed 20 times.

The international community wakes up to torture in Venezuela

Francisco Toro, Democracy Post, 8 February 2018

[accessed 12 February 2018]

The ICC is specifically responding to accounts compiled by human rights organizations, which are in turn based on firsthand testimony from former detainees. The stories sound like something out of the darkest times in Latin America’s dark past. They tell of the arrests of hundreds of political dissidents who have endured severe beatings, stress positions, sleep deprivation and electric shocks — all for the “crime” of disagreeing with the government.

They tell of people jailed for exercising their basic rights to protest, deprived of even the bare minimum of due process. Of people tear-gassed in confined spaces, or forced to eat food containing insects, or cigarette ash, or feces. Of detainees sexually abused or raped.

The testimony documenting these abuses was collected over several months by Human Rights Watch

EU blacklists top Venezuelan officials over torture, rights abuses

Channel NewsAsia CNA, Brussels, 22 Jan 2018

[accessed 22 January 2018]

[accessed 20 January 2019]

The European Union on Monday (Jan 22) blacklisted seven senior Venezuelan officials over human rights violations, including the regime's intelligence chief, who the bloc accused of torture.

The official notification of the sanctions said intelligence chief Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez was responsible for "serious human rights violations including arbitrary detention, inhuman and degrading treatment, and torture".

Venezuela’s Brutal Crime Crackdown: Executions, Machetes and 8,292 Dead

Juan Forero & Maolis Castro (Photographs by Fabiola Ferrero), Wall Street Journal, Barlovento, 20 Dec 2017

[accessed 20 December 2017]

Beleaguered regime kills guilty and innocent alike in poor barrios, often with shots to the heart

The young men had already been tortured at an army base when soldiers piled them into two jeeps and transported them to a wooded area just outside the Venezuelan capital.   Stumbling in the dark, with T-shirts pulled over their faces and hands tied behind their backs, they were steered to an open pit. Soldiers then used machetes to deliver blow after blow to the base of their necks. Most suffered gaping wounds that killed them before they hit the ground.   Others, bleeding profusely but still alive, crumpled into the shallow grave as their killers piled dirt over their bodies to hide the crime.   “We think they were alive a good while as they died from asphyxia,” said Zair Mundaray, a veteran prosecutor who led the exhumation and investigation that pieced together how the killings unfolded. “It had to be a terrible thing.”

An independent Caracas human-rights group, Families of Victims Committee, or Cofavic, tallied 6,385 extrajudicial executions from 2012 through the first three months of this year, what it calls social cleansing operations by state forces in which all the deaths were legally unwarranted, the group says.

Rights Group Accuses Venezuela of 'Systematic' Torture of Political Opponents

Sputnik International, 30 November 2017

[accessed 3 December 2017]

Human Rights Watch has released a 62-page report, “Crackdown on Dissent: Brutality, Torture, and Political Persecution in Venezuela,” that accuses Caracas of severe human rights violations against anti-government protesters and political opponents. The report was compiled in collaboration with Penal Forum, a Venezuelan human rights group.

Eighty-eight cases of abuse against 314 people have been reported by HRW. Reportedly, detainees have been tortured with electric shocks, asphyxiation, teargassing, starvation and dehydration, forced feeding of food "deliberately tainted with excrement, cigarette ashes, or insects," as well as rape and sexual assault. HRW wrote that the aim of this torment "was not to enforce the law or disperse protests but rather to punish people for their perceived political views."

Torture in Venezuela

International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (irct)

Developed in collaboration with Red de Apoyo por la Justicia y la Paz, October 2014

[accessed 23 June 2015]

Torture is a common practice in Venezuela among law enforcement agents as well as within the penal system. It has become an institutionalized practice as a result of an authoritarian policing model which legitimises law enforcement through physical punishment.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


IMPUNITY OF ABUSES OF SECURITY FORCES - As of November, prosecutors had received 242 complaints of alleged human rights violations committed during the 2014 protests, including only two cases of torture. According to the Attorney General’s Office, prosecutors had concluded 125 investigations, bringing charges against 15 members of public security forces. Official sources reported that two police officials were convicted for “events occurred in Anzoátegui” but provided no additional information on the case nor the convictions.

