Mérida, September 28, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab has called for a “restructuring” of the much criticised FAES special forces of the Bolivarian National Police.
The FAES has frequently been accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings, illegal detentions and torture. The government denies that these are common or authorised practices.
Saab’s statement comes more than a year after the UN High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) recommended that the body be dissolved. In 2019, the Interior Ministry, which oversees police bodies, committed to a “restructuring” of the FAES, but no changes in tactics have been reported since.
Speaking on Culture Minister Ernesto Villegas’ weekly TV program on Sunday, the Attorney General explained that “it is time for a restructuring of various police organisations, including the Bolivarian National Police and the FAES.” He went on to claim that the “correction, evolution, (…) transformation and improvement” of the police forces was in the “public’s interest,” but offered no details on the nature or timescale of the proposal.
Besides frequent UN and right-wing accusations against the FAES, a number of Venezuelan leftist groups have also criticised the body’s heavy-handed tactics, including human rights organisation Surgentes and the Communist Party, with the latter calling for its dissolution.
Last Thursday, the Communist Party and a host of other organisations that form the Popular Revolutionary Alternative (APR) denounced that FAES officials had illegally arrested one of their candidates for the upcoming parliamentary election. Isabel Granado, who leads a campesino struggle in the El Trompillo ranch, Merida State, and was later released following a widespread pressure campaign. She added that her nine-year-old daughter was hit during the arrest.
Speaking after her liberation, local APR representatives told press that “police forces should be there to protect us, and that’s not the reality (…) the state is complicit in this attack.”
In addition to Granado’s arrest, earlier this month the APR had also denounced that FAES forces carried out an illegal raid on a candidate’s home in Apure State, while other security forces detained candidates in Caracas and Carabobo State.
Other recent scandals include the conviction of four FAES officers for premeditated murder after the extra-judicial killing of two journalists from the pro-government community TV station Guacamaya TV in Zulia State. Four other officers have outstanding arrest warrants but managed to escape.
During his interview, Saab defended the state’s human rights record, explaining that “over the past three years 140 police and military offices have been condemned for human rights violations with strong and definitive sentences. A thousand people have been formally charged [for the same crimes] and are awaiting trial.” He also pointed to prison sentences of up to 30 years for security forces’ human rights violations.
The Attorney General went on to highlight his office’s successful convictions in the Guacamaya TV case, as well as in another recent FAES incident in La Guaira State, in which five men were killed. He also mentioned the convictions of police and military officers for their role in the Portuguesa State prison massacre in May, in which 45 people died, most of them inmates.
Nonetheless, Saab was quick to criticise a recent international human rights report claiming that Venezuelan authorities are responsible for “crimes against humanity.”
Last week, Caracas blasted the report from a UN-appointed “ghost mission,” claiming it was “ridden with falsehoods,” “written from afar,” and drawn up “with no methodological rigour whatsoever.”
On Thursday, Saab delivered President Maduro a counter report, called ‘The Truth about Venezuela,’ which was written by a range of Venezuelan human rights organisations and looks to refute the UN-appointed team’s claims.
Upon receiving the document, Maduro reiterated that “Any officer who uses his badge to commit a crime or violate human or constitutional rights (…) must be investigated, taken to justice and condemned if the case merits it.”
Both Saab and Maduro also assured that Caracas maintains “good” relations with the recently opened OHCHR mission in Venezuela, claiming to be “working on the corrections needed, case by case.”