Human rights in Venezuela: Wikis


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Human rights in Venezuela can first be spoken of with the advent of democracy in 1958 (a brief 3-year period of democracy 1945-8 aside). The 1961 Constitution of Venezuela secured a range of human rights, but following the election of Hugo Chavez was replaced by a new constitution in 1999 which sought to secure a wider range of human rights, such as Health care as a human right.[1] Of the 350 articles in the 1999 constitution, 116 are dedicated to duties, human rights, and guarantees, including a chapter on the rights of the indigenous peoples.[2]

Venezuela ratified the American Convention on Human Rights in 1977.[3] Between 1977 and 1998, "a time period marked by many human rights crimes including the murder, disappearance, and torture of leftist political dissidents", the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) brought six cases against Venezuela.[3] This included the 1989 Caracazo, which successive Venezuelan governments failed to investigate, despite requests from human rights groups such as Amnesty International,[4] and instructions from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.[5] (In July 2009, then-defence minister Italo del Valle Alliegro was charged in relation to the Caracazo.[6]) Between 1998 and 2009 the IACHR brought around 150 cases.[3]


Press freedom

The freedom of the press is mentioned by two key clauses in the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela. The right to freedom of expression is set out in Article 57 and Article 58 of the Constitution. The right to express opinions freely without censorship (Article 57) and the right to reply (Article 58) are generally in line with international standards. However, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed concern about Article 58 of the Constitution, which provides that "Everyone has the right to timely, truthful, impartial and uncensored information." The Commission took issue with the right to "truthful and timely" information arguing that this is "a kind of prior censorship prohibited in the American Convention on Human Rights."[7] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights[8], Human Rights Watch [9], Reporters Without Borders [10] and International Press Institute [11] have expressed concerns about freedom of the press.

The issue of press freedom in Venezuela is complicated by the private media's strong opposition to the Presidency and policies of Hugo Chávez, including strong support for the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt. In May 2007 RCTV's terrestrial broadcast licence was not renewed on the basis of its support for the coup; it continues to broadcast by satellite and cable. After RCTV lost its terrestrial broadcast licence, private television media remained opposed to the Chavez government, but in most cases moderated that opposition by presenting more government spokesmen;[12] Globovision is now perhaps the most vocally and stridently anti-Chavez television station.[13]

In March 2009 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights concluded two cases brought against Venezuela by the private Venezuelan TV stations Globovisión and RCTV. It concluded that the Venezuelan government had not violated the right to freedom of expression, equality before the law, or private property, but that the government had failed to do enough to prevent and punish acts of intimidation against journalists by third parties, as required by the American Convention on Human Rights.[14][15] In May 2009 Venezuela's Supreme Court denied a request for a restraining order brought by a charitable foundation against RCTV and Globovision. The foundation had argued that the TV stations had incited violence and encouraged a coup d'etat against the government, and that this was a violation of Article 58 of the Constitution. The foundation also accused the stations of false reporting over alleged links between FARC and the Chavez government. The Court said a restraining order required an "immediate and executable" threat.[16]

Gender and sexual orientation equality

In 2007 Venezuela passed a "Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence", and instituted a number of other measures against domestic violence. In 2008 Amnesty International called the law "an example for the rest of the region,"[17] but noted that effective implementation would require political will and adequate resources.[17] In July 2009 a proposed "Organic Law for Gender Equality" included a controversial provision for same-sex civil unions.[18]

Human trafficking

Venezuela is a signatory (December 2000) to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.[2][19]

Independence of justice

In December 2009 three independent human rights experts of the United Nations' Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for the immediate release of a judge arrested after ordering the conditional release of Eligio Cedeno. Cedeno had been in pre-trial detention for 34 months, since February 2007; prosecutors had repeatedly failed to turn up for court dates, leading to accusations that the case was being strung out due to a lack of evidence.[20] Partly as a result, the United Nations' Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in September 2009 declared Cedeno's detention arbitrary, and Cedeno was bailed in December 2009.[21] After the arrest of the judge on corruption charges, the UN group accused president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela of creating a climate of fear among his country's legal profession, decrying what they termed "a blow by President Hugo Chávez to the independence of judges and lawyers in the country."[22] [23]

