Maduro’s Leadership over Venezuelan Intelligence Service Dwindles

The illegitimate Venezuelan president uses a personal intelligence service at Miraflores Presidential Palace, amid the crisis within his security staff.
Gustavo Arias Retana/Diálogo | 11 June 2019

Transnational Threats

Security forces are seen at the entrance of El Helicoide, the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), in Caracas. (Photo: Juan Barreto/ AFP)

The situation within the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN, in Spanish) is becoming increasingly complicated for the illegitimate Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela. His leadership over this vital security structure is crumbling.

SEBIN’s dwindling support for Maduro was most evident on April 30, 2019, during Interim President Juan Guaidó’s efforts establish constitutional order and return the country to democracy. On May 6, British news agency BBC News Mundo said that the intelligence service directly supported the opposition during the protest and helped liberate opposition leader Leopoldo López, who was under house arrest.

"Of all the state security structures in Venezuela, SEBIN is the organization that has been mostly involved in attempts to revolt against Maduro," the BBC said.

Former Intelligence Director Cristopher Figuera, who fled the country, directly collaborated with Guaidó’s April 30 efforts. In a video published on May 10 on social media and which also aired on CNN en Español, he spoke about the abuses Chavista governments have carried out in recent years and confirmed his support for Guaidó to restore constitutional order in Venezuela. "Stop blaming the world for the misfortunes of our country and demanding more sacrifices from our population," Figuera said.

On May 7, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced that the U.S. government had removed the sanctions imposed on Figuera, for his support of Guaidó’s ongoing Operation Liberty, and for being an example to other top military and security services leaders still loyal to Maduro. 

Personal intelligence

"In the Miraflores Presidential Palace, intelligence agents of Cilia Flores, Maduro’s wife, live amongst and confront those of Diosdado Cabello, second-in-command of the Chavista government," José Ricardo Thomas, political scientist at the Central University of Venezuela, told Diálogo. "Maduro has his own intelligence service he trusts. SEBIN has little involvement in processing and producing intelligence for Maduro, who already has his private intelligence service, because he no longer has leadership or trust in the institution."

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