A knock, then gone: Venezuela secretly detains hundreds to silence critics

By Julie Turkewitz and Anatoly Kurmanaev

A crush of Venezuelan government agents entered the home brandishing guns but not a warrant, and took Ariana Granadillo away. Over the next week, they confined, beat, interrogated and nearly suffocated her, then let her go as abruptly as they had taken her in.

While her sister searched for her for days, unable to pry any word from officials, her captors told Granadillo, then 21, that they were counterintelligence agents. She had “never, ever, ever, ever been involved in politics,” she said in an interview, but she soon learned that her ordeal was not unusual.

Secret detentions, known under international law as “forced disappearances,” are playing a critical role in the Venezuelan government’s increasingly authoritarian efforts to control its population, discourage dissent and punish opponents, according to a new report by two human rights groups, provided exclusively to The New York Times.

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