Cuba’s influence has caused a sharp increase in brutal torture methods used on prisoners in Venezuela, according to a recent report by the CASLA Institute, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that promotes human rights and democracy in Latin America.
In 2019, Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, decried Cuba’s training of Venezuelan police in torture tactics. Cuba deployed tens of thousands of personnel to Venezuela to give lessons in torture to special police forces and intelligence agencies.
Asphyxiation, electric shock, waterboarding, sexual violence, and intoxication with unknown psychotropic substances are some of the torture methods that have intensified in 2018-2019, the CASLA Institute report indicates. According to the NGO, new techniques were also introduced, such as the piercing of the prisoner’s fingernails and toenails to run wires, or inserting electrically charged needles in the genitals to increase pain during shocks.
Cubans intelligence agents and officers belonging to the Cuban Liaison and Cooperation Group (GRUCE, in Spanish) — a Cuban military unit permanently based in Venezuela — not only train Venezuelan security forces, but also participate in the torture of prisoners, the NGO says. The report goes on to denounce the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela as the top facilitator of torture training, asserting that “nothing happens without his knowledge.”
Known among Venezuelan security forces as the “Islanders,” Cuban agents operate from Fort Tiuna in Caracas, but also have access to clandestine torture centers located within intelligence agencies and homes seized from criminals across the country, the NGO says.
Cuban agents, the report continues, also train officers of the Bolivarian Armed Forces in repression, intimidation, and follow-up techniques to spy on their own colleagues and families, political and social leaders, and to monitor the social unrest.
“With the guidance and encouragement of Russia and Cuba, the [Nicolás] Maduro regime arrests, tortures, and even kills our citizens,” said Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaidó in an editorial published in the Miami Herald. “We demand that the regimes of Russia and Cuba stop torture and abuse, and leave our country forever.”
The use of torture has been essential for the Maduro regime to punish opponents, and extract confessions from victims, including accusations, the report concludes. The increase in torture, the NGO adds, allows the regime to cultivate fear and to continue social control.