Maduro expanded the state of exception last night to include four more municipalities in Zulia state, and two in Apure state, officially extending the measure into that region.

In Zulia, the newly-added municipalities are: Jesus Enrique Lozada, Rosario de Perija, Machiques de Perija and La Cañada de Urdaneta. In Apure, the municipalities are Romulo Gallegos and Pedro Camejo.

This latest expansion of the measure means that all three states bordering Colombia have some municipalities in them under a state of exception.

Maduro has organized the municipalities under the state of exception into seven zones, and placed them all under the banner of the Mision Nueva Frontera de Paz [New Peaceful Border Mission].

Coello Describes Abuses on CNN Interview

Marco Coello, a co-accused in the Lopez trial who escaped the country for the United States last week, gave an interview with CNN en Español‘s Fernando del Rincon last night.

Below, a video of Coello’s interview, along with my translation:

Fernando del Rincon: At this point of the interview, let’s go into detail about what you suffered through. I apologize to the lawyers if it seems like I’m ignoring you, but I’m obviously interested in what Marco has to say. If there’s something that you can’t talk about, please tell us… talk about the worst moments that you experienced, Marco.

Marco Coello: The first thing that really struck me were the first 24 hours of my detention, from the moment they took me. I was at a march, and I got hit by a tear gas canister. I was stunned, and some people helped me by splashing water on my face. I stood up and tried to find a way out, but all of the streets were closed. Then, a person wearing civilian clothes pointed a gun at my head. I thought he was trying to rob me, so I tried to get away, and when I turned around I had 8 officers on top of me. They had guns, and one of them had a fire extinguisher. He came up to me and hit me in the back with the extinguisher. At that time, I sort of fainted, and the 8 officers were beating me. I didn’t know where they were taking me or that they were even officers, because they didn’t identify themselves as officers.

They took me into a building, and all these officers were there – men and women – and they all beat me. At the end of the hallway I saw a sign that said “CICPC” [The Venezuelan police investigations unit].

Rincon: Where did they hit you?

Coello: Everywhere. My face, my stomach – wherever the blows landed.  They had an uncontrollable fury. [Rincon: They beat you for no reason?] For no reason. They didn’t even know why I had been taken into custody.

Rincon: Where you resisting?

Coello: Of course. I was trying to get away, and I was telling them. “Don’t hit me!”, but that only made them more aggressive.

Rincon: So you got there and you saw that it was the CICPC.

Coello: I got there, I saw that it was CICPC, and then the police took me. They made me kneel against a wall, handcuffed, for about five hours. Every officer that walked by tightened by handcuffs and slammed my head against the wall. After that, more people arrived – students, all kinds of people. they took me to a side room and they gave me a statement. They told me to sign it, [and the statement said] that I was responsible for all of the things that had happened and that Leopoldo Lopez was giving me orders.

Rincon: And if you didn’t sign it, then what?

Coello: They put a gun to my head and said: “If you don’t do it, we will kill you. We know where your family lives”. They knew my father’s name, my mother’s name, my sisters’s names, my brothers’ names, [and said that] they would go after them if I didn’t sign.

Rincon: All this was done to you by uniformed officers. Could you identify them?

Coello: No one was wearing a uniform, but they were in the building and they had weapons like the ones officers have. (…) I told them I couldn’t sign the statement because I couldn’t blame someone for something they haven’t done, or say that I did something that I really didn’t do. So they went, “Ah, you won’t sign?” I thought they were going to kill me then, because the person pointing the gun at me loaded it, but then someone moved the gun away and said, “No, don’t kill him here because there are cameras. If you want, take him outside and kill him”. At that point, I hung my head and gave up.

