Posts tagged Venezuela
Posts tagged Venezuela
Last week Provea released its 2012 annual report on human rights in Venezuela. In a previous post, I outlined their findings regarding economic, social, and cultural rights, as they are presented in the 1999 Constitution. In this post, I review the report’s key findings concerning civil and political rights.
Perhaps the most important finding was continuing deterioration in citizen security. In 2012, official figures say there were 14,852 homicides, a number which continues at an upward trend. For Venezuela, this means a rate of 51 homicides per 100,000 citizens. This number rises to 23,506 homicides, or 78 per 100,000 citizens, when deaths occurring while “resisting arrest” and deaths under investigation are included (42). By comparison, in 2010, there were 13,080 homicides, 45 per 100,000 citizens. With the inclusion of those “resisting arrest” and deaths under investigation in 2010, the number of homicides rises to 21,080, a rate of 73 homicides per 100,000 citizens (407). Provea does not provide homicide figures for 2011 in this report. Until August 2012, 155 police and military persons were also killed while on duty. The report argues that the government has begun to address these issues through the Great Mission to All Life in Venezuela as well as establishing the Presidential Commission for Disarmament, which established a national gun registry to in order to reduce illegal gun ownership.
Last week Provea released its annual report on human rights situation in Venezuela for the previous year (January – December 2012). In it, Provea addresses economic, social, and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights, as they are outlined in the 1999 Constitution. In this post, I outline the report’s key findings concerning economic, social, and cultural rights, and, in a later post, I will review the report’s key findings concerning civil and political rights.
A previous version of this post was published in Spanish on YV Polis.
Every day that passes we seem closer to the calling of new presidential elections. Here I take advantage of the recent release of polling data from Hinterlaces’ February Monitor Pais to provide an overview of possible future electoral scenarios.
According to this poll the government’s candidate—Vice President Nicolas Maduro— received 50% of respondents’ support; the former candidate for the opposition coalition—Miranda’s governor Henrique Capriles—received 36% of the vote, leaving 14% of respondents up in the air.
Looking forward to participating in the Wilson Center’s Venezuela symposium tomorrow. Looks like there won’t be a webcast this time around. But we will try to get up some summaries of the presentations.
Political Transition in Venezuela: Future Scenarios and the Implications for U.S. Policy
*Margarita López Maya, Universidad Central de Venezuela
*The Honorable Patrick Duddy, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela
*Risa Grais-Targow, Eurasia Group
*David Smilde, University of Georgia and Washington Office on Latin America
Monday, February 25, 2013, 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Fifth Floor Conference Room, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
The Latin America Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars has released a policy brief on priorities for US diplomacy in Latin America written by the programs director, Cynthia Arnson.
Arnson calls on the US to “work creatively and honestly to address issues of importance to the region as well as to the United States, and to abandon the notion that we can ‘get our way’ through imposition rather than the same kind of creative diplomacy exercised toward traditional allies in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.”
She argues that potential instability in Venezuela is the most important challenge right now and provides some wise advice. She suggests the US avoid partisanship which would inevitably backfire, as it has in the past. She supports efforts to reestablish diplomatic relations with the Venezuelan government, and suggest the US work closely with allies in the region, all of whom share an interest in avoiding violence if there is a crisis.
Rebecca Hanson and David Smilde
The mural above—dedicated to the victims of police abuse—adorns a main wall of the new civilian-run policing university in Caracas, carrying with it a quote by Raquel Aristimuño, whose son was killed by the police here in 1992. The mural serves as a reminder of the violent and abusive history that the police must overcome if they are to convince Venezuelans that security forces are no longer “criminals in uniform” (malandros uniformados).
Before the passage of the 2008 Organic Law of the Police Service and of the National Police Body, police training was left in the hands of the National Guard, which resulted in little differentiation between tactics utilized by the military and the police. Police officers trained according to a military model of security have tended to view civilians (especially young males from the lower classes) as a suspicious enemy to be subdued, a mentality that has led to thousands of civilian deaths at the hands of the police each year. Indeed, homicide rates in Venezuela would be around 20% higher if the killings carried out by police officers—listed under “resistance to authority”— were counted as homicides. According to Provea, 3,492 killings in 2010 were placed in this category, which would represent an almost 300% increase from the early 2000s.
