A new report published by Amnesty International on Wednesday details the latest human rights abuses committed by the Venezuelan military against anti-Maduro protesters earlier this year. The abuses include the execution of dozens of protesters—almost all by gunshots—and the arbitrary detention of nearly 1,000 Venezuelans. The protests began in late January when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the country’s legitimate ruler and named himself interim president until fair elections could be held.
“The authorities under Nicolás Maduro are trying to use fear and punishment to impose a repulsive strategy of social control against those who demand change. His government is attacking the most impoverished people that it claims to defend, but instead it murders, detains and threatens them,” said Amnesty International’s Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas.
Many of the abuses are carried out by the Bolivarian National Police’s Special Actions Force, also known as the FAES. According to the report, FAES intelligence gatherers are scanning social media to find citizens making public complaints about the regime. On more than one occasion, the victims of the FAES had recently shared anti-Maduro opinions that went viral days before they were killed. The FAES is also known to make the executions look like legitimate self-defense kills, sometimes going so far as to tamper with evidence or stage crime scenes.
“As we have seen many times in Venezuela, the authorities want us to believe that those who died during the protests—mainly young people from low-income areas—were criminals. Their only crime was daring to ask for change and to demand a dignified existence,” said Guevara-Rosas in the report.