Torture Victim, Expecting a U.S. Handshake, Was Given Handcuffs Instead

Marco Coello, then a skinny 18-year-old high school student, was grabbed by plainclothes agents of the Venezuelan security services as he joined a 2014 demonstration against the government in Caracas.

They put a gun to his head. They attacked him with their feet, a golf club, a fire extinguisher. They tortured him with electric shocks. Then Mr. Coello was jailed for several months, and shortly after his release, he fled to the United States.

Human Rights Watch extensively documented his case in a report that year. The State Department included him in its own human rights report on Venezuela in 2015. With such an extensive paper trail of mistreatment in his home country, his lawyer, Elizabeth Blandon, expected a straightforward asylum interview when Mr. Coello appeared at an immigration office this April in Miami.