Violence and repression aren’t new elements in Venezuela’s political protests. In 2014, almost three years ago to the day, protests resulted in the deaths of more than 40, and left 650 with several injuries and more than 2000 people under arrest.
This scenario has sharpened and worsened simultaneously with the ascending economic-political crisis and apparent international impunity. Today, in Venezuela people don’t live. They just struggle to survive. The population has acquired the habit of developing complex strategies to obtain 2 kilograms of rice, anti-seizure or hypertension drugs, and other basic goods. Everyone tries to live with the very scarce resources they have.
People also live in fear of going out into the streets. The young and old people both are afraid to step a foot out of their houses to be part of protests against their government’s policies.
But the Venezuelans that do overcome fear and go to the streets to practice their right of peaceful protest, are beaten by the police or other national forces, attacked with tear gas and imprisoned without proper judicial process. People are occasionally shot by paramilitary groups that act without control in the country, despite the lack of an official authorization from the government. The governmental authorities in Venezuela are using the judicial system to intensify the illegal persecution and sanction of those who think different.
The tragic and sharp contrast between the Venezuela that the authorities describes and the Venezuela where the population actually lives, is profoundly divergent. President Maduro speaks about a country in peace where people receive enough food and hospitals are perfectly working and well supplied. This is nothing but pure fiction. Venezuela is a labyrinth in which accessing basic rights and needs is an impossible mission.
In this context, Amnesty International denounced the arbitrary detentions without a judicial process made by the Intelligence Service (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional, or SEBIN – its acronym), and the prosecution of pacific activists accused of committing “crimes against the homeland.” The unjustified use of preventive prison and the defamation campaign in the media directed to members of the political opposition, have also been denounced by our organization.
Amnesty International has been able to document cases of people put under arrest, denied contact with their families and legal representation. This leaves a whole country open to the risk of suffering severe human rights violations, especially torture, poor treatment, and other similar acts of injustice.
From Amnesty International, we demand the Venezuelan authorities to stop using arbitrary arrests as a political tool. It should be guaranteed that people with dissident political views are not going to end imprisoned solely because of their ideas. The right of freedom of speech isn’t another right more among many others. It is one of the most important basic elements of any democratic structure.