July 12, 2019 / 12:27 AM / 11 days ago

Jailed former Venezuela interior minister begins hunger strike - legislator

FILE PHOTO: Former Venezuela's Interior and Justice Minister and intelligence service head Miguel Rodriguez Torres talks to the media during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

CARACAS (Reuters) - A former Venezuelan interior minister who was detained last year is on hunger strike in protest over being held incommunicado for 75 days, an opposition legislator and a source close to the case said on Thursday.

Retired army General Miguel Rodriguez, 55, served as interior minister in 2014 but later broke with President Nicolas Maduro and was arrested in 2018 on accusations he was involved in a plot to “attack the unity” of the armed forces.

The case comes amid heightened scrutiny over the situation of Venezuelan detainees following the death in captivity of navy Captain Rafael Acosta, who his family says was tortured to death while being held by military intelligence agency DGCIM.

“General Miguel Rodriguez Torres has been on hunger strike since Monday, according to DGCIM’s official report,” opposition legislator Adriana Pichardo wrote on Twitter.

He is being held at the Fuerte Tiuna military complex, which houses the defence ministry, according to relatives.

Authorities have prevented Rodriguez from making contact with lawyers and family members for more than two months, said a source with knowledge of his situation, who asked not to be identified. The judicial proceedings against Rodriguez have been repeatedly delayed, according to relatives.

The information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The United States has heavily criticized human rights abuses by Maduro’s government, and imposed sanctions on DGCIM on Thursday for its role in the death of Acosta.

Rodriguez himself faced sharp criticism for treatment of detainees while he was interior minister during a wave of opposition protests in 2014, which human rights groups say included arbitrary detentions and beatings during imprisonment.

Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Peter Cooney

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