Tags: Latin America | Mexico | Venezuela | protests | inhumane treatment | President Nicolas Maduro | human rights

Venezuelan Protesters Report Abuse; Say They Were Forced to Eat Human Excrement

Image: Venezuelan Protesters Report Abuse; Say They Were Forced to Eat Human Excrement

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By Wanda Carruthers   |   Saturday, 24 Jun 2017 03:51 PM

The clash between anti-government protesters in Venezuela over the past two months has degenerated to the point that military forces of President Nicolás Maduro have cracked down on demonstrators, conducting multiple sweeps arresting over 3,200 people, some of whom were not even taking part in the protests, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

Once arrested, reports of mistreatment while being held in overcrowded jail cells abound, with some saying they were forced to eat human excrement.

"At least 15 said they were forced to eat raw pasta with human excrement — the officers allegedly put tear gas powder in their noses so they would be forced to open their mouths to eat," a Human Rights Watch report stated of a case the group documented that took place in Valencia.

Human rights groups worldwide have watched as events have unfolded. Protesters continue to clash against Venezuela's National Guard and National Police, leading to arrests where reports are that prisoners are physically abused, sometimes with aluminum rods and baseball bats, and then charged in military courts with high crimes including treason and rebellion.

During the last two months, nearly as many people have been arrested during the demonstrations as in all of 2014, the article explained. In addition to the crackdown, the government is trying to disband the legislature and change the constitution as worries persist that the country is heading towards a dictatorship.

"We have to call things by their name, and what we have here is a country that, in fact, has ceased to be a functional democracy, and this is a tremendously dangerous thing for the region," Mexico's foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, said last month.

The worst treatment appears to come from the country's intelligence service and the armed forces. Former prisoners said they suffered regular beatings and other forms of physical and sexual abuse.

"We've noted a great increase in the number of torture and cruel, inhumane-treatment cases," said Nizar El Fakih, director of the human rights organization Proiuris. "I can say that the increase has been exponential."

The government has publicly defended its actions and its president went on television this past week to address concerns by international human rights organizations.

"The National Guard and the National Police have made a heroic effort and should keep doing it, with no firearms, no pellets, only water and tear gas," Maduro said.

Protesters began peacefully with marches against what they said was an increasingly authoritarian government and a country suffering an economic crisis. Now street battles are the norm between protesters and the military and police. At least 70 have died and 1,300 injured as a result of the protests.

Though the reports from former prisoners have not been independently verified, many recount similar stories of their incarceration.

One critic within the government is its Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz. Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Americas senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the move to try prisoners in military tribunals is a way to avoid criticism from within the government.

"This is a way to bypass the attorney general when she's started to identify that security forces are committing abuses and are using excessive force against detainees," Broner said.

One woman, Ana Rosa Cisneros, a 41-year-old single mother who works as a cleaner in an Italian restaurant in Caracas, spent 16 days in a small room in a detention facility with seven men. She was detained by National Guardsmen when she was leaving a pharmacy near where a protest was taking place.

"I was caught in the middle of tear gas and rubber bullets, and I wasn't even protesting," Cisneros said. "They hit me, pulled my hair, dragged me to a car and insulted me."

Cisneros was charged with illegal association and released after spending 16 days in prison, but must report to court monthly.

Many of the worst reports come from the headquarters of the Venezuelan intelligence service known as the Helicoide, where people report being given electric shocks and claim powder was ignited in prisoners' hair that had the effect of tear gas.

At the National Guard headquarters in Caracas, one detainee, Argenis Ugueto said guards planted Molotov cocktails in prisoners' helmets and belongings. Ugueto was held 30 days and charged with inciting violence, then released.

"They made us sign a form where it says they didn't treat us badly, and of course we all signed," he said, due to "the fear of not knowing what would happen."

The prisons are reported to be so dismal that one woman tried to jump out of a window during her preliminary hearing. A woman detained with her said the woman told her she was so miserable she said if she was convicted "she would commit suicide."

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The clash between anti-government protesters in Venezuela over the past two months has degenerated to the point that military forces of President Nicolás Maduro have cracked down on demonstrators, conducting multiple sweeps arresting over 3,200 people, some of whom were not...
Venezuela, protests, inhumane treatment, President Nicolas Maduro, human rights
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2017-51-24
 

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