Killings by security forces are a chronic problem in Venezuela. In October, members of the Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigative Police killed five civilians during a search in the building of a pro-government group in Caracas. The Attorney General’s Office issued arrest warrants against seven officers, who, according to official news accounts, remained at large at time of writing. According to the most recent official statistics, law enforcement agents allegedly killed 7,998 people between January 2000 and March 2009. Impunity for these crimes remains the norm.

UN Committee against Torture’s Concluding Observations on Sweden, Ukraine, Venezuela, Australia, Burundi, USA, Croatia and Kazakhstan

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights OHCHR, Geneva, 24 November 2014

[accessed 7 December 2014]

The UN Committee against Torture will be holding a news conference to discuss the concluding observations of its 53rd session ... Among the issues discussed during the session:

VENEZUELA: Large number of detentions; allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people detained after demonstrations February-July 2014; military participation in halting demonstrations and attacks allegedly committed by pro-government armed groups; attacks on and intimidation against human rights defenders; independence of the judiciary; the case of judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni.

UN questions Venezuela over alleged cases of torture against dissenters

El Universal, 6 November 2014 -- Translated by Andreína Trujillo

[accessed 29 November 2014]

Jens Modvig, rapporteur of the report about Venezuela, refuted such statement. "There are allegations that during the February disturbances there were over 3,000 detentions, and that those people were stripped naked, threatened with raping, they were not allowed to receive medical care or to call a lawyer or their family, plus other allegations of torture. What measures were applied to prevent torture?" he asked.

Another expert, Felice Gaer, recalled that "only 12 public officials have been convicted for human right violations over the last decade, even though there have been more than 5,000 complaints."

Modvig also called into question the fact that the National Committee for Torture Prevention is not detached from the government, as almost half of its members are representatives of the Venezuelan Executive Office.

Venezuela probes 97 security troops for torture

Agence France-Presse AFP, Caracas, 14 April 2014

[accessed 20 April 2014]

Venezuela is investigating nearly 100 armed forces and police staff for alleged torture during more than two months of ongoing deadly anti-government protests, authorities said Sunday.  The military's strategic command chief Vladimir Padrino admitted that security forces had committed "excesses" in recent days.  "We are able to say that 97 are being investigated by prosecutors for cruelty, for torture," he told Venevision television.

Nearly daily protests began in early February against rampant street crime, soaring inflation, poor job prospects and shortages of such essential goods as milk and toilet paper.  They have left 41 dead and more than 650 wounded, and prompted accusations of human rights violations by police.

Amnesty Reports Dozens of Venezuela Torture Accounts

Nathan Crooks and Corina Pons, Bloomberg News, 1 April 2014

[accessed 3 April 2014]

[accessed 4 January 2018]

Amnesty International has received dozens of accounts of torture allegedly carried out by government security forces in Venezuela since protests that have left at least 37 dead broke out in February.

“We’ve received reports from detainees who were forced to spend hours on their knees or feet in detention centers,” Amnesty wrote in a report, adding that other Venezuelans said they suffered sexual abuse and threats of murder. “Inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted on detainees appears to be intended to punish them for their involvement, or suspected involvement, in the protests,” Amnesty said.

Claims of disappearance of minor tortured in Mérida -- Attorney Genis Navarro accuses local police of torture

Roberto Giusti, El Universal, 15 March 2014

[accessed 17 March 2014]

[accessed 9 August 2017]

They have attested in court that they were intercepted by hooded agents of Mérida police, who put them on their knees, shot pellets all over their bodies and put them into an armored vehicle, where there was another group, also hooded. The boys tell that some of these individuals had a Cuban accent. Once inside the vehicle, they were battered. Later on, they were taken to the police detention center. There, they were taken their clothes off and put against the wall; marbles were shot at them. One of the adolescents related that they were forced to take their tongue out and their heads were hit for them to bite their tongues.

Hell Holes: Torture, starvation and murder the norm at world’s worst gulags

Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, 1 March 2013

[accessed 2 March 2013]

LA SABANETA, VENEZUELA - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called it “the gateway to the fifth circle of hell.” At La Sabaneta prison, some 30,000 inmates live in a facility meant for 15,000. There's just one guard for every 150 prisoners, and gun-toting gangs led by "pranes" run protection rackets. Poor inmates pay them for everything from a place to sleep to protection from murder.

