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Venezuela officials bury navy captain over family protests

Venezuela officials bury navy captain over family protests

July 11th, 2019 in International News

The tomb of Navy Captain Rafael Acosta lies at the East cemetery in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday July 10, 2019. Acosta, a Venezuelan navy captain who died of suspected torture while in government custody, was buried by authorities against the family's wishes to perform a private ceremony, an attorney and relatives said. (AP Photo/Leonardo Fernandez)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A Venezuelan navy captain who died of suspected torture while in state custody was buried by authorities Wednesday against the family’s wishes after refusing to return his body to loved ones, an attorney for relatives said.

Officials quickly interred Capt. Rafael Acosta at a Caracas cemetery 12 days after his death, while his family wanted him buried in the central city of Maracay, lawyer Alonso Medina Roa said.

“It’s as if the government is saying, ‘I killed him, so I’ll bury him,’” Medina Roa said.

Acosta’s death came at a time the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro has fallen under mounting international pressure following a United Nations’ report chronicling human rights abuses in Venezuela.

Maduro is also under challenge from opposition lawmaker Juan Guaidó, who is rallying pressure to oust the president with support from the United States and about four dozen other nations.

Acosta’s sister identified the body, which was buried by the state under a court order, Medina Roa said. He said an autopsy indicated Acosta died of trauma.

Acosta’s wife, Waleska de Acosta, said the government burial denied her the right to bury her husband privately in Maracay.

“I didn’t hire this company to conduct funeral services,” she said in a short video posted on Twitter several hours before the burial.

Acosta died in late June, hours after appearing in court on what the government said was suspicion of plotting to assassinate Maduro. His wife has said her husband opposed Maduro, but she denies he planned to kill the president.

Acosta’s attorney has said the captain was brought to court in a wheelchair, unable to stand and struggling to speak, covered with cuts and with bloody fingernails and black eyes.

Venezuelan authorities said they have jailed two suspects in the death — a lieutenant and sergeant in military counterintelligence charged them with homicide. The charges don’t include torture, which has drawn international criticism.

Acosta was arrested the same day U.N. human rights watchdog Michelle Bachelet ended a visit to Venezuela that resulted in a scathing report on abuses committed by Maduro’s government.

Bachelet has said she was “shocked” by allegations that Acosta died of torture, urging Venezuelan officials to conduct an in-depth investigation. She said that should include an autopsy meeting international standards and “is both independent and transparent.”