Venezuela: security forces carried out violent home raids in 'twisted' crackdown - new report
The Venezuelan authorities are involved in a campaign of intimidation against its people, Amnesty International said in a new report published today, which details security forces smashing their way into homes, threatening rape and firing gas canisters.
Amnesty’s report, Nights of terror: Attacks and illegal raids on homes in Venezuela, details the extensive clampdown on any form of civilian protest, with Venezuelan security forces and government-sponsored civilian armed groups accused of terrifying raids, looting and thousands of arbitrary detentions.
Local human rights organisations reported at least 47 illegal home raids in 11 districts across the country between April and July this year when anti-government demonstrations were at their height. More than 120 people were killed, nearly 2,000 injured and more than 5,000 arrested during this period.
Victims said security forces and armed men, believed to be members of President Maduro’s government-sponsored illegal armed groups, entered their homes without judicial orders or any explanation, sometimes spending the whole night.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:
“In Venezuela, no place is safe from the twisted power of the security forces. Not even people’s homes.
“The Venezuelan authorities have found a new and disturbing way of stamping out dissent as part of a seemingly endless quest to instil fear into the population. They have taken street repression into people’s living rooms.
“People have the right to feel safe in their own homes. These home raids are absolutely illegal under international law and Venezuela’s own constitution.”
Victims threatened in their homes
Amnesty experts interviewed victims of home raids in four Venezuelan states: Caracas, Miranda, Carabobo and Lara.
One man from Lara, in the north of the country, said that security forces entered his home shouting, “Come down now fucking bandits…we are going to rape you all.”
One woman living in an apartment block in Miranda, also in the north, told Amnesty that during a raid on 22 May, the men shouted: “Open up, open up…the bogeyman is here.”
Another resident of San Antonio de Los Altos in Miranda said: “I had bruises from being beaten and bashed about. Of course, you can’t count the psychological wounds, but you live with them all the time, the suffering doesn't stop.”
In other reports, security forces broke down doors, smashed windows and stole people’s belongings. In one apartment block in Miranda, CCTV cameras caught members of the security forces leaving with heavy bags, believed to be stolen objects.
Once inside the victims’ homes, security forces demanded the location of the “young men who were protesting,” as massive arbitrary detentions took place. Victims told Amnesty they remain terrified their homes will be targeted again, and struggle to sleep. A chronic shortage of goods in Venezuela means some victims cannot repair the damage caused by the raids and have not been able to replace their doors.
Erika Guevara-Rosas said:
“It is time for the Maduro administration and its security forces to stop employing violence and repression against its people. These types of violations cannot continue in the future and there must be justice for the victims to ensure this policy of violence comes to an end.
“By continuing this repression, instead of investigating and punishing those responsible for these acts, the authorities are sending a frightening message: anyone could be repressed at any moment and in any place, no matter their political beliefs.”
Anti-government protests have been ongoing in Venezuela since April, with more than 120 killed and thousands arrested. Venezuela is embroiled in a deep political crisis, which has left the country deeply polarised between supporters of the socialist government headed by President Nicolás Maduro, and its opponents.
Amnesty has previously warned that the authorities’ tightening stranglehold on any form of dissent has taken repression to a frightening new level.