At the low-end of the inmate hierarchy, are los anegados, or "the unwanted ones." These prisoners have recently taken to stitching their mouths shut, taking literally the longstanding La Sabaneta code that says, “When one sews his own lips, no one can kill him.” And inmates do get killed, with shocking frequency. In 1994, 130 La Sabaneta inmates were burned or slashed to death with machetes during a gang fight. The following year, more than 200 inmates died in other incidents and another 624 were severely injured.

Cases of police torture heighten by 10 percent in Venezuela

Juan Francisco Alonso, El Universal, Caracas, 17 August 2009  -- Translated by Conchita Delgado

[accessed 13 Feb 2014]

[accessed 31 August 2016]

POLITICS - Torture continues being a customary practice for some Venezuelan police agents, as disclosed by the 2008 annual report from the Ombudsman.

The organization responsible for enforcing human rights in the country estimated a hike of 10.34 percent in the number of people mistreated by the authorities.

Based on the report submitted last week to the National Assembly (AN) by Ombudsman Gabriela Ramírez, 87 complaints of torture were filed at the agency, compared with 78 in 2007. The events included 66 cases of physical assailment and 21 cases of psychological abuse.

The Ombudsman noted that the Scientific, Penal and Criminology Investigation Agency (Cicpc) continues being the main target of the complaints. This has been the case for several years.

Ramírez recalled that the Cicpc is responsible for investigating crimes. Therefore, she did not hesitate to say: "Torture is presumed to continue forming part of the techniques used by some officials of this police body to get testimony, confession or any information that helps clarify the case under investigation."

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. CAT/C/CR/29/2 (2002)

[accessed 12 March 2013]

10. The Committee expresses its concern at the following:

(a) The failure, despite the extensive legal reforms undertaken by the State party, to classify torture as a specific offence in Venezuelan legislation, in accordance with the definition in article 1 of the Convention;

(b) The numerous complaints of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, abuse of authority and arbitrary acts committed by agents of State security bodies which render inoperative the protective provisions of the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure;

(c) Complaints of abuse of power and improper use of force as a means of control, particularly during demonstrations and protests;

(d) Complaints of threats and attacks against sexual minorities and transgender activists, particularly in the State of Carabobo;

(e) Information on threats to and harassment of persons who bring complaints of ill-treatment against police officers and the lack of adequate protection for witnesses and victims;

(f) The absence of prompt and impartial investigations of complaints of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and the lack of an accessible, institutionalized procedure in order to ensure the right of victims of acts of torture to obtain redress and fair and adequate compensation, as article 14 of the Convention provides;

(g) The numerous instances in prisons of prisoner-on-prisoner violence and violence against prisoners by prison officers, which have led to serious injuries and in some cases to death. The precarious material conditions in prisons are also a matter for concern;

(h) The lack of information, including statistical data, on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, broken down by nationality, gender, ethnic group, geographical location and type and place of detention.


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 17 February 2013]

[accessed 7 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – Although the law prohibits such practices, NGOs, media, and opposition groups accused security forces of continuing to torture and abuse detainees. Abuse most commonly consisted of beatings during arrest or interrogation, but there also were incidents in which the security forces used near-suffocation and other forms of torture.

PROVEA reported that between October 2004 and September, it received 31 complaints of torture and 503 complaints regarding cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. From January to June, Red de Apoyo received 10 complaints from alleged torture victims. There were no arrests associated with these cases.

The government did not authorize independent investigation of torture complaints. Human rights groups continued to question the attorney general's ability to oversee neutral investigations as an active member of the president's political party and a former vice president in the government. Groups also asserted that the Institute of Forensic Medicine, part of the CICPC, was unlikely to be impartial in the examinations of cases that involved torture by CICPC members. Few cases of torture resulted in convictions.

Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 4   Civil Liberties: 4   Status: Partly Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 17 February 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

With over 50 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, Venezuela’s murder rate is now one of the world’s highest. In this environment of rising crime, the police and military have been prone to corruption, widespread arbitrary detention and torture of suspects, and extrajudicial killings, according to both Provea’s and the Public Ministry’s own reports. Such abuses are generally committed with impunity; although hundreds of police are investigated each year, few are convicted.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Venezuela ",, [accessed <date>]