VENEZUELA: A Snapshot of Hell – Caracas Chronicles

This week, the video of an execution, followed by an audio clip of an officer explaining how to cover up the evidence, went viral on social media. The reaction shows how immoral our security forces are… and our public opinion, too 

Venezuela – Click to enlarge

Manuel Llorens and Keymer Ávila | Caracas Chronicles 

“We lived happily during the war

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we protested

but not enough, we opposed them but not enough.”

— Ilya Kaminsky 

We see a corridor about ten meters away. A body hangs, his open arms held up by policemen on each side. It is a dirty corridor and precarious surroundings. The dangling body is struggling to stay up. We see it from the backside. A few meters further away, what seems to be a uniformed policeman watches. He is facing the camera but doesn’t seem to know he is being recorded. Another couple of uniformed policemen are on the sides of the corridor, they come in and out of the picture, doing something to the body. The hand that holds the camera is shaking. After a few seconds of suspense, a shot rings out and the body collapses upon itself.

An execution has been committed in front of the camera. The images are sickening. It is a cold-blooded, premeditated murder of a young, apparently poor, completely defenseless man who was held while being shot by uniformed police.

A murder that resembles thousands of murders committed by security forces in Venezuela. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Outcomes report, for example, uses different sources that include the Ministry of Interior and the former Attorney General, to conclude that security forces have executed thousands of civilians per year, (5,995 in 2016; 4,998 in 2017 and 5,287 in 2018) according to data given by the government. The report doesn’t go any further into how many of these murders were classified as stand-offs with the police and “resisting authority”, but witnesses describe many episodes, similar to the one in the video, where young men were dragged out of their homes and shot point-blank in front of family and neighbors. The report describes page after page of terrifying acts of blatant cold-blooded executions of youngsters allegedly accused of criminal acts, with no trial, judge, nor proof.

It is as hard to read through the pages of the report, as it is to look at the video. But the descent into hell goes one step further if you read many of the comments common citizens share on Twitter threads regarding the extrajudicial executions: “I don’t think that the murdered kids were ‘innocent’. My respect to the police officers.” “In my opinion, he’s one ‘malandro’ less in society and, forgive me but, you can’t ask for human rights for them” and “if he was a rat then congratulations to those noble policemen,” and so on. 

Reports of the event claimed that the murdered citizen, named Dimilson Guzmán, was arrested by a commission of the National Police during an operation in Valles del Tuy, where the largest increase of homicides has occurred in recent years. He allegedly was a member of a local gang. Initial official reports presented the event – as is common practice – as a confrontation. 

A few hours later, to make matters worse, a former prosecutor posted on his Twitter account an audiotape of a police officer commenting on the video. In it, the alleged officer describes with a calm voice the mistakes made by the police, not in regard to their violence, but on their clumsy handling of the procedure regarding the cover-up of the evidence of the execution, suggesting the systematic training of security officers for murdering those detained. 

Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab, promptly reported the arrest of the police officers involved in the murders. We’d applaud such a swift procedure, had many other similar events not been investigated. In numerous texts, we’ve denounced how a third of the homicides that occur in Venezuela are caused by the intervention of state security forces. Monitor de Víctimas, which is compiling the details of homicides, reports that murders committed by security forces are in fact the main cause of murder in Caracas now. Venezuela has one of the highest numbers of murders committed by public force, even compared to other countries like Brazil where the population is seven times as big.

It is hard not to think that this execution led to an investigation only because visual evidence was leaked on social media. The number of police murders is appalling, as is the lack of institutional response to them.

Finally, the silence surrounding such evidence is complicit. Perhaps, if we contrast the lack of outrage for the scene to the uproar caused by recent murders by police officers in the U.S., we can begin to grasp the dimension of violence that has crept into our culture, desensitizing us to the suffering of others. Not only are our institutions profoundly perverted; our loss of peaceful coexistence has turned horror into something natural, something we explain away with three lines on social media, with bland, self-righteous, fair world hypotheses. Blind to the fact that the windmills of authoritarianism and security force abuses are propelled by indifference and support for these routine acts of horror. 

THE SHAKY VIDEO IS A SNAPSHOT OF THE DEPTHS OF OUR HELL. It is not a pleasant sight, but it is a plea, fellow Venezuelans and citizens of the world, for your outrage, your horror, your reaction.  

