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Venezuela appoints new director of Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) on October 30

Reports indicate that on October 30 President Nicolás Maduro appointed Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera as Director of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), replacing Gustavo González López, in office since 2014. Among other positions, Cristopher Figuera served as aide to Former President Hugo Chávez for twelve years and between 2017-2018 acted as Deputy Director of the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM, also known as DIM). Opposition sources published statements condemning Cristopher Figuera, expressing the new appointment will signal further state repression and abuses against government detractors.

The decision to replace González López was possibly triggered by the death of opposition councilman Fernando Albán Salazar on October 8. Charged with plotting to assassinate President Maduro, Albán Salazar died after falling from the 10th floor of the SEBIN building in Caracas. While government sources claimed he committed suicide, the opposition accused security services of killing him, either willingly or inadvertently during incarceration. Bearing in mind the case attracted international condemnation, top elements in government were likely dissatisfied with González López' performance, and his ability to avoid incidents deemed embarrassing to the government. It is also possible that Cristopher Figuera, who unlike his predecessor is not subjected to U.S.-imposed sanctions, was appointed to secure a certain degree of leeway for the new director, currently unavailable to other hawkish loyalist elements in government.

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