Captain’s death shakes Venezuela

Published in on July 4. Translation by Michael Otto. On June 28, President Nicolás Maduro awarded Marco Teruggi the Simon Bolivar National Prize for Journalism, with special mention for defending Venezuela abroad. In addition to publishing his articles in Mundo Obrero, Workers World has been translating Teruggi’s coverage since January for U.S. readers.

The death of Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo has shaken Venezuela. Arévalo, who retired from the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB) 10 years ago, was detained at the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) to be investigated for his alleged participation in so-called “Operation Turn Faces” that was unveiled by Communication Minister Jorge Rodríguez. 

According to an official communiqué of the national government on June 29,

Arévalo had been arrested on July 21 and his death occurred [date not given] “during the process of appearing before the appropriate court.” 

The exact reasons for Arévalo’s death have not yet been clarified. His wife and his lawyer charge that he was tortured while inside the DGCIM facility and that torture caused his death. Attorney General Tareck William Saab reported having requested the preventive detention of a lieutenant and a sergeant second-class as suspects who were attached to the DGCIM and are now held in custody and presumed responsible for the crime of premeditated homicide with a motive.

Arévalo, who took the name “Gonzalo” for his role inside the operation, was assigned to seize 15 armored vehicles from the Central Bank of Venezuela for use in assaulting the Bolivarian Intelligence Service and the Miraflores Palace. This was disclosed in videos presented by Rodríguez, in which Arévalo, together with others involved, are explaining the actions, step-by-step, of the coup that was to be carried out on June 23, 24 and 25.

Rodriguez reported that the Venezuelan government’s counterintelligence had infiltrated the plot for the last 14 months. Three other retired soldiers and two former commissioners of the Scientific, Criminal and Criminal Investigation Corps were arrested along with Arévalo.


The captain’s case has generated strong public reactions in the context of two key political factors: the attempts at negotiation [between the government and the opposition] and the report the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, is scheduled to present.

Regarding negotiations, Juan Guaidó stated that the opposition delegation, which met days before with U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, will not attend the meeting [date not specified]. The self-proclaimed “president” [Guaidó] maintained that the suspension is due to Arévalo’s death. Guaidó announced no possible new approach in the attempt to reach an agreement that has already had two public meetings in Oslo and depends on the consensus of most of the involved foreign countries, with the key exception of the United States.

On the positive side, President Nicolás Maduro announced on July 2 that there will be “good news in the weeks to come about how well the processes of contacts, negotiations and pre-agreements with different sectors of the Venezuelan opposition are going.” He had already anticipated days before that there would be news, thus indicating that talks have continued the process behind the scenes.

Bachelet said she was “deeply concerned” about the Arévalo case, stating: “I am shocked by the alleged torture of Captain Acosta Arévalo, and that his treatment in custody may have been the cause of his death,” and “I urge the authorities to conduct an in-depth investigation, including an autopsy meeting international standards.” (, July 2)

High Commissioner Bachelet had been in Venezuela the previous week, invited by the government, to meet with the different authorities, such as ministers, representatives of public powers — the Attorney General’s Office, the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Constituent Assembly, the Ombudsman’s Office — and President Maduro, as well as with the National Assembly, Guaidó and civil society organizations.

Events speeding up

Bachelet’s final report will be read on Friday, July 5. The opposition called for a mobilization on that day — which is also the anniversary of the signing of the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence — proceeding from the headquarters of the office of the United Nations Development Programme to the DGCIM. 

The rightists will confront their marked tendency of losing the ability to mobilize. Guaidó’s call before his last one in Caracas was on May 11 and was attended by some 2,000 people. The most recent mobilization took place during Bachelet’s visit and did not reach that number.

The opposition’s bet is to build on Arévalo’s death as a point of support in order to get its disenchanted social base back in the streets. 

And that’s not the only case that has generated unrest: On the afternoon of July 1 a young man, Rufo Antonio Chacón, lost both eyes due to bullets fired by a police officer from the state of Táchira — which is run by the opposition state government, although the police are being investigated by the national government for accusations of mistreating citizens. The Attorney General announced the arrest of two officials in this case and stated that they will be “severely punished.”

The cases of Arévalo and Chacón have been compounded by events such as the explosion of an electric substation in the city of Maracaibo and the false accusation of a riot in the DGCIM, which have given rise to a scenario of fishing in troubled waters. 

These events occur in the context of a coup attempt led from the U.S. behind the facade of Guaidó, the last operation of which was on June 30, and several other violent plots which were dismantled by the intelligence services. The most recent, “Operation Turn Faces,” included, among other things, 300 Israeli mercenaries organized to assassinate the president and key leaders of Chavismo, which was denounced by Minister Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Guaidó to repeat his “unwavering” support and to celebrate July 5 as Venezuela’s Independence Day. Events are speeding up again in Venezuela.

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