When the regime’s heavily armed men went for him, wearing masks and tactical black uniforms, the last thing on Venezuelan surgeon Williams Aguado’s mind was the unfinished chalet he had bought outside Caracas hoping to retire there one day.
But the chalet was at the center of the whirlwind of punishment that would follow the pounding at his door that predawn hour. It would illustrate how easily the lives of apparent upright Venezuelans can be destroyed in a country where human rights abuses are the rule rather than the exception, Aguado’s lawyer and family members said.
There were more than a dozen men from the Counter-Intelligence Directorate (DGCIM) and they arrived without identifying themselves and proceeded to destroy everything inside the home.
“They savagely beat him in front of my grandmother, a very elderly person, and they took him in his own pickup truck,” said the doctor’s daughter, Michelle Aguado, in a telephone interview.
And that was only a preview of what was to come during many days at the DGCIM headquarters.
“He was hanged by his feet and they beat him like a piñata for many hours,” Michelle said, adding that her father suffered severe renal fracture for which he has yet to receive treatment — close to a year and a half following his imprisonment. “They applied electric charges on him. They asphyxiated him spraying insecticide on his face; they also asphyxiated him placing plastic bags on his face.”
The DGCIM agents also inflicted him with deep cuts on his feet, from which he has not yet healed, and one of his eardrums was punctured with either a large needle, or a large syringe, Michelle Aguado said.
The doctor, who is gravely ill due to lack of prescribed medication, was arrested on Jan. 15, 2018, and later charged with treason and terrorism by the Nicolás Maduro regime, said his lawyer, Mariana Ortega. He remains behind bars.
His only “crime” was being the unlucky owner of the abandoned house used by insurgent policeman Oscar Pérez to hide from the regime’s security forces, Ortega said.
Death of a rebel cop
Pérez, deemed a hero by many Venezuelans, was killed along with his small group of followers inside Aguado’s chalet, in a violent raid that was seen in real time around the world through social media.
He was wanted for terrorism by the regime, but actions carried out by Pérez were mostly bombastic in nature. The raids orchestrated by the policeman/pilot/actor were meticulously planned to avoid bloodshed. Among the incidents were surprise attacks against a group of policemen or soldiers who would be tied up and subjected to brief sermons on the regime’s cruelty before being released. Those raids were often recorded and later shared through social media.
On the night Maduro’s security forces surrounded the chalet being used as a safehouse, Pérez informed authorities that he and his men wanted to surrender. But he was told that was not an option, a source who kept in contact by phone with Pérez during his final hours, told el Nuevo Herald at the time.
“[Pérez] told me that it had been the major himself [in charge of the men there] that informed them that they would not be taking anyone alive. ‘We are not going to negotiate; the order is to kill you’, that was what he told them,” the source said. “He then said goodbye and said that he needed to save [the cellphone’s] battery so he could record everything.”
Pérez indeed recorded and transmitted snippets of his ultimate death by gunfire. Videos posted on social media showed him and his followers cowering inside as Maduro’s forces fired automatic weapons aimed at the house. A rocket launcher also was used at least once, videos showed.
Didn’t know him
Ortega and Michelle claim that there was no link between Aguado and Pérez.
“The truth is that we don’t know how it was that he [Pérez] ends up in the chalet, given that my father didn’t know him. My father had no link with him or with any of the men that were there,” Michelle said.
In fact, the family had not been able to visit the chalet that was under construction in El Junquito, about 20 miles west of Caracas.
“Because of the country’s economic problems we couldn’t keep investing money in the construction [of the chalet] and it was partly abandoned,” MIchelle said. “More than six months had passed without us being able to visit it, or make any type of repairs. Previously, we had had problems because there were people who wanted to squat there.”
The day where everything changed
Aguado, who is incarcerated at the Ramo Verde military prison outside the city of Los Teques, held up to three different jobs as a doctor in Caracas but otherwise lived a pretty ordinary life until the DGCIM men forced their way into his apartment in the blue collar neighborhood of Caricuao.
That early morning coincided with about the time the chalet was being surrounded, and Aguado had a hard time comprehending what was happening to him.
The men kept asking about the dollars being sent from “The Empire” (a reference to the United States) as they savagely beat the doctor, according to testimony from family members taken by the lawyer to prepare a case on human rights violations.
They also kept asking who was the owner of the house, and Aguado, who was not understanding why he was being beaten, asked what house they were talking about.
“They ransacked the apartment, stealing everything that they found of value, jewelry, a new range that was still inside its box, a stereo system, a DirecTV box and food, among many other things. In the midst of the blows, they took the doctor inside of his own pickup truck, without an arrest or a search warrant, without providing any type of information to him or the family,” states the lawyer’s report.
The family only began to comprehend what had occurred when they saw Pérez’s videos on social media.
Rifles or stethoscopes?
Ortega said that Aguado was systematically tortured to get him to incriminate himself, but the doctor maintained his innocence.
Lacking any type of evidence and failing to secure a confession, all of the initial terrorism charges have been dropped and Aguado is currently facing one charge, that of “extracting equipment from a military installation,” connected to rifles that the regime alleges were found at the doctor’s home.
Despite the overwhelming pressure inflicted on him, “he remained firm and insisted that he was innocent of everything he was being accused of. If the doctor had been responsible for the slightest criminal act, it would have been impossible to toss aside such grave charges as treason to the fatherland and participating in a military uprising,” Ortega said.
But even the lesser and solitary charge that he currently faces has been trumped up, Ortega said, and Aguado refuses to admit his guilt to it, claiming his innocence in all charges.
“The doctor didn’t have weapons in his house,” Ortega said. “The only thing they could have found there, if anything, could have been medicine, a stethoscope or a blood pressure monitor. What else is there inside of a doctor’s house?”