Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights

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Citizen Security Reform, part 5: Gun Control

Rebecca Hanson and David Smilde

In the original version of this post we discussed the “Prevention Fund” and described the fund as one allocated to victims of gun violence. The fund, however, was only discussed as a possible fund for victims when it was under debate in the National Assembly. In the final version of the law the fund is allocated for the “implementation of planes, programs and projects for prevention” and not for victims of gun violence. We have changed the text below to reflect this point.

Last month President Nicolas Maduro signed into law a disarmament bill that has gone under various revisions within the National Assembly since 2010. The law signifies an important attempt by the Venezuelan government and legislature to control the flow of arms in the country. In this post we look at the evolution of the law, the conflicts that the law has produced (both between the opposition and the government and within Chavista ranks), and provide a summary of the law’s main points.

Although there are no reliable figures on the number of guns in circulation in Venezuela (estimates range from one million to six million) their circulation was for the most part unregulated until last year.

Since 2010, three different commissions have been created to combat the problem. The first commission was organized within the National Assembly in January 2011. It was headed up by Freddy Bernal (PSUV National Assembly member and previous mayor of Caracas) and was dominated by PSUV deputies but also included a few opposition members such as Juan Carlos Caldera. It was referred to as the Mixed Commission (Comisión Mixta) because it had members from two different National Assembly subcommittees  (Interior and Defense). The Mixed Commission’s proposal suffered a number of postponements and internal differences between Diosdado Cabello, the president of the Assembly, and Freddy Bernal.  

In May 2011, late-President Hugo Chávez decreed the creation of the second commission, the Presidential Disarmament Commission (CPD).  The CPD was headed up by human rights activist Pablo Fernández and then Minister of Justice Tareck El Aissami and included 20 members from the government, the academy, and civil society.

Though initially the two groups worked together, there were serious differences: the CPD was dominated by civilians such as Fernández, while the National Assembly’s Mixed Commission had a strong presence of former military officers, including Assembly members Rafael Gil Barrios and Pedro Carreño.

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