Agrarian violence

Venezuela’s present-day agriculture is characterized by inefficiency and low investment, with 70 percent of agricultural land owned by 3 percent of agricultural proprietors (one of the highest levels of land concentration in Latin America). According to the Land and Agricultural Reform Law of 2001 (see Mission Zamora), public and private land deemed to be illegally held or unproductive is to be redistributed.[2] From 1999 to 2006, 130 landless workers were assassinated by sicarios paid by opponents to the reform.[24]

Human Rights Watch

In September 2008 the Venezuelan government expelled from the country Human Rights Watch Americas Director Jose Miguel Vivanco, over the publication of a report entitled "A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela",[25] which claimed to expose systematic violations to human, civil and political rights. HRW's report was the subject of debate in late 2008-early 2009 after 118 scholars from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, México, the United States, the U.K., Venezuela, and other countries publicly criticized[26] HRW for a perceived bias against the government of Venezuela. On 17 December 2008 an open letter was sent to the HRW Board of Directors in response to the HRW report. The open letter criticized the report by stating that it "does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility." The letter also criticized the lead author of the report, Jose Miguel Vivanco, for his "political agenda", and called on Mr. Vivanco to discuss or debate his claims in "any public forum of his choosing".[27]


  1. ^ Feo, Oscar. 2008. Neoliberal Policies and their Impact on Public Health Education: Observations on the Venezuelan Experience. Social Medicine 3 (4):223-231.
  2. ^ a b c Venezuela country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (March 2005).
  3. ^ a b c Venezuelanalysis, 12 March 2009, Venezuela Rejects Inter-American Human Rights Commission Report
  4. ^ "“Venezuela Inquiry Urged on Abuses in Riots"". The New York Times '. 12 March 1989. Retrieved 15 July 2009.  
  5. ^ "Comité de Familiares de las Víctimas". COFAVIC. 28 February 2007. Retrieved 1 July 2009.  
  6. ^ BBC, 18 July 2009, Former Venezuela minister charged
  7. ^ Canton, Santiago A. Preliminary Evaluation by the IACHR of the Visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Accessed 6 August 2006.
  8. ^ "“Venezuela Rejects Inter-American Human Rights Commission Report"". Venezuelanalysis'.  
  9. ^ "“Report accuses Chávez of undermining democracy in Venezuela"". the guardian'.  
  10. ^ "Head of Venezuelan TV station: Raid of home was scare tactic". CNN '.  
  11. ^ "Venezuela court rejects TV network legal case". AFP '.  
  12. ^ Counterpunch, 21 June 2007, An Analysis of How the Network Has Deliberately Misinformed Its Viewers: Fox News and Venezuela
  13. ^ Venezuelanalysis, 22 May 2009, Globovision: The Loose Cannon of Venezuelan Media
  14. ^ Venezuelanalysis, 5 March 2009, Inter-American Human Rights Court Says Venezuela Did Not Violate TV Station’s Free Speech
  15. ^ "Inter American Court of Human Rights". IACHR. 23 March 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009.  
  16. ^ Venezuelanalysis, 8 May 2009, Venezuelan Supreme Court Denies Restraining Order Against RCTV and Globovision
  17. ^ a b Venezuelanalysis, 18 July 2008, Amnesty International: Venezuela’s Record Mixed on Eliminating Violence Against Women
  18. ^ Venezuelanalysis, 15 July 2009, Debate Intensifies over Venezuela’s Proposed Same Sex Marriage Law
  19. ^ UNODC, Ratifications
  20. ^ "Cedeno Trial Postponed for Fourth Time in a Month". Reuters. 2008-03-19.  
  21. ^ The Guardian, 17 December 2009, UN human rights panel accuses Chávez of undermining Venezuelan judges
  22. ^ Reuters, 17 December 2009, Venezuelan judge's arrest creates fear- U.N. experts
  23. ^ UN News Service, 16 December 2009, Venezuelan leader violates independence of judiciary – UN rights experts
  24. ^ Maurice Lemoine, Venezuela: the promise of land for the people, Le Monde diplomatique, October 2003 (English)/(French)/(Portuguese)/(Esperanto)
  25. ^ "“Venezuela: Human Rights Watch Delegation Expelled"". Human Rights Watch. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 1 July 2009.  
  26. ^ Council on Hemispheric Affairs, 12 January 2009, Scholars Respond to HRW’s Kenneth Roth’s Riposte on Venezuelan Human Rights
  27. ^ [1]

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