Venezuela Releases Ultra-Right Activist Lorent Saleh

Saleh’s release coincided with a visit from influential US Senator Bob Corker.


Pays-de-Gex, France, October 15, 2018 ( – Lorent Saleh, far right anti-government militant indicted on charges of plotting terrorist attacks, was released by Venezuelan authorities on Friday, October 12.

The Commission for the Truth, Justice, Peace, and Tranquility for the Public of Venezuela, which is under the jurisdiction of the National Constituent Assembly, said in a communiqué that psychological evaluations of Saleh, 30, had revealed “violent, destructive and suicidal behavior.” Upon request from his mother, the body recommended that he be released and allowed to travel to Spain for treatment.

After arriving in Madrid, Saleh admitted to his psychological troubles and called for the “rescuing of democracy and freedom in Venezuela.” The hard-right opposition leader had been in state custody since September 2014, when he was deported by the Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos in compliance with an extradition order filed by Caracas.

Following his arrest, evidence of Saleh’s activities were disclosed by Venezuelan authorities. Two videos were divulged in which Saleh and Gabriel Valles, then part of the self-titled Operation Liberty, are seen discussing plans to blow up a bridge, as well as stage bomb attacks at several locations in the western Venezuelan border state of Tachira. In addition, they also talk about training and equipping sharpshooters in Bogota to execute violent acts on the Venezuelan side of the border, including the assassination of left-wing leaders.

Saleh was also well-known for his close links both to right-wing former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who has been accused of ties to paramilitary groups, and to former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma. In one of the publicly circulated videos, Saleh deemed Ledezma “essential” to the plans, calling him, “the politician who has most supported the resistance.”The former Caracas mayor, nicknamed “The Vampire,” is also currently in Spain. He fled from Venezuela after his detention, for conspiracy in a 2015 coup attempt, was commuted to house arrest.

Saleh’s release from the National Bolivarian Intelligence (SEBIN) Helicoide detention center came right after a visit from US Senator and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who met with representatives from the government and opposition on October 7 and 8. It is not clear if Saleh’s release was connected to the Republican senator’s visit and whether anything was offered to Caracas in exchange.

Corker’s previous trip to Venezuela resulted in the release of US citizen Joshua Holt, who was also accused of terrorist activities. Holt, who was also being detained in the Helicoide prison, had allegedly been in the possession of a large arsenal of weapons and strategic maps of Caracas when arrested. His release took place shortly after a prison riot in the Helicoide, in which Lorent Saleh allegedly played a leading role.

The release of Saleh comes on the heels of the death of councilman Fernando Alban on October 8. A member of the right-wing First Justice party, Alban had been arrested for his suspected involvement in the assassination attempt against President Maduro on August 4. Alban was being held in the SEBIN headquarters of Plaza Venezuela, in central Caracas, when he fell to his death from a 10th floor window.

Opposition figures and several foreign governments have pointed the finger at the Maduro administration, demanding an independent investigation into the incident. Venezuelan authorities have, for their part, maintained that Alban committed suicide before being taken to court, with Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab making publicly available the autopsy results and inviting skeptics to audit them.