A dissident Venezuelan general who has been in hiding for nearly a year emerged Thursday for a public appearance in New York.
Retired Brigadier General Antonio Rivero has been on the run since President Nicolas Maduro ordered his arrest last spring, accusing him of training “fascists” to foment unrest during street protests that rocked the socialist South American country.
On Thursday, Rivero spoke to journalists outside the United Nations in his first public appearance in 11 months. He said he had not seen his family in a year, and had been living in “difficult conditions.” He traveled to New York to ask the world body to fight for his cause.
He said the UN’s Working Committee on Arbitrary Detentions spoke out in his behalf in 2013 when he was jailed briefly on charges of inciting unrest after the country’s disputed presidential election. Now, he is asking them to again tell Maduro to stop persecuting him.
“I support all of the international bodies that are trying to show the crisis that continues in the country, especially the human rights violations, which have been a cornerstone of this regime’s strategy to stifle dissent,” he said.
Rivero was once the Venezuelan government’s emergency management director, but he grew concerned about what he viewed as a growing Cuban influence in the military and retired early in 2010 in protest over that and other issues.
He became a fierce critic of the government and in early 2014 he supported a wave of street protests that resulted in more than 40 deaths.
On Thursday, Rivero declined to explain how he had managed to leave Venezuela, but said he would continue to speak out against the government.
“I’m not diminished. I do not feel down. We are on the right side of history,” he said.
Venezuela’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.