IACHR report on Venezuela: And you really thought Venezuela was a democracy?

February 24, 2010

Since the report is long, I wanted to summarize the highlights from the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights report on Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela. Despite the Venezuelan Government’s refusal to allow a visit since 2002, the Commission felt it could still analyze the Venezuelan situation in order to comply with its mandate.

Here are some highlights, for those that still want to believe or defend that Venezuela is a democarcy:

  • The Commission also finds that in Venezuela, not all persons are ensured full enjoyment of their rights irrespective of the positions they hold vis-à-vis the government’s policies.
  • The Commission also finds that the State’s punitive power is being used to intimidate or punish people on account of their political opinions.
  • The Commission’s report establishes that Venezuela lacks the conditions necessary for human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their work freely.
  • The IACHR also detects the existence of a pattern of impunity in cases of violence, which particularly affects media workers, human rights defenders, trade unionists, participants in public demonstrations, people held in custody, campesinos (small-scale and subsistence farmers), indigenous peoples, and women.
  • The IACHR’s report indicates that mechanisms have been created in Venezuela that restrict the possibilities of candidates opposed to the government for securing access to power. That has taken place through administrative resolutions of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic, whereby 260 individuals, mostly opposed to the government, were disqualified from standing for election. The Commission notes that these disqualifications from holding public office were not the result of criminal convictions and were ordered in the absence of prior proceedings, in contravention of the American Convention’s standards.
  • The Commission also notes how the State has taken action to limit some powers of popularly‐elected authorities in order to reduce the scope of public functions in the hands of members of the opposition.
  • The IACHR also notes a troubling trend of punishments, intimidation, and attacks on individuals in reprisal for expressing their dissent with official policy.
  • The Commission notes a trend toward the use of criminal charges to punish people exercising their right to demonstrate or protest against government policies.
  • The IACHR considers that the right to demonstrate in Venezuela is being restricted through the imposition of sanctions contained in provisions enacted by President Chávez’s government. The Commission describes cases of people facing criminal charges for which they could be sentenced to prison terms of over twenty years in connection with their participation in antigovernment demonstrations. In the Commission’s view, this practice constitutes a restriction of the rights of assembly and freedom of expression guaranteed in the American Convention, the free exercise of which is necessary for the correct functioning of a democratic system that includes all sectors of society.
  • The rules for the appointment, removal, and suspension of justices set out in the Organic Law of the Supreme Court of Justice lack the safeguards necessary to prevent other branches of government from undermining the Supreme Court’s independence and to keep narrow or temporary majorities from determining its composition.
  • Since judges are not appointed through public competitions, judges and prosecutors are freely appointed and removable, which seriously affects their independence in making decisions.
  • The Commission also describes how large numbers of judges have been removed or their appointments voided without the applicable administrative proceedings.
  • The numerous violent acts of intimidation carried out by private groups against journalists and media outlets, together with the discrediting declarations made by high‐ranking public officials against the media and journalists on account of their editorial lines and the systematic opening of administrative proceedings based on legal provisions that allow a high level of discretion in their application and enable drastic sanctions to be imposed, along with other elements, make for a climate of restriction that hampers the free exercise of freedom of expression as a prerequisite for a vigorous democracy based on pluralism and public debate.
  • The Commission observes with particular concern that there have been very serious violations of the rights to life and humane treatment in Venezuela as a result of the victims’ exercise of free expression.
