Socialist authorities in Venezuela held a “controlled burial” for Corvette Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo on Wednesday, denying his family the right to access his body for an independent autopsy proving he was tortured to death.
Acosta was detained by Venezuelan Secret Police (SEBIN) last month on charges of planning the assassination of socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro, allegations he and his family insisted were false and politically motivated.
He died ten days after his imprisonment, prompting international condemnation of his treatment. His lawyers claimed he had shown severe signs of beating and other forms of torture that had left him consigned to a wheelchair at the final hearing he attended before his death.
“Unfortunately, he did not agree with the government and they killed him,” his wife, Waleswka Pérez, said at the time. “They tortured him a lot, they tortured him so much that they killed him.”
Following his death, Acosta’s family members demanded access to his body as well as an independent autopsy to corroborate evidence that he was tortured. However, it emerged on Wednesday that officials had already carried out a private burial in a cemetery in Caracas, also violating his family’s wishes that he be buried in his hometown of Maracay.
“It’s as if the government is saying, ‘I killed him, so I’ll bury him,’” his lawyer, Medina Roa, said.
In a video uploaded to Twitter, Acosta’s wife compared her husband to the late Óscar Pérez, who died at the hands of security forces after attempting to lead rebellions against the Maduro regime and was buried in similar circumstances.
“Today, on the 11th July, as the wife of Corvette Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo, I denounce the illegal process carried out by the morgue of Bella Montes, where there is going to be a controlled burial of my husband, just like they did with Óscar Pérez,” she said. “I have not asked for any funeral services from that business.”
DENUNCIO la entrega controlada del cuerpo de mi esposo el C.C RAFAEL ACOSTA. #nomastorturavzla #ayuda #venezuela #acostaarevalo @TAMARA_SUJU @GiselaMatamoros @fdelrinconCNNE @medinaroaalonso #DDHH #JUSTICIA pic.twitter.com/zPyojlTlJ3
— waleswka perez (@waleswka77) July 10, 2019
The Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro said that the case highlighted the Maduro regime’s egregious human rights violations.
“The dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro continues to stifle rights and commit crimes,” he wrote on Twitter. “We demand the delivery of the body of Captain Acosta to his widow according to established legal procedures and the principles of the most basic humanity.”
La dictadura de @NicolasMaduro sigue avasallando derechos y cometiendo crímenes. Exigimos la entrega del cuerpo del Capitán Acosta a su viuda de acuerdo a los procedimientos legales establecidos y los a principios de la más básica humanidad #OEAconVzla https://t.co/PqMok9fKRk
— Luis Almagro (@Almagro_OEA2015) July 10, 2019
Acosta’s case corroborates the findings of United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet during her visit to the country last month. In a detailed report, Bachelet, long seen as sympathetic to Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution,” charged the regime with “gross human rights violations” including a “shockingly high” number of extrajudicial killings, as well as “arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment, and torture.”