Prince Charles and the Torturers
As he visits Havana, a new report details the Cuba-backed horrors of Venezuela’s regime.
Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, thumbed their noses at the victims of Venezuelan atrocities last week with an official trip to Cuba—the first ever by a member of the British royal family.
The Castro regime enthusiastically circulated photographs of the British delegation in front of a Che Guevara icon in Havana, a tired and gimmicky invocation of 1960s radical chic that’s even more farcical in the 21st century.
Under Castro rule since 1959, Cuba has gone from being one of the most developed countries in Latin America to a low-rent tourist destination famous for child prostitution, crime, poverty and political prisoners. Communists did this in the name of equality. Images of the “revolutionary” military dictatorship’s elite celebrating a pampered Englishman who epitomizes birthright privilege are beyond parody.
If Prince Charles wanted good publicity, his timing couldn’t have been worse. Days earlier, Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, held a Washington press conference to receive a detailed update on widespread torture and other crimes against humanity in Venezuela. Cuba, the report shows, plays an outsize role in these horrors.
Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro remains in power thanks to Cuba’s expertise in repression. Instruments of terror include Cuba-trained secret police and paramilitary, the latter of which are called colectivos and operate like the Iranian Basij. Cuba also provides the advanced cyberintelligence network Mr. Maduro uses to maintain control.
In his opening remarks in Washington, Mr. Almagro referenced Havana’s “flagrant intervention,” which he noted is a violation of the OAS’s InterAmerican Charter. Tamara Suju, a Venezuelan lawyer, is executive director of the Prague-based Casla Institute, which issued the report. She described the “systematic repression” since January as the “hardest and cruelest” yet seen in Venezuela.
Ms. Suju spoke of sweeping arbitrary detentions, myriad methods of torture, and extrajudicial executions. She told how protesters are followed home and murdered in front of their families by special forces trained to spread fear. Family members have also become targets of arrest and torture to force those being sought to turn themselves in.
Ms. Suju’s remarks were followed by the testimony of Lt. Ronald Dugarte, a former counterintelligence official for the Venezuelan military. He said Cuba provided training to Venezuelan intelligence officers. He described the torture used in military prisons, where inmates reportedly have been subjected to “electric shocks in different parts of the body, suffocation with plastic bags, hanging with the hands backward, forceful blows in the most vital areas of the body, and injections with substances that caused confusion while being tortured.”
Lt. Dugarte said he had seen “how Cuban intelligence performs mixed operations between the Venezuelan and Cuban military.” The Cuban handlers, he said, “monitor all the military units. At the moment the Cuban intelligence militia enters, they give orders of how to perform the intelligence work and are always sowing hatred toward anyone who is against communism.”
The Casla Institute report corroborates research by renowned Venezuelan defense and security expert Rocío San Miguel, president of the nongovernmental organization Citizen Control. In an interview with the Venezuelan online newspaper TalCual published March 27, Ms. San Miguel described how the Cuban armed forces inserted themselves in the “reform” of the Venezuelan military. “This allowed the reorganization of the National Armed Forces to be developed in a direction that closely resembles Cuba’s.”
From there, she says, Cuba participated in the building of intelligence and counterintelligence for Venezuela’s emerging police state. It’s not that Cuba has so many foot soldiers in Venezuela. Rather “they are and have intervened at the level of operational strategic command and in the conceptualization of the new structure . . . in general, throughout the intelligence system.”
Citizen Control estimates that some 250 Venezuelan military personnel have been arrested in the past two years either for actively opposing the regime or on suspicion of dissent. Around 4,000 National Guard have been designated deserters after they did not return from Christmas vacation. “Never before have there been so many soldiers tortured, imprisoned, degraded, expelled, deserting in the armed forces.”
Cuba, along with its longtime partner Russia, is still motivated by imperialist dreams as Havana and Moscow recover from the reverses suffered with the collapse of the Soviet empire. In Venezuela these dreams have spawned a diabolical mix of misery and savagery.
The civilized world wants to restore Venezuelan democracy without more bloodshed. But unified international pressure, not only on Venezuela but on Cuba, is necessary to avoid military intervention. When Britain’s heir to the throne jets off to make common cause with the despots, he undermines the cause of peace.