Provea Releases 2012 Report on Human Rights in Venezuela: Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Timothy Gill 

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. 

The report examines conditions regarding the right to nutrition, the right to a clean environment, the right to education, labor rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, the right to social security, the right to land, the right to health, and the right to housing.

The report says that Venezuela’s average dietary food supply increased by 17.27% from 110% in 1990-1992 to 129% in 2010-2012, placing Venezuela slightly above both the Latin American average (126%) and the global average (121%) (Contexto y Balance de Situacion, p.29). Despite high inflation, the national consumer price index dropped from 27.6% in 2011 to 20.1% in 2012.  While these statistics show improvement, the report also shows that domestic land used to cultivate crops has dropped by nearly 8% and as a result Venezuelan imports increased by 16% (29).

Provea describes how the Venezuelan government has begun to legally address environmental issues, establishing a new penal code involving the environment, which includes laws that prohibit degrading the environment and its biological diversity (29). 

The report reveals that school enrollment rates dropped by 3% in 2012 (30). Secondary education rates in public institutions rose by 1.5%, but dropped in private secondary educations institutions by 1.8%, allowing for an overall 0.6% increase in secondary education rates. There has been an increase of 1.3 years for individuals’ average education, which contributes to 16.6% increase for the past decade (30).

The economically active part of the population rose from 64.5% in 2011 to 64.9% in 2012, an increase that includes 207,784 individuals (31).  The unemployment rate also decreased from 6.5% in 2011 to 5.9% in 2012, a decrease that involves 78, 653 individuals, and employment in the formal sector of the economy increased by 2.8%, pushing employment in the formal sector up to 58% (31).  In 2012, the government also increased the minimum wage by 32.25%.

The report criticizes the government for not streamlining its process of providing land titles to indigenous groups that demarcate their land holdings.  The report argues that because of this, there have been several conflicts that have ensued over indigenous landholdings, resulting in six assassinations of indigenous persons in 2012 (32).  Illegal mining operations have also continued to harm indigenous communities, leaving substances like mercury in some waterways and potentially exposing indigenous persons to diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.  On the positive side, the report highlights how the government has begun promoting intercultural, indigenous training within its medical training facilities for individuals who wish to serve in states with a high indigenous presence (32). 

In 2012, the report notes that complaints increasingly surfaced concerning medical malpractice.  In addition, infant mortality within public hospitals increased and galvanized the government’s attention, leading it to suspend 50% of its Barrio Adentro health centers.  On the positive end, the government developed a National Public System of Care and Treatment of Addictions and continued establishing Centers of Integral Care (CDIs), establishing 554 of the 600 it proposed in 2004 (33).

Citizen’s access to social security increased in 2012, and the government recorded 147, 274 new beneficiaries (33).  The government also initiated the Mission of Greater Love in Venezuela, which aims to assist older persons that are living in poverty.