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/12/2021 at 11:50 am

    Sandiford wrote:

    An awful miscarriage of justice and misuse of authority. Hopefully articles such as this will help to promote the kind of outrage this situation requires.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/12/2021 at 11:53 am

    Gonsalves wrote:

    I saw it. Terrible – and Brazil is just as bad. It must be hell.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/12/2021 at 11:56 am

    Beresford wrote:

    Man’s cruelty and inhumanity to man should not surprise anyone.

    It is a phenomenon that has been present in every generation, some more catastrophic than others. It is etched in our spiritual and psychological psyche and has become a very integral part of our nature and personality.

    We have come to expect these depraved and dysfunctional behaviours as a natural part of life.

    Caracas alone isn’t hell, the whole of Earth has been a hell-hole for centuries now.

    We have just chosen, rather selectively, to designate which part of hell we highlight.

  • Reginald Chee a tow  On 10/12/2021 at 4:24 pm

    I am appalled at such atrocities in a neighboring country. The world must rise up in unity and condemn this barbarity being perpetuated on the Venezuelan populace.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/14/2021 at 12:06 am

    UK Police Face Hundreds Of Sexual Assault Complaints

    BBC UK

    AT LEAST 750 ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT WERE MADE AGAINST SERVING POLICE OFFICERS ACROSS BRITAIN OVER FIVE YEARS, new figures show.

    Data was obtained from 31 POLICE FORCES in England, Wales and Scotland under the Freedom of Information Act.

    THERE ARE 43 POLICE FORCES IN ENGLAND AND WALES, PLUS POLICE SCOTLAND, AND OTHERS INCLUDING THE BRITISH TRANSPORT POLICE.
    FORCES WERE ASKED HOW MANY COMPLAINTS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT WERE MADE AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS BETWEEN 2016 AND 2020.

    The End Violence Against Women Coalition said few officers faced “any meaningful consequences”.

    A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The police must raise the bar and, at a time where they are in the spotlight, they must ensure their actions are beyond reproach.

    “This includes being transparent when officers have fallen below the standards the public expect of them, and being clear on the forces’ response.”

    Data, obtained by PA Media’s Radar service, shows that most complaints, where gender was recorded, were against male officers.

    Allegations could be historical, and the responses did not indicate whether any of the officers were on duty at the time. AT LEAST 34 CASES RESULTED IN A DISMISSAL.

    The End Violence Against Women Coalition, which includes groups such as Rape Crisis, Refuge and Women’s Aid, said “widespread institutional failings” needed to be addressed.

    Deputy director Denzi Ugur said: “WE NEED TO SEE A RADICAL OVERHAUL OF HOW THE POLICE RESPOND TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN – ESPECIALLY WITHIN THEIR OWN RANKS.”

    “This means greater accountability and urgent, co-ordinated and strategic action to address violence against women.”

    The figures come after Home Secretary Priti Patel announced an inquiry will be launched into “systemic failures” that allowed Wayne Couzens to continue to be a police officer.

    COUZENS, AN OFFICER WITH THE METROPOLITAN POLICE, WAS GIVEN A WHOLE-LIFE SENTENCE LAST MONTH FOR THE KIDNAP, RAPE AND MURDER OF SARAH EVERARD.

    Meanwhile, Baroness Louise Casey of Blackstock will lead an independent review into the Met’s culture and standards, examining the force’s vetting, recruitment and training procedures.

    Between 2016 and 2020, the Met – the UK’s largest police force – recorded 530 allegations of sexual offences against serving officers and staff members, according to different FoI data, with 47 claims resulting in a dismissal.

    Surrey Police recorded 36 allegations of sexual misconduct against its officers over the same period.

    The Independent Office for Police Conduct, which oversees the police complaints system, said it was down to forces to “stamp out” any abuse of police powers.

    A spokesperson said: “EACH CASE REPORTED REPRESENTS A SERIOUS BETRAYAL OF THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE THAT INDIVIDUALS SHOULD HAVE IN THE POLICE. IT IS BEHAVIOUR WHICH CAN NEVER BE JUSTIFIED OR CONDONED.”

