U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
“Maduro usurped power; he’s not the duly elected president. Juan Guaidó is the person that the Venezuelan people chose. America and now 54 other nations simply have ratified that, have said, ‘Yep, we recognize that’s what Venezuelans want.’” – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, March 19, 2019.
Venezuela’s former regime, led by Nicolás Maduro, has consistently violated the human rights and dignity of its citizens, plundered the country’s natural resources, and driven a once prosperous nation into economic ruin with his authoritarian rule and socialist economic policies. Maduro’s thugs have engaged in extra-judicial killings and torture, taken political prisoners, and severely restricted freedom of speech, all in a brutal effort to retain power.
MADURO’S UNCONSTITUTIONAL ACTS:
- In 2015, pro-democracy opposition parties resoundingly defeated the Maduro regime in legislative elections. Shortly thereafter, Maduro began dismantling various branches of government. Lame-duck National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello rushed to stack the country’s courts with unqualified party hacks to serve as Maduro’s guarantors of power.
- On January 11, 2016, when the National Assembly proceeded to seat three legitimately elected deputies, the Supreme Court declared the National Assembly in contempt, rendering all subsequent legislation approved by this democratically elected body null and void. Maduro has deliberately sidelined this constitutionally legitimate Assembly ever since.
- Maduro’s National Electoral Council (CNE) cronies oversee the conduct of all elections and declare the winners. Since 2015, they have tilted the playing field to ensure that Maduro can’t lose. They have disqualified every major opposition party and most opposition candidates since 2017.
- In 2017, acting on Maduro’s orders, the CNE organized widely contested elections for the National Constituent Assembly, whose primary objective was to draft a new constitution. Instead, Maduro used the Assembly to usurp the powers of the legitimate National Assembly, ratify his orders, and enact laws, many of which vilify and disparage opposition figures and their policy proposals.
- This sham electoral system culminated in the May 20, 2018 presidential elections. With most opposition figures arrested, exiled, or banned from running, Maduro faced a weakened field of candidates in a rigged election. To drive pro-Maduro turnout, the regime bribed voters with desperately needed food and other subsidies in exchange for their votes.
- On January 10, 2019, Maduro unlawfully assumed the presidency at a ceremony deemed illegitimate by many Venezuelans and more than 50 countries, including most of Venezuela’s neighbors and the majority of the European Union.
In this context, Juan Guaidó, elected on January 5, 2019, as President of the National Assembly, the only remaining democratically elected and legitimate institution in the country, invoked relevant articles of the Venezuelan constitution and became Venezuela’s Interim President.
- Maduro’s most egregious corruption scheme involved embezzlement from the state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PdVSA). In 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a finding under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act. A European bank accepted exorbitant commissions to process approximately $2 billion in transactions related to Venezuelan third–party money launderers, shell companies, and complex financial products to siphon off funds from PdVSA.
- In 2018, a $1.2 billion money-laundering scheme involving Matthias Krull, a German national and Panamanian resident, and Gustavo Adolfo Hernandez, a Colombian national and naturalized U.S. citizen, exploited PdVSA and took advantage of the corruption in Venezuela’s foreign currency exchange systems by trading U.S. dollars for Venezuelan bolivars at market rate and then back
- In 2016, Maduro declared approximately 12% of the country to be a part of an “Orinoco Mining Arc” and awarded himself broad authorities to oversee the exploitation of resources for personal gain. In 2017, the regime ejected legitimate foreign companies doing business and replaced them with unregulated miners who operate with the backing of senior Venezuelan military officers.
- In 2017, after a seven month investigation, Venezuela’s National Assembly uncovered instances where the regime “spent” $42 for a box of food, which it then distributed in exchange for votes, at a time when the food items cost less than $13. Maduro’s inner circle kept the difference, which totaled more than $200 million dollars in at least one case.
- Venezuela ranks 169 out of 180 countries on the Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index.
MADURO’S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS:
- In October 2018, Caracas Councilman Fernando Alban traveled to New York to denounce the Maduro regime’s brutality on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Upon his return to Venezuela on October 5, Maduro’s secret police arrested him at the airport. He died in custody a few days later when he mysteriously fell from a 10th floor window of a maximum-security prison in Caracas.
- Maduro has increasingly relied on the Special Action Force of the National Police (FAES) that he created in 2017 to carry out illegal raids and extrajudicial killings.
- The FAES, comprised of 1,300 officers, stands accused of killing more than 100 people in low-income neighborhoods from June to December 2018. (January 26, 2019 NGO Provea report)
- On March 20, 2019, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, FAES executed 37 people in connection with illegal home invasion raids in January.
- The regime has deployed the National Guard and civil militias known as colectivos to crack down on peaceful protestors. According to the National Assembly, the former regime is responsible for at least 40 protest-related deaths so far this year.
- 175 protest-related detentions and 7 deaths reported on January 23, 2019 (NGO Foro Penal)
- 1,255 persons detained since January 21, 2019 (NGO Foro Penal)
- 864 prisoners of conscience, including 95 military members (NGO Foro Penal, as of 4/1/19)
- On April 5, 2019, human rights NGO PROVEA announced the discovery of several clandestine detention centers, including three allegedly run by colectivos, police, state security forces, and intelligence agencies, where the former regime extralegally detained and abused Venezuelan citizens.
- On April 4, 2019, police raided the home of National Assembly Deputy Roberto Alcalá in an effort to prosecute him on trumped-up terrorism charges.
- On March 21, 2019, Maduro’s police raided the home of Interim President Juan Guaidó’s chief of staff Roberto Marrero, and arrested him. Maduro’s Cuban-supported intelligence agency, SEBIN, continues to detain him. SEBIN has a record of using cruel and inhumane treatment to coerce confessions.