Former SEBIN Chief in US: ‘Maduro is the head of a criminal enterprise’

Former SEBIN Chief in US: ‘Maduro is the head of a criminal enterprise’

By VOA / Edited by the Diálogo Staff
July 24, 2019

Figuera, 55, told The Washington Post during an interview that he did not regret turning his back on his former leader, Nicolás Maduro.

“I’m proud of what I did,” he said in mid-June in a hotel room in downtown Bogotá. “For now, the regime is ahead of us. But that can quickly change.”

Figuera was a privileged witness to what happens at Miraflores Palace. He arrived in the United States with key information on the illegal gold business, Hezbollah’s alleged operations in Venezuela, and Cuba’s influence in Venezuelan politics, among other topics.

The former chief told The Washington Post how he changed sides after a March 28 meeting with César Omaña, a 39-year-old Venezuelan physician and businessman who entered SEBIN headquarters on a mission to recruit its chief.

Hezbollah, ELN, and money laundering

Figuera said that after his meeting with Omaña, he felt a glimmer of hope. He had worked for years in military intelligence. But his new job as head of SEBIN, he said, had opened his eyes as to how rotten Maduro’s government was.

The former head of SEBIN said he uncovered money laundering cases involving then Vice President Tareck El Aissami, Maduro’s minister of Industry, who has been sanctioned and indicted in the United States on narcotrafficking charges. El Aissami has publicly denied the accusations, and The Washington Post was not able to independently confirm Figuera’s allegations.

Figuera said he obtained intelligence indicating that illegal groups operated in Venezuela with government protection. Some of them were members of the Colombian guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN), active around mining areas in the southern state of Bolivar, and promising to provide a first line of defense if foreigners invaded Venezuela.

He said he obtained intelligence about Hezbollah’s operations in Maracay, Nueva Esparta, and Caracas, apparently linked to illicit business activities to fund operations in the Middle East.

“I realized that narcotrafficking and guerrillas cases were not to be touched,” Figuera said.

Cuban interference

Figuera said that Maduro relied on 15 to 20 Cubans for personal security and had three Cubans he called “the psychologists,” who were special advisors who analyzed Maduro’s speeches and their impact on the public.

Figuera said he used to meet Maduro multiple times a week, but when he requested a private meeting this year, he was told to go through “Aldo” — a Cuban. “I said, ‘What?’ I’m his chief of intelligence, and I have to go through a Cuban to be able to meet with him?” he said.

A meeting during the country’s extended, nationwide power outages, he added, was interrupted by a phone call from former Cuban President Raúl Castro. After the call, Maduro seemed relieved because Castro had promised to send a team of Cuban technicians to help resolve the problem. “Raúl was like an advisor to Maduro,” Figuera said. “If he were at any meeting, he could be interrupted if Castro called him.”