  • The IACHR notes that recent months have seen an increase in administrative proceedings sanctioning media that criticize the government.
  • The Commission has also verified the existence of cases of prior censorship as a prototype of extreme and radical violations of freedom of expression in Venezuela.
  • The report also analyzes the impact on the right of free expression of the proceedings initiated in July 2009 toward the possible cancellation of 240 radio stations’ broadcasting concessions, and of the decision to order 32 stations to cease transmissions.
  • The Commission calls the attention of the Venezuelan State to the incompatibility between the current legal framework governing freedom of expression and its obligations under the American Convention.
  • The Commission also stresses that the offenses of desacato (disrespect) and viipendio (contempt) contained in the amendments to the Penal Code in force since 2005 are incompatible with the American Convention in that they restrict the possibilities of free, open, plural, and uninhibited discussion on matters of public importance.
  • The Commission also deals with the major obstacles faced by human rights defenders in their work in Venezuela. It also notes with concern that witnesses and relatives of the victims of human rights violations are frequently targeted by threats, harassment, and intimidation for denouncing violations.
  • The IACHR also finds that inadequate access to public information has hindered the work of defending human rights in Venezuela.
  • One of the issues relating to human rights in Venezuela of gravest concern to the Inter‐American Commission is that of public insecurity.
  • The IACHR’s report identifies certain provisions in the Venezuelan legal framework that are incompatible with a democratic approach to the defense and security of the State.
  • During 2008, the Ombudsman’s Office recorded a total of 134 complaints involving arbitrary killings arising from the alleged actions of officers from different state security agencies. It also recorded a total of 2,197 complaints related to violations of humane treatment by state security officials. In addition, it reports receiving 87 allegations of torture and claims it is following up on 33 cases of alleged forced disappearances reported during 2008 and 34 reported during 2007.
  • Homicides, kidnappings, contract killings, and rural violence are the phenomena that most frequently affect the security of Venezuela’s citizens.
  • Information made available to the Commission indicates that in 2008, there were a total of 13,780 homicides in Venezuela, which averages out to 1,148 murders a month and 38 every day. The victims of these killings include an alarming number of children and adolescents.
  • The Commission’s report also notes with extreme concern that in Venezuela, violent groups such as the Movimiento Tupamaro, Colectivo La Piedrita, Colectivo Alexis Vive, Unidad Popular Venezolana, and Grupo Carapaica are perpetrating acts of violence with the involvement or acquiescence of state agents.
  • The Commission also continues with its observations on the alarmingly violent conditions within Venezuelan prisons.
  • The laws and policies pursued by the State have not been effective in guaranteeing the rights of women, particularly their right to a life free of violence.
  • The Commission notes in its report that impunity is a common characteristic that equally affects cases of reprisals against dissent, attacks on human rights defenders and on journalists, excessive use of force in response to peaceful protests, abuses of state force, common and organized crime, violence in prisons, violence against women, and other serious human rights violations.
  • On the other hand, in this report the Commission highlights the Venezuelan State’s major achievements in the fields of economic, social, and cultural rights, through legally recognizing the enforceability of the rights to education, to health, to housing, to universal social security, and other rights, as well as by implementing policies and measures aimed at remedying the shortcomings that affect vast sectors of the Venezuelan population.
  • The IACHR notes that the Missions have succeeded in improving the poverty situation and access to education and health among the traditionally‐excluded sectors of Venezuela’s population. Nevertheless, the Commission expresses concern at certain issues relating to the Missions as an axis of the government’s social policies.
  • The Commission notes that Venezuela is still characterized by constant intervention in the functioning of its trade unions, through actions of the State that hinder the activities of union leaders and that point to political control over the organized labor movement, as well as through rules that allow government agencies to interfere in the election of union leaders.

