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Student seeking asylum after torture in Venezuela imprisoned in Miami

Venezuelan student detained during asylum process is at Krome Detention Center

WESTON, Fla. – A student seeking asylum after he was tortured in Venezuela was detained on Wednesday in Miami.

Marco Aurelio Coello said members of the Bolivarian National Police took off his clothes and wrapped him with a rubber mat. He said they beat him with a fire extinguisher and golf clubs.

The agents allegedly threatened to kill the 18-year-old student. He said they told him they were going to shoot him in the head or douse him with gasoline and set him on fire. He also said they used electric shocks to torture him.

His supporters have said his only crime was wanting a better Venezuela without President Nicolas Maduro's rule. But Venezuelan authorities accused him of incitement to commit a crime, conspiracy, arson and damages to public property related to a Feb. 12, 2014, deadly protest. 

When Coello, now 22, showed up in the lobby of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Miami, he believed that he was moving closer to getting asylum. But immigration authorities detained him and were holding him Wednesday at the Krome Detention Center in southwest Miami-Dade. 

"Marco Coello has one misdemeanor criminal conviction and did not depart the country in accordance with his visa," ICE spokesman Nestor J. Yglesias said in a statement. "As a result, he violated the terms of his nonimmigrant status in the United States."

Coello's parents said they are saddened and concerned because after he was tortured, he suffered from depression. His mental state prompted authorities in Venezuela to temporarily release him in September 2015, when he traveled to the U.S. and began the process of seeking asylum. 

Coello overstayed his tourist visa and had a pending political asylum request that allowed him to apply for a work permit, according to his attorney, Elizabeth Blandon. His attorneys filed for an emergency bond hearing. In the best-case scenario, he will face a judge and be released on Friday. 

"As Secretary Kelly has stated, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement," Yglesias said. "All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States."

Thousands of Venezuelan immigrants have pending asylum requests in the U.S., and a backlog of cases has resulted in most of them overstaying their visas. 


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