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Venezuelan intelligence is entering the region

Lieutenant Ronald Ojeda, captured and murdered in Chile

AlertaVenezuela raises alarms about recent events which plausibly suggest the illegitimate incursion of Venezuelan intelligence and counterintelligence forces into other countries for political persecution purposes. Given clear and consistent indications of Venezuela’s participation in the commission of crimes in other territories, worrying elements also emerge to speak of new dimensions of a hemispheric security problem, which point to the direct involvement of officials who are being investigated by commit crimes against humanity.

According to a report from Noticias Caracol, several deserters from the Venezuelan military forces arrived in a residential sector of Cúcuta on December 13, 2023, with the aim of planning the overthrow of the Maduro government. The media points out that the Venezuelan State learned of its intentions and responded with a process of incursion of its military intelligence forces into the sovereignty of Chile and Colombia, creating alliances with irregular armed groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Tren of Aragua, with the view of capturing these deserters and other dissidents and delivering them to Venezuela.

To date, the targets of the politically motivated persecution have been three men identified by the Venezuelan government as conspirators: Captain Ángelo Heredia, who was captured near Cúcuta by the ELN and handed over to Venezuelan military intelligence; Lieutenant Ronald Ojeda, captured and murdered in Santiago de Chile by members of the Aragua Train and the Venezuelan intelligence services; and the opposition student leader Pablo Parada, who a few days ago was the victim of an attack in Bogotá by a criminal organization that, it is suspected, would be at the service of the Venezuelan government.

In addition to these cases reported by Noticias Caracol, AlertaVenezuela has recorded information from various media that report on another soldier who requested protection in Chile, a former commissioner of the Scientific, Criminal and Criminal Investigations Corps who fled Ecuador with his family after receiving threats, and a soldier in the Dominican Republic who is under the protection of the authorities of that country after learning that his life was in danger.

According to a report by the Chilevisión channel, the Chilean prosecutor’s investigation into the Ojeda case strongly considers the hypothesis of the direct participation of Venezuelan officials. The report shows statements from the prosecutors involved in the case who argue that the crimes committed against the former lieutenant have no links to an extortionate kidnapping or organized crime, which is why they privilege the thesis of political motive originating in Venezuela. In turn, several antecedents provide the foundation for this thesis.

First, Ojeda was a political prisoner who was tortured in 2017. Second, the report contains statements from autopsy analysts who express that the blows he suffered had to be carried out by a person with experience in torture, avoiding leaving visible marks. Third, according to experts from the Department of Psychology at the University of Chile, two pieces of information are illuminating. On the one hand, the person who was carrying Ojeda around his neck towards the escape route showed training in the technique. On the other hand, the victim’s reaction suggests that he knew what the situation was about, and at one point he was seen talking to his captors. Finally, the Chilean prosecutor’s office affirms that this case involves “a certain degree of preparation and execution of the crime that had not been previously seen in the democratic history of Chile.” According to the prosecution, the Tren de Aragua has not acted with a modus operandi like the one deployed in this case, disguised as police, and with the “work of burying it 1 meter by 40 meters deep and cementing it.”

Additionally, the Noticias Caracol report speaks of “coordination” between Venezuelan intelligence and organized crime in Colombia. In this regard, the case of Lieutenant Franklin Caldera is noted, who in 2021 was kidnapped by the ELN in Cúcuta and handed over to the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM). Also mentioned is the case of Captain Ángelo Heredia, a victim in 2023 of the same procedure by the ELN and the DGCIM, and who had previously met with Ojeda in Colombia. Noticias Caracol includes other references about the DGCIM’s engagement in Colombia, such as photos of the Venezuelan military organization operating in Colombian territory and confidential internal reports on “the expansion and operation of the Venezuelan military in other countries.”

Faced with these credible complaints in other States, Venezuela continues with its frontal policy of disqualification. In his program Con Maduro +, the Venezuelan president stated that Noticias Caracol was “anti-Venezuela” and “anti-Bolivarian” and that “it will remain in the trash,” referring to the report. On April 3, the Colombian foreign minister rejected Maduro’s words, specifying that Caracol “is a very serious media,” and that he will have meetings with his Venezuelan counterpart to discuss the issue. In a similar situation, on April 11, the president of Chile called his ambassador in Caracas for consultation, after the statements of the Venezuelan foreign minister, who assured that the Tren de Aragua “is a fiction” created by the media. After an exchange with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Chile is still waiting for collaboration with facts from Venezuela to clarify the crime against Ojeda.

AlertaVenezuela expresses its concern about the possible growing relationship of the Venezuelan State with irregular armed groups and their criminal actions in other countries. In our report An Ignored Tragedy, we denounce the presence and extension of irregular groups in Venezuela with the complicity or consent of the government and its serious impact on the humanitarian and human rights crisis facing the country. Today a resized reality emerges that points to extraterritorial crimes by the Venezuelan authorities, following in several cases patterns that occur in Venezuela, and that could shed new elements in the ICC investigation for crimes against humanity.

We call on the international community to cooperate with the countries in their efforts to prevent and punish these crimes and human rights violations outside Venezuela, which are closely related to persecution grounds.