“You won’t sign?”, the asked, and I said, “No, I won’t”. [They then said], “Ah, so you’re brave! Put him in the basement”. They took me to a dark room in a basement. After 10 minutes, I saw — they opened the door and through the light I saw one, two, eight officers come in. They wrapped up in a cot and started to hit me with bats, golf clubs, with their fists and feet. They sprayed gasoline on me and lit a lighter saying that they were going to burn me. After all of that, and all the while me handcuffed and wrapped in the cot, they saw that after four hours of torture I wasn’t going to sign, they tried one last thing: they shocked me with electricity. They saw that I was fainting and that I had no strength and I had given up on life. They said, “Leave him here. We’ll send him out to be put in jail”. They left me there without any contacts, [I was never given my rights]. I asked them, “I have a right to a phone call, can I make it?”, and they said, “Yes you have a right to a phone call, but you’ll make it whenever we want”.

I was incommunicado for three days. They presented me [in court] after the [legally mandated] 48 hours, and I was only given 10 minutes to talk to my lawyer on that day to explain what had happened over the last three days.

Rincon: Did you think that they were going to kill you?

Coello: I was resigned to the idea that they were going to kill me. I said, “They’ve killed me”. I was thinking about my mom and dad.

Rincon: How did you manage to not break and say, “Fine, I’ll sign this garbage to save my life”.

Coello: My family raised me with really good values and I just couldn’t sign a document admitting to something I hadn’t done, much less blaming someone else for something they hadn’t done, someone who actually wants something good for the country, and who was in a way doing something that’s not illegal.

Rincon: You see all of that with some distance now. Are you over it?

Coello: No. It affects me a lot. I have nightmares, flashbacks to the torture, the deaths that i saw on the day of the protests, images of blood and my injuries, everything.

Rincon: Once you were taken and given the chance to talk to your lawyer, who happened to be your mother — I met your parents a few days after that happened. We looked at your case in Conclusiones [the TV Rincon hosts]. We’ve been following up on it. Explain to me how life in detention was beyond the torture and thinking that you were going to be killed. What did they say to you? How did you spend your days? What did they ask of you?

Coello: They were days of isolation, trapped without being able to see even daylight. [Rincon: You didn’t know whether it was day or night? You lost that concept?] Of course. At some points I didn’t know if it was night or day, what time it was, if it was time to eat or not. The only contact I had was with publicly appointed lawyers come in and offer their services, but some of them criticized me saying, “If you don’t accept a public defender you’re going to stay in prison”. That’s what they did. Every day, a different public defender came. Every day.

I wanted to see my family. I only had two days a week, one hour each day, to see them. I was trapped and sad. I didn’t know what was going to happen. They didn’t tell me anything about the process. When they told me that I had to spend 45 under investigation, it felt like an eternity, a year. 45 days trapped – not just alone, but with lots of criminals; thieves, murderers, everyone.

Rincon: Where you able to communicate with your colleagues?

Coello: Yes, they were with me. But at that time we were just getting to know each other because we didn’t know each other before that. We met once we were all held in detention together.

Rincon: You must have suspected everyone, right?

Coello: Even them. I didn’t know them and I didn’t know who they were.

Venezuela Blocks Guyanese Ambassador’s Appointment

Speaking in a televised speech last night, Maduro said that he had ordered a halt to the process of appointing a new Guyanese ambassador to Venezuela after Guyanese Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge apparently made disparaging remarks about Venezuela.

Maduro said that he had agreed recently to welcome a new Guyanese ambassador to Venezuela, but was alarmed on Tuesday by Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez said that Greenidge had made unseemly comments about Venezuela in the United States. Maduro said that Rodriguez told him that Greenidge “had gone mad” and that he spoke in “expletives and adjectives, [attacking] Venezuela”.

Neither Maduro nor Rodriguez have explained exactly what Greenidge said to upset them.

Poll Puts Support for PSUV at 18%

The results of a poll conducted by Keller y Asociados has found that support for the PSUV currently sits at 18%, down from a high of 72% in 2005.

The firm polled 1,200 Venezuelans between August 19 and September 5. The poll found that 61% of respondents believe that the “Chavista socialist revolution” is a failure, while 55% believe that Maduro’s government has “turned into a dictatorship”. On the issue of the economy, 71% of respondents said that they believe blaming the right-wing and the United States is an attempt to divert blame from the government.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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