In October, Fernando Alban – the councilman of dissident Venezuelan political party Primero Justicia – spoke out against the embattled nation’s leader Nicolas Maduro at the United Nations in New York. On his return to Simon Bolivar International Airport, he was quietly seized by Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN). Three days later, Alban plunged to his death from a secretive 10th-floor building while undergoing interrogation.
The official line is suicide, but many are suspiciously pointing to his death at the hands of the country’s most formidable security and intelligence wing.
Under the rule of the Vice President of Venezuela, currently Delcy Rodriguez, the internal security auspices have indeed clocked up a thick file of human rights violations and accusations of torture of those who oppose the Maduro-helmed regime.
“The SEBIN operates across Venezuela conducting surveillance and patrolling as a political police,” Johan Obdola, former Venezuelan counter-narcotics chief and founder of the Latin America-focused Security and Intelligence firm, IOSI, told Fox News. “However, its main operations are based on physical intelligence operations across the nation and abroad, having its main objectives to neutralize political opponents of the regime. They are the most feared.”
While the SEBIN has its headquarters in El Helicoide in Caracas – with a cryptic prison locals call the Tomb (La Tumba) five floors below the surface in one of its Caracas offices – its branches and satellite locations spawn the country. Some say agents also operate in Venezuelan diplomatic representations in various parts of the globe. In 2012, the Nuevo Herald reported that around a dozen apparent SEBIN agents operating in the diplomatic sphere in the United States were forced to leave.
SEBIN – which for decades had been called the National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP) until former President Hugo Chavez changed the name in 2009 – ramped up its involvement in the drug trade around 2006, well-placed sources said. The boost came just months after Chavez expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from Venezuela.
One 54-year-old Venezuela government defector, who can only be identified by the pseudonym Ras given family ties still inside the fast-deteriorating country, long served as a loyal intelligence confidante close to Hugo Chavez. He was then promoted to the top command section of the SEBIN with the position of commissioner until late 2014 when the “level of repression the agency was ordered to implement against the protesters” became too much to stomach, and in his view, the narcotics change became too entrenched in their own day-to-day missions.
The narco-trafficking ratcheted up around 2004, Ras stressed, and in 2007 leaped to a new level. He claims Chavez personally ordered covert missions to send cocaine to the United States and Europe, in coordination with the FARC rebels in neighboring Colombia, and then through the Mexican cartels that were active in cross-border enterprise.
“They also discussed the involvement of a Venezuelan drug lord, Walid Makled, who was an important drug capo in Venezuela and who received big contracts from the Venezuelan government. Later on, Walid Makled’s drug operations started bothering Chavez. So in 2008, Chavez ordered Tareck El Aissami, then Minister of Interior, to ‘sacrifice’ Walid,” Ras said. “So Tareck ordered the arrest of Walid, then Chavez ordered Tareck to take over the drug operation, as this action against the USA could not be stopped.”