Venezuelan student leader Lorent Saleh spent four years behind bars for peaceful resistance to the socialist regime of Nicolás Maduro. Released this month, he offered several interviews this week from his new home in Spain, describing in gruesome detail the wide variety of torture methods he experienced and saw in use during his imprisonment.
Saleh, a student opposition leader, was arrested in a wave of protests by peaceful anti-socialists in 2014 when he was 26. He spent four years in prison without a conviction, never having stood before a judge. His mother, Yamile, recently explained to media that Saleh was accused first of a crime for holding a sign reading “Chávez lies” in 2010 and, four years later, was arrested on charges of having brought Colombians into the country to protest Maduro.
Then-Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos extradited him, leading to four years of what he describes as gruesome torture…
The Venezuelan government freed Saleh to Spain this month after the abrupt death of local Caracas politician Fernando Albán in police custody. Officials have provided conflicting explanations for his death, all alleged suicides. The Venezuelan opposition has rejected this explanation and demanded an investigation.
Speaking to Colombia’s NTN24 on Monday night, Saleh described the hopelessness of believing he would die in prison.
“I was prepared for everything except freedom,” he said. “I had assumed I would be in prison until either the government fell or they killed me … since I wasn’t a member of a political party, nobody was fighting for my freedom. It was horrible.”
Saleh offered a far more extensive interview to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, published Sunday, in which he explained various forms of torture in detail. He noted that the torture centers in the underground Caracas prison known as “The Tomb” were significantly different than those at the Helicoide, the capital’s mall-turned-political-prison.
“I saw men on their knees so they could be beaten. And the worst – the most terrible and striking – I saw men not do anything before the suffering of other men,” he explained. “I have seen prisoners hanging for three days on a rail. Crucified. And other prisoners pass him by, as if nothing.”
“I have seen prisoners offer to abuse other prisoners, thinking that they would thus avoid being abused themselves, and of course that didn’t happen. They were abused too, and even moreso,” Saleh continued. “Because nobody, not even the guards, trusted them.”
“Some get used to beating, submitting [prisoners to their will], torturing, but the worst is that others get used to being beaten, submitted, tortured,” he concluded.