The Blog

Horror in Venezuela

Jesus Soriano and the price of dissent in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

11:00 PM, Jan 22, 2003 • By THOR HALVORSSEN
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The government denied that Soriano had been mistreated. A thorough medical examination by a civil surgeon reveals that, beyond lacerations, severe bruising, and cracked ribs, Soriano had been repeatedly raped while in custody. His right arm shows that he has been injected. Nails are missing from his left hand. Soriano's internal organs have been crushed to the point that he urinates blood, and he cannot walk without assistance.

Once the medical report was made public, the secret police immediately began saying that Soriano was a member of a "right-wing paramilitary organization." This tactic, engineered by Chaderton, is used frequently to disqualify and discount opponents of the regime. All enemies of the "revolution" are coup plotters and fascists. The government now circulates a photo of Soriano in military fatigues. Carlos Roa, Soriano's attorney, showed me that the picture is a yearbook photo from when he was a schoolboy in military academy.

Although it was obvious that Soriano had been tortured, Iris Varela, a Chavez congressional representative, offered no apologies: "I am glad they did this to him. He deserved it." That such savage treatment is what greets government supporters who seek a peaceful resolution to the current crisis speaks volumes about Chavez's ultimate intentions. Soriano, now recuperating at home, must wonder why he ever supported the Chavez regime.

Thor L. Halvorssen is a human rights and civil liberties activist who grew up in Venezuela. He now lives in Philadelphia.