Death squads are sent to murder young Venezuelans and stage the scenes to make it look like the victims resisted arrest, the United Nations said in a report issued by its human rights chief on Thursday.
Government figures showed that deaths ascribed to ‘criminals resisting arrest’ numbered 5,287 last year and 1,569 by May 19 this year, Reuters reports with reference to the UN.
The witnesses described them as how masked men dressed in black arriving in black pickups without license plates. They broke into houses, took belongings, planted drugs and arms on their victims, assaulted women and girls, sometimes stripping them naked. According to the UN report, the men may serve in Venezuela’s Special Action Forces (FAES).
Venezuela is experiencing a protracted economic crisis resulting from the policies of Nicolas Maduro. There is hyperinflation, people lack food and medicine, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have left the country. At the end of 2018, a presidential election was held in Venezuela, where Maduro won again. However, the opposition and most of the countries of Latin America did not recognize Maduro’s victory, since they did not consider the elections free and fair.
In late January, mass protesting against president Nicolas Maduro erupted in Venezuela. Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition National Assembly, declared himself acting president during an opposition rally in Caracas. The United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay and the Vatican officially acknowledged Guaido as a legitimate interim head of Venezuela while Russia, Mexico and Bolivia failed to recognize his legitimacy. Since then, there has been sort of duality of power in the country.
On January 25, news agency Reuters reported with reference to sources familiar with the situation that members of the so-called Wagner private military company headed for Venezuela to guard Nicolas Maduro. The grouping of Russian mercenaries led by Commander Dmitry Utkin is supposedly financed by Evgeny Prigozhin whose nickname is ‘Putin’s Chef’. Wagner is supposedly fighting for separatists in Donbas and for al-Assad in Syria. In turn, the Kremlin denied the reports about Russia’s military being involved in the developments in Venezuela.
In late March, Venezuelan officials confirmed the fact of Russian military’s arrival in the country as part of ‘military cooperation between the two allies’.