There you have it, the IACHR demonstrates that Venezuela is no longer a functioning democracy through the neglect and intimidation of a Government that discriminates its citizens even when they are in agreement with its policies. And, despite the Dictator’s claims, most of his policies show atotal disregard for the “people” that he claims to love so much.

15 Responses to “IACHR report on Venezuela: And you really thought Venezuela was a democracy?”

  1. […] Considering Chavez’s notoriety of cracking down on opposing viewpoints, Chavez’s recent statement on internet regulation can reasonably be taken as an attempt to silence one of the last true bastions of free speech in Venezuela. Just take a look at the recent Inter American Commission on Human Rights report on Venezuela. Here is an excerpt as it relates to freedom of expression in Venezuela, summarized by Miguel Octavio: […]

  2. rwg Says:

    Chavez does what he wants. Nothing will change him. Chavez will lie his way around this report. The IACHR needs to convince Chavez’ supporters in Venezuela that Chavez is against human rights for everyone including Chavez supporters.

  3. deananash Says:

    “To me he is Hugo the First, H.R.M., S.E. (His Red Majesty, Socialist Emperor), and if they still call him President…”

    Hahaha, nowhere in loroferoz’s description is the word “varón”. And forgotten, but equally appropriate: El Supremo II.

  4. Gringo Says:

    Arturo, Arturo, wherefore art thou, Arturo?

  5. An Interested Observer Says:

    I saw a rumor that Tabare Vazquez might become a candidate for OAS SyG. Interesting option, though I don’t believe it’s probably. Can’t really be worse than Insulza.

  6. Deanna Says:

    P.S. No, the OAS will not take action, especially now that Insulza seems to be slated for another four years as Secretary-General!!!!!

  7. Deanna Says:

    Of course the OAS will not take action, even though it is evident to the Commission that human rights have been violated. It will not apply the Carta Democratica to Venezuela because, like any of the other international organizations (UN, etc.) they will only take action when there is a civil war that threatens other countries. As a former staff member of the UN, I affirm that those organizations are only good at having meetings and blah, blah, blah. And they will only sanction countries when that country has become a thorn on the sides of neighbors and threatens everyone else, i.e. Iran with its nuclear power, etc. If truth be told, many of the members of those organizations (and the organizations themselves) are big violators of human rights–political, social, labor, equal education, etc.

  8. loroferoz Says:

    I do not think Venezuela is a Republic anymore. Even an oligarchic one. Even a “popular” one.

    To me it appears that the adjectives that the Socialists and Nacional Socialists put before Republic, are there to void the word Republic of any meaning.

    There’s simply no rule of law, no checks on government power, no legal possibility of challenging the chief of state and no way that citizens can review the State effectively, beginning with its budget.

    As for the necessary independence and freedom of individual citizens (which require strong property rights by the way), what’s left is owed only to the enormous inefficiency and arbitrariness of what passes for State here.

    To me he is Hugo the First, H.R.M., S.E. (His Red Majesty, Socialist Emperor), and if they still call him President… Well, they call Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe, and Kim Jong Il Presidents too.

  9. Antonio Says:

    The report is close to the reality an close to the absolute true, about what happens in Venezuela.

    Who dare to refuse it, is only talking by their stomachs, in other words, they are bought by the Venezuelan Regime, with Venezuelan money.

  10. loroferoz Says:

    The apologists for Chavez will surey grab at the paragraphs

    “On the other hand, in this report the Commission highlights the Venezuelan State’s major achievements in the fields of economic, social, and cultural rights, through legally recognizing the enforceability of the rights to education, to health, to housing, to universal social security, and other rights, as well as by implementing policies and measures aimed at remedying the shortcomings that affect vast sectors of the Venezuelan population.”

    Likely forgetting that Cubans in Cuba have such “rights” “granted”, but a significant number would renounce these purportedly “granted” rights, to have the “negative” sort of rights (those that tie the State’s hands in doing things TO YOU). Likely forgetting that before Chavez, we Venezuelans supposedly had those rights granted. Likely forgetting that the “granting” of these rights functions by spurts, jumps, surges and starts in Venezuela, like they did before Chavez. That such (as Misiones) are no rights, but boons. Likely forgetting that citizens’ rights is not about spending a lot of money on a given day and a given matter because they are desperate and something is lacking. It’s about NOT spending money on the tools and agents of oppresion, and about providing an adequate framework, yes, and means, for the citizens to obtain what they need freely.

  11. moctavio Says:

    No, I dont think so, these guys at the OAS could care less.

  12. Gringo Says:

    Will Insulza read even a paragraph of this OAS-affiliated report?

  13. gabireld Says:

    Hey Miguel, do you think this report will finally turn up the heat on the OAS?

  14. maracucho importado Says:

    “animal farm,,,,rebellion en la granja” told us this when hugo first said ” we swim in the same sea as cuba”..more tha TEN YEARS AGO,,,, AND NO ONE LISTENED,,,,

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