  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/14/2021 at 12:09 am

    Beresford wrote:

    If you are trained and conditioned to see people as potential enemies of the state that you are obligated to serve, why would your view of them be humane. And if they are given the authority to arrest, ill-treat and murder you with impunity, why shouldn’t they believe that their authority gives them licence to treat you as they wish?

    They are control agents of the state, and the state cannot afford to upset them too much.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/14/2021 at 7:45 am

    Opinion | Another Star Is Born, but the Shin Bet Remains a Cruel Organization

    Gideon Levy | Haaretz

    IT IS CYCLICAL, EVERY FOUR OR FIVE YEARS: The Shin Bet security service gets a new chief. The resume of a superstar, the looks of James Bond, all the old stories come out about his glory days in “the unit”, his bold “service”. Degrees from Harvard and from Tel Aviv. What a mind, people will say, an Israeli hero.

    Every important security position in Israel is invariably filled by “a highly-regarded officer”. They’re always highly regarded when they start. But it ends like Elazar Stern. This is especially true for new Shin Bet heads. They emerge from the shadows, which only adds to their aura. R. suddenly becomes Ronen Bar, and anyone who knew him as R. sings his praises. “Israel can count on him,” “You can follow him with closed eyes.” You never hear a single bad word about the new Shin Bet chief or IDF chief of staff. They are the closest thing we have to gods.

    The tight shirt, classy briefcase, house in the suburbs and groomed stubble are all a bonus in Bar’s case. As is the bizarre story about the burning car of an Arab Israeli whose flames R. put out with his hands on the way to becoming Ronen. What joy!

    Whenever a Shin Bet or Mossad or IDF head is appointed, expectations and promises soar. Time goes by. It almost always ends in tears, embarrassment, shame or at least dismay. The mountains turn into molehills; in the end you’re left with Avi Dichter. When he was hired, we were also promised a star. He, too, was in “the unit” and in a “daring operation”. When they really come to light, at the end of their term, the darkness is revealed.

    “The unseen shield” is the Shin Bet motto, and perhaps the best idea is that its heads should not be seen – for their own good. Drab figures, clerks given a special aura for some reason. None has ever become a national leader. Several even got in trouble. Avraham Shalom gave the order to smash skulls (in the 1984 Bus 300 affair) and then lied and covered it up; Jacob Perry made money and had to leave politics in embarrassing circumstances; Carmi Gilon bore responsibility for Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination; Ami Ayalon seemed promising but faded away. Yuval Diskin occasionally resurfaces – nothing to write home about; Yoram Cohen is already forgotten, as Nadav Argaman will be soon.

    True, we’ve matured a bit from worshiping generals, but not enough. In no other area is there the same kind of hoopla. Not in the economy or industry or science or politics, certainly not in intellectual life. But a new Shin Bet chief is always greeted with this kind of fanfare. The problem is that Israel not only forgets who is the subject here but, more importantly, what is the subject.

    Not many countries take such pride in their secret services. Secret services are a necessary evil. In Israel, when the bulk of the Shin Bet’s activity involves sustaining the occupation by means of tyrannical control over an occupied people, the disgrace is particularly great.

    You can admire the Shin Bet for its successful operations, for its amazing capabilities and spectacular pyrotechnics. But ultimately, we’re talking about a despicable organization. One that does not rule out any means, one that tortures people and plays games with their lives, that exploits human weaknesses for its own purposes, that violates every individual right, that does not treat Palestinians as human beings, that snoops after them day and night, raids their homes and bedrooms, including the kids’ rooms, knows the color of their underwear; the SHIN BET IS THE SEWAGE PIPE FROM WHICH THE ROTTEN STENCH OF THE OCCUPATION WAFTS.

    The person who leads this agency may be a bold and eloquent Harvard graduate, even someone who is fluent in the language of democracy. But he heads a cruel organization that is not only concerned with Israelis’ security, but first and foremost with perpetuating the occupation. Without the Shin Bet there is no occupation, because there is no occupation without resistance, which the Shin Bet is ever ready to put down with the most advanced means in the world. The people who perpetuate this horror are not worthy of any honor or respect, even when they wait tables at Tel Aviv’s Baghdad Café, as Ronen Bar once did.

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