Gen. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, once Hugo Chávez's head of security and later Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's spy chief, is telling all about what he says he witnessed while serving as one of the government's top officials.
Figuera was named the head of SEBIN, Venezuela's intelligence police, last October, which landed him on a U.S. sanctions list in February. A month later, Figuera was approached by the opposition and joined the plot to push out Maduro, he told The Washington Post in an interview conducted last week and released Monday. He said that working as head of SEBIN made him realize "Maduro is the head of a criminal enterprise, with his own family involved," and he was ready to defect.
Figuera told the Post he learned that an assistant to Maduro's son ran a company that had a monopoly on gold, buying it from miners for a steal and selling it for much more to Venezuela's central bank, among other high-level corruption. The government also looked the other way as groups like Hezbollah and the Colombian guerrilla organization ELN operated inside the country, he said. "I found that the cases of narco-trafficking and guerrillas were not to be touched."
The uprising against Maduro was launched April 30, but it ultimately failed. Figuera told the Post he's not the only top official who joined the effort; he named the chief justice of Venezuela's supreme court, who has publicly denied being part of the plot. Maduro was nervous during the uprising, Figuera said, and once Maduro summoned him to the country's most infamous prison, he knew he had to flee. He went to Colombia, and on Monday, arrived in the United States. "I'm proud of what I did," Figuera told the Post. "For now, the regime has gotten ahead of us. But that can quickly change." Read more on the plot to oust Maduro and Figuera's story at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia