The United States on Sunday accused Venezuelan authorities of torturing a Venezuelan Navy officer to death, saying the act of “barbarism must stir us into action.”
In a statement, the State Department said Navy Officer Rafael Acosta Arévalo died while in the custody of Nicolás Maduro’s “thugs and their Cuban advisers.”
Arévalo had been brought to court on Friday to stand trial for being part of an alleged plot to assassinate Maduro. In a statement, Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab, who launched an investigation into Arévalo’s death, said the officer fainted in the courtroom and was rushed to a hospital, where he died the following day.
Members of the Venezuelan opposition — including former prosecutor Luisa Ortega — said that Arévalo had visible signs of being tortured while in custody and that he was virtually unresponsive by the time he was brought to trial.
“The United States calls on the democracies of the world to join us in condemning this latest violation of human rights and in applying pressure to achieve accountability against the aggressors,” the State Department said. “This senseless killing is continued evidence that Maduro will continue to kill his people, steal from the Venezuelan nation, and lie to the world to stay in Miraflores Palace.”
In October, Fernando Albán, an opposition congressman, also died while in custody, falling 10 stories.. The Venezuelan opposition and the State Department believe he was murdered.
Washington and more than 50 other nations recognize the head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s sole legitimate leader and have been pushing for Maduro’s ouster.
But Maduro, 57, still hold many of the levers of power and, critically, seems to have the support of the armed forces. He has accused the United States, Colombia, Chile and others of backing plots to assassinate him.
In a series of tweets, Guaidó condemned Arévalo’s torture and killing and called on the military to rise up against Maduro.
“Men and women of the [armed forces] you know what you need to do to save the fatherland and the military as an institution,” he wrote, “you must expel the Cuban invaders and defend the constitution.”
The opposition and Washington have long accused Cuban military and intelligence advisers of propping up the Maduro regime.
The Lima Group, a bloc of Latin American nations and Canada, also blasted the Maduro regime and called on the UN Human Rights Commission to “act without delay so the rights of Venezuelans can be restored and their integrity can be protected.”
Despite the heightened tensions, the Associated Press reported over the weekend that the rival Venezuelan factions may resume negotiations this week in Barbados in hopes of breaking the political impasse.
“Let us come together and support the people of Venezuela in their quest for an immediate end to these heinous acts and a restoration of their democracy,” the State Department said.