A report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights in Venezuela between January 2018 and May 2019 states that thousands of Venezuelans have been murdered by forces loyal to the government of President Nicholas Maduro and quite often the forces would manipulate the evidence to make it look as though the victims were resisting authority.

As The Miami Herald reported:

Special Action Forces described by witnesses as “death squads” killed 5,287 people in 2018 and another 1,569 by mid-May of this year, in what are officially termed by the Venezuelan government “Operations for the Liberation of the People,” U.N. investigators reported. Laying out a detailed description of a lawless system of oppression, the report says the actual number of deaths could be much higher. It cites accounts by independent groups who report more than 9,000 killings for “resistance to authority” over the same period.

The U.N. report stated:

OHCHR (0ffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) documented cases of extrajudicial executions by security forces in the context of security operations conducted in poor neighbourhoods. Since early 2018, security operations by FAES, created to combat drug trafficking and criminal organizations, replaced the security operations known as “Operations for the Liberation of the People” implemented from 2015 to 2017. Interviewees consistently referred to FAES as a “death squad” or “extermination group.” NGOs have reported that the FAES is responsible for hundreds of killings …

Families of the victims described FAES breaking into their houses, taking their belongings, and exercising gender-based violence against women and girls, including forced nudity. They would separate young men from other family members before shooting them. According to their relatives, almost all of the victims had one or more shots in the chest. In every case, witnesses reported how FAES manipulated the crime scene and evidence. They would plant arms and drugs and fire their weapons against the walls or in the air to suggest a confrontation and to show the victim had “resisted authority.”

In many cases, FAES brought the victims to hospital even though they were already dead, apparently with the intention of manipulating the bodies and modifying the crime scene. In some cases, the authorities declared that the victims were criminals before the conclusion of a formal investigation. The authorities classify the killings resulting from security operations as “resistance to authority”. The number of these deaths is unusually high. In 2018, the Government registered 5,287 such killings, while the NGO “Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia” (OVV) reported at least 7,523 killings under this category. Between 1 January and 19 May 2019, the Government reported 1,569 killings for “resistance to authority.” The OVV reported at least 2,124 of such killings between January and May 2019. Information analysed by OHCHR suggests many of these killings may constitute extrajudicial executions.

The report added, “Thousands of people, mainly young men, have been killed in alleged confrontations with state forces during the past years. There are reasonable grounds to believe that many of these killings constitute extrajudicial executions committed by the security forces, particularly FAES. OHCHR is concerned that the authorities may be using FAES, and possibly other security forces, as part of a policy of social control. These killings warrant immediate investigation to ensure accountability of perpetrators and guarantees of non-recurrence.”

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