[Moderator’s note: Over the coming weeks we will be running a series of posts examining the different elements of the Chávez government’s efforts at citizen security reform. -DS]
Rebecca Hanson and David Smilde
Since 2009 the Chávez government has carried forward a comprehensive police reform that has created a new National Bolivarian Police (Policía Nacional Bolivariana, PNB), a new police university, and a new General Police Council (Consejo General de Policía, CGP) that oversees the reform’s implementation.
A sustained look at the Venezuelan police system began in 2006, after a high-profile kidnapping case that involved both active and retired officers from the former Metropolitan Police and ended in the death of three boys from a wealthy Caraqueño family as well as their chauffer. The Ministry of Justice responded to calls for the elimination of the Metropolitan Police—calls that were by no means new—by organizing The National Commission for Police Reform (CONAREPOL). The commission consisted of representatives from federal, state, and municipal governments across the political spectrum; a number of Venezuelan universities; and multiple civil society groups. Their final report was based on an impressive collection of data including a national consultation with around 57,000 citizens, over 1,500 police officers and directors, and a review of the institutional structure and budgets of numerous municipal and state police forces.
One paragraph of Jackson Diehl’s recent op ed on Venezuela stuck with me. Discussing the shroud of secrecy around Hugo Chávez’s health and the irregular situation that it has produced within Venezuela, Diehl said:
All this would be more amusing if the stakes were not so high. The demise of Chavez - if that is what is to happen - could open the way to epochal change in a region that for a decade has been divided, and sometimes polarized, between rapidly growing and modernizing democracies such as Mexico, Chile and Brazil and a bloc of authoritarian-minded, anti-American, populist throwbacks led by Venezuela. To be sure, the modernizers won the ideological battle long ago - Chavez’s popularity ratings among Latin Americans are lower than any leader in the hemisphere other than Fidel Castro.
What is the substance of the claim that the region has been divided, even polarized in the terms that Diehl suggests?
On January 9 Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) ruled that President Chávez’s oath of office could be postponed because he is a reelected president and therefore there is a continuity of administration. While the court’s decision provided a temporary solution to the Chávez government’s immediate predicament, it has also created a murky situation that could lead to a political and institutional crisis, alter the Chávez movement’s commitment to electoral democracy, and put its democratic credentials in doubt.
The ruling allowed Vice-President Nicolas Maduro to be continue in charge for the near future, which was expected. However, many analysts thought the court would declare Chávez to be on a “temporary absence,” which allows a president to delegate his authority for ninety days for personal reasons, renewable one time. If the court had chosen that path, the government would have had to call for presidential elections during the next six months if Chávez does not return. Such a ruling would have been easily justifiable under Venezuela’s Constitution. However, the TSJ’s actual ruling is more controversial and created tensions in an already polarized country.
Yesterday human rights NGOs Provea and Homo et Natura were summoned to appear in court on February 7, 2013 for having facilitated a protest of the Yukpa indigenous people in July 2010. (See Provea’s press release here, and Marino Alvarado’s opinion piece here. Follow on Twitter with #JuicioContraProvea ) Provea suggest that the case demonstrates the continued criminalization of both citizen protest and the solidarity work of human rights groups.
The Yukpa of Western Venezuela have had long term struggle with the government over the process of creating indigenous homelands, as specified by the 2005 Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities, as well as their right to control the exercise of justice in traditional tribal ways within their territory as specified in the 1999 Constitution (see Art. 260).
The latter struggle came to the fore as a result of violence between different Yukpa communities in October 2009 which led the arrest of indigenous leader Olegario Romero. In July 2010 some Yukpa representatives went to Caracas and camped out in front of the Supreme Court (TSJ) to demand their constitutional right to exercise tribal justice within their habitat. Romero was eventually absolved and released in May 2011.