The Special Action Forces, known locally by their Spanish acronym FAES, are nominally tasked with combating drug trafficking and crime, but United Nations human rights officials said they were concerned the government was using these and other security forces “as an instrument to instill fear in the population and to maintain social control.”
Families of 20 young men who were killed in the last year described a pattern of violence in which the FAES units arrived in pickup trucks without license plates, dressed in black and with their faces covered by balaclavas.
They broke into houses, seized belongings and molested women, forcing some to strip naked. Then “they would separate young men from other family members before shooting them,” the investigators reported.
In every case described to the investigators, attackers manipulated the crime scene. “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,’” the report says.
The investigators said they had also documented the execution of six young men carried out during one of the house raids, the killings done as a reprisal for their participation in anti-government demonstrations.
Five special forces members were convicted of attempted murder and other offenses in 2018, and another 388 members were under investigation for abuses, according to the report. But few victims, it says, have access to justice or any redress.
The report also describes routine abuse by security and intelligence services of people detained for political reasons. In most of the cases, men and women were subjected to one or more forms of torture, including electric shock, suffocation with plastic bags, water boarding, beating and sexual violence. Women were dragged by their hair and threatened with rape, the report says.