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Two of Maduro’s former political prisoners described their experiences at El Helicoid: “People were electrocuted, drowned and suffocated.”

Two of Maduro’s former political prisoners described their experiences at El Helicoid: “People were electrocuted, drowned and suffocated.”
The offices of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) are located in the legendary El Helicoid building, visible from a good part of Caracas as it spirals atop a hill. Caracas, Venezuela December 17, 2022. REUTERS/Gaby Oraa

(Washington, USA) Matthew Heath He is a marine America He enjoyed sailing as a hobby. “I like traveling to places that are a little off the beaten path and 99% of the time it works well. In mid-2020 it’s not working well,” he said Monday at an event in Washington. The Venezuelan Dictatorship He catches up with him in a fishing village trying to get to Aruba where some friends who are exploring the possibility of a cruise in the Caribbean are waiting for him. To release him, two years later, the Govt Joe Biden A should have accepted Prisoner exchange With the Chavista regime, something was being questioned domestically in the United States as an incentive Venezuela Detain US citizens without warrant.

Victor Navarro He holds a degree in communications and was arrested by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service on January 24, 2018, in one of the most tense moments in Venezuela (Sebin) for his social militancy against an increasingly authoritarian government. Linked from Buenos Aires in the same event organized by Atlantic Council, He also shared his testimony of what it was like to be a political prisoner of the Venezuelan dictatorship.

Heath and Navarro experienced firsthand at different moments of the reign Nicolás Maduro, consequences of oppression and torture. Both have reinvented themselves through their experience to warn others about what is happening in Venezuela.

Navarro went into exile in Buenos Aires and devoted himself to journalism. Along with other colleagues he formed an NGO called NGO voices of memory, It seeks to see what is happening in their country. In a few days, Navarro and his team will present a project that aims to enable users, through a virtual reality audience, to live for a few minutes like Madurismo political prisoners in an iconic building in Caracas: Helicoid.

It is a spiral structure that stands out in Caracas and was designed to house a shopping center. Today it houses Sebin’s offices and serves as a prison where political prisoners are tortured.

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Based on the testimonies of three men and women who were detained there from 2014 to the present day, Navarro and his team designed a virtual reality experience so that you can appreciate the terrifying prison and let users feel at least a small part of it. Political prisoners must live and feel.

Political-civilian and military-prisoners are held in Helikoid.

“El Helicoid is a torture center. There are illegal torture centers in Venezuela. They are not ordinary prisons. There they directly answer to Maduro and torture civilians and soldiers. These are things that keep happening. “El Helicoid represents the worst face of chauvismo and madurismo,” Navarro said.

“People were electrocuted, drowned, suffocated and killed in the helicoid. They are not allowed to see the sun or be with family. In that spiral system, Chavismo and Madurismo commit the worst atrocities.

Matthew Heath is a former US Marine who spent two years in prison in Venezuela.

Heath was released in 2022, so his experience is fairly recent. His case was at a very high level and should have been resolved by President Biden through State Department negotiations with the Venezuelan dictatorship.

But instead of deciding to lock himself into his story, the former Maduro political prisoner wants to do something about it, and traveled from his home in Tennessee to tell his story to congressmen in Washington so that what’s happening in Venezuela remains hidden.

Additionally, as he said at an Atlantic Council event, he works to prevent other Americans from suffering like him anywhere in the world. “I’m in the private security industry, trying to help travelers prevent situations like this,” Heath said.

Pending cases like Austin Dice Missing in Syria for 10 years. Ahmed Sharqi He is one of those detained in Iran. We must not only solve cases, but to prevent So that this does not happen to other citizens,” he added.

Heath had to move a lot from prison in order for the Biden government to negotiate his release with Venezuela. He said he was able to get letters to his family, which was very difficult. “I cannot go into detail about how I got the notes out of the jail because I had people who helped me with the notes. Venezuela If I talk about them, they will go to jail tonight,” he said.

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He had no contact for the first 10 months. “It was very difficult. I’m not a lawyer, but I firmly believe it’s a violation of human rights and the treatment of prisoners. It’s unfair. And it’s common. Venezuela”, he promised.

After nearly a year of no contact, prison officials moved, where he began making phone calls to his family. In any case, none of it is easy, because Their every communication was listened to or recorded by the regime.

Heath has a 13-year-old son, but for him, although this is the most important thing in his life, he hesitates to call him from prison, because the presence of family intimidation is so normal. “It’s something I don’t want my young son to be involved in,” she said.

Two former inmates of Madurismo described how the world they found after being imprisoned in one of those Venezuelan centers was completely different.

“When you get out of prison, the structures are different. Everything was smaller there. And the rain has another dimension. After prison your life changes completely and your responsibility towards the country changesNavarro said.

Heath never forgot the day of his release. Around 6 am the Deputy Director of Jails gave him the notice but he did not believe it. “They are evil. They practice lies. I thought he was manipulating me for a new trial. Others convinced me. It was a wonderful day,” he said.

After being released from prison, Navarro says his perspective on how to confront Madurismo is also changing. “The most important thing is not resistance. It is justice and telling the truth, and trying to do it again is the most important thing. In El Helicoid I understood the dimension of Chavismo. “I have a responsibility to tell the truth about this experience,” said the Argentina-based Venezuelan.

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“This experience changed my life. But my role is to create memory, to create justice, to fight to prevent recurrence, and to make other victims who are silenced visible,” added Navarro.

FILE – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro waves as he arrives at the South American Summit at the Idamarati Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Andre Benner, File)

An estimated 50,000 have been held in arbitrary detention in Venezuela since 2014, when the crackdown began in earnest. Today, it is estimated that there are still 280 political prisoners in Venezuelan prisons, although exact numbers are not available.

Tamara Taraciuk Broner, the new chair of the Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program of the In-American Dialogue, said on the show that she has seen the horrors she has documented in detention centers in Venezuela during her career. “Torture is used to punish people and obtain information. The truth is that when someone is tortured, the source of the information is unknown. This is not real information.

But the justice system in Venezuela is far from independent. That information is used.

“Torture is a system that operates in countries without judicial independence, and is used as a tool against enemies,” Daraciuk said.

Jeff Ramsey, who studies Venezuela issues for the Atlantic Council, stressed the urgency of continuing to highlight what is happening in the country. “It is necessary to recognize the truth” because the injustices in the country are not “an abstract content or some kind of false narrative”.

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