Top Defector Tells of Spying, Stealing, Mutiny in Venezuela
(Bloomberg) — Days after being named chief of Venezuela’s feared Sebin intelligence agency last fall, General Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera was called in by President Nicolas Maduro and asked where the enemy was.
“I don’t understand the question, sir,” Figuera says he responded.
“I want a report every two hours of what the political opposition is doing,” Maduro replied, listing some of the 30 politicians whose whereabouts and activities were to be surveilled. Reports, he said, needed to be sent not only to him but to his wife, Cilia Flores, and to Vice President Delcy Rodriguez. The monitoring involved spreadsheets with photos, mobile phone taps and round-the-clock shifts of on-the-ground four-agent teams observing movements and meetings.
Figuera, the most significant Venezuelan defector of the past two decades, is in the U.S. offering details of Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian rule and the schemes by which he, his family and associates embezzle the proceeds of oil, gold and other national treasures as the once-wealthy nation of 30 million descends into chaos and starvation.
Over five hours of interviews with Bloomberg in a Miami hotel and a nearby sports bar, Figuera, a burly 55-year-old trained in Cuba and Belarus, contended that the Venezuelan intelligence services have infiltrated Colombia’s security apparatus. With that penetration, early this year the Venezuelans tracked the movements of a key defector, Colonel Oswaldo Garcia Palomo, who was captured, tortured and interrogated after sneaking across the Colombian border to help organize a rebellion.