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.
In 2012, there were 103 complaints that an individual’s right to personal integrity had been violated by Venezuelan police and military forces. These complaints most commonly included aggressive physical violence (52%), but also included injuries from firearms (12%), the use of electric shock (11%), and suffocation (9%) (37). Provea shows that there has been a 35% decrease in deaths that have resulted during arrests. In addition, it also states that 69 out of 3,925 protests were suppressed by state forces in 2012, a decrease of more than 50% from 2011 (39).
All of this shows continuing challenges for the Venezuelan government’s efforts at citizen security reform. However during this period, the government also reorganized its public safety model and initiated the Great Mission to All Life in Venezuela. Among other features, Provea lauds this program for promoting a holistic revamping of citizen security and policing that includes training in the respect for human rights. The new mission also includes the establishment of a national registry of victims to assist with reparations for those that have been the victims of Venezuelan police and military forces.
In 2012, there was a 2.2% increase in the prison population, which included 45,224 individuals. This includes a 4% increase in individuals in pretrial detention, which now account for 64% of the prison population. The report argues that there is an overpopulation rate of 62.93%, which includes an excess of 28,463 prisoners (41). It also points out that 591 individuals were killed in prisons in 2012.
With respect to political rights, Provea lauds the fact that over 80% of Venezuela’s voting population participated in the 2012 election, which included the participation of 40 political parties (41). However, the organization criticizes an enabling law that existed until June 2012, which allowed President Hugo Chávez to quickly push through certain legislative pieces without necessarily consulting any civil society organizations.
The organization also argues that in 2012 the government continued to use the Supreme Tribunal of Venezuela (TSJ) to intimidate opposition leaders, journalists, students, workers, and trade unions. Most notably, it highlights how the government fined Globovisión, a television channel that features several opposition journalists, for its allegedly biased coverage of the 2011 El Rodeo prison riots. It also condemns the passage of the Organic Law against Organized Delinquency and the Financing of Terrorism, which can be used against protesters and organizations that receive funds from abroad.