José Gustavo Arocha

2017 Speaker - Retired Venezuelan lieutenant colonel and former political prisoner

The Americas

José Gustavo Arocha is a retired lieutenant colonel from the Venezuelan army and a former political prisoner. Following his resignation from the army in 2009, Arocha founded a political consultancy company, GeoFenix, to provide advice and logistical services to high-profile Venezuelan dissidents and regime critics. In 2014, he was detained by government security services on treason charges and imprisoned for a period of eight months, during which time he was physically and mentally abused in an underground prison where he was kept in solitary confinement and tortured. A confession coerced from Arocha during this detainment was subsequently submitted as evidence against leading opposition figures. Since escaping captivity in March 2015, Arocha has resided in the US where he is an incoming Kennedy School Mason Fellow at Harvard University. His current research focuses on developing a systematic process for tracking the actions of individual judges, prosecutors, and security officials in authoritarian regimes who subvert local laws to persecute political enemies or dissidents.

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