DOSSIER | Insecurity
No human rights in Venezuela
In four years, a number of thirty thousand denunciations concerning human rights violations were issued to the Attorney General's Office; nevertheless, only 7% of it was heard by a judge and just 4% eventually got a sentence
Everyday, 53 Venezuelans will not return home or will be murdered in their own places. A son grieves for his father, who was killed in a street of the neighborhood. Their stories seem to be quite accepted as unstoppable events (Handout File: Fernando Sánchez)
FRANCISCO OLIVARES | EL UNIVERSAL
Saturday November 24, 2012 12:00 AM
Everyday, eleven citizens who live in the Metropolitan area of the capital city will not be lucky enough to come back home or will be killed in their own homes. The same prediction is applicable for 53 Venezuelan citizens from other cities.
Daily reports of accidents and crime show the variety of circumstances and scenarios in which Venezuelans are murdered. Some of them are killed in the streets, whereas others are killed in their own living places, but their stories appear to be accepted as some kind of unknown unstoppable force that override people's choices. It concerns 53 victims from the several millions of citizens that accept such events as a forced phenomenon, and who seem to be chosen randomly by an unknown force. In the distance, the phenomenon is accepted as some kind of misfortune which Venezuela cannot escape from. Last year stood out as the most violent year of all times, the "tribute" was paid by 19,336 people.
Venezuela was recently accepted to join the United Nations Human Rights Council; an event that represents -for Venezuelan Ambassador Jorge Valero- a recognition of the achievements made by the Bolivarian Revolution regarding Human Rights, without taking into consideration that such incumbency belongs to Venezuela and not to the Government. It is also worth highlighting that belonging to such organization does not stand for a certificate or warranty which states that Venezuela complies with the international guidelines in this field.
One of the most relevant tasks that a Government should work on is the advocacy of the right of life, which for the record- appears to be absent in Venezuela; this is demonstrated in the numbers estimated by the UN, which places Venezuela as the third most violent country in the Americas, after the two leading countries: Honduras and Salvador.
Leading the billboard as one of the most violent countries
The UN Office on Drugs and Crimes places Venezuela as one of the countries with the highest violence rate in the world. In 1995, Venezuela's murder rate was 12 homicides per one hundred thousand habitants, whereas in 2011, we reached the leading places with a number of 45.1 homicides per one hundred thousand habitants. Nevertheless, the number provided by the UN is quite conservative, if we take into consideration that this organization bases its data by establishing an average in the data estimated by the NGOs and the official state-run organizations. In contrast, the National Statistics Institute (INE) records a much higher rate for 2011. According to its calculations, Venezuela recorded 75 homicides per every one hundred thousand habitants. "This is insane" upholds the president of NGO Cofavic a human rights advocate. The expert indicates that the UN considers a rate above 10 as an "epidemic."
That is to say, with such numbers, there is no reason to celebrate our entry into the UN Council; instead, we should pronounce the country in national emergency and then explain why 19 security plans have made no significant progress in 14 years of government.
Although President Hugo Chávez has maintained that violence in Venezuela has been a matter of perception, holding the media responsible for the spreading and manipulation of the numbers, besides the ones calculated by INE, the murder numbers provided by the last current plan named "Misión a Toda Vida Venezuela," (Mission at All Life) equally show the steadily rising murder rate that goes from 12 homicides per every one hundred thousand habitants in 1991 to 50 homicides per every one hundred thousand habitants in 2009.
Cofavic recently submitted in the regular session of hearings before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) a report on "violence and impunity," where the matter of "the right of life and personal integrity," is highlighted. The report focused mainly on the numbers provided by the very members of state-led organizations. Eventually, some of them reported numbers above the ones presented by some NGOs.
Venezuela and Human Rights
Vice-President Nicolás Maduro expressed during the TV program Contragolpe broadcasted by state-run TV channel VTV (Venezolana de Televisión) when celebrating the position reached by Venezuela- that Venezuela "greatly ensures Human Rights" and highlighted that Venezuela deserves to be in the UN Human Rights Council, in a year of victory for the Bolivarian Revolution.
However, the numbers regarding human rights violations do not support the statements made by the Venezuelan Government, which also seem to be great defenders of people's rights.
Liliana Ortega, the president of Cofavic, explains that the Venezuelan Public Ministry admitted that thirty thousand new cases of human rights abuses had been submitted to the government authority in 2006-2010. In other words, based on the lodged complaints, the Attorney General's Office took a note in their annual reports for the aforementioned years. In such material, it is not possible to determine whether they are cases related to torture or violation of the right to life or freedom of speech; however, they all belong to the same field: human rights abuses.
What happens to these cases? Liliana Ortega explains that according to the data provided by the Public Ministry, 93% ends up dismissed or overruled, the remaining 7% gets to attend a hearing and make their accusations before a judge; whereas only 4% is punished. That 7% is formed by those victims who have been lucky enough to see a judge, and have been able to be listened by the court.
In 2011, the Attorney General's Office received 8,813 new cases of human rights violations. They officially assume that these are denounced cases. Then, what happens? Well simply put that, 97% ended up dismissed and stored in prosecutor files, which constitutes a rising 4%. In this sense, only 3% was taken to court, but there are not numbers of conviction. "This shows a trend to reduce justice in Venezuela," Ortega points out.
Another aspect highlighted in the report provided by Cofavic before the Inter-American Commission is the participation of police officers in the so-called extrajudicial executions. The Venezuelan Government estimates that between 20 % and 25 % of the police officers have been involved in criminal activities. In the same sense, the very Public Ministry indicates that between 2000 and 2008, a number of 1,000 annual cases of deaths due to abuse of authority were recorded. In the meantime, in 2010, the very Ministry of Interior and Justice recorded 3,492 cases of killings perpetrated by the police.
It is worth noting that these rising deaths are not added to the homicide numbers, as most cases are identified as "resisting arrest."
Translated by Adrián Valera Villani