Practically every day, the news cycle is flooded with images and news about the political, economic and social collapse that the Venezuelan society is immersed in. But a new report released by Amnesty International on Thursday provides new figures that precise its extent, and the more than active role the Nicolás Maduro regime is playing in it.
The report, called “This is no way to live,” focuses on the way in which the more vulnerable sectors of society are being systematically criminalized and their human rights violated. This definition, however, currently applies to almost all Venezuelans, as the organization estimates that 87 percent of the people lived under the poverty line and 61.2 under the destitution line in 2017.
‘The Venezuelan authorities are using the language of war to try and legitimize the use of excessive force by police and military officials and, in many cases, the use of lethal force with intent to kill,’ said the Americas Director at Amnesty International, Erika Guevara-Rosas when presenting the report.
Last year, at least 95 percent of the victims of homicides – both in the context of crime and at the hands of the security forces – were young men aged between 12 and 44 living in the country’s poorest neighborhoods. Almost 90 percent of recorded homicides are committed using firearms in urban areas and in rural areas where there are high levels of illicit activity, such as illegal mining.
A.I recognizes that the state has not fulfilled its obligations to prevent armed violence, failing to protect human rights of the victims and provide reparation. Rather, the state has recognized these killings as a successful measure to enforce ‘security’, despite the legal breach (human rights). For several years, A.I has highlighted Venezuela’s serious violations to the rights of health & food, discriminatory arrests, torture and inhuman treatment, under the classification of civil violations and political rights.
State forces are a large part of the problem, as not only security forces were responsible for 4,667 homicides – 22 percent of the total – in 2016, and 8,292 alleged extrajudicial executions between 2015 and June 2017, but the officials in charge of punishing them became guarantors of impunity: they failed to punish human rights violation cases in 98 out of every 100 cases.
In fact, according to the Liberation of the People Operations (OLP), out of the 1,074 police and/or military officers that were investigated, only 112 were charged, and 43 accused. And since 2017 it has not been possible to learn about the status of the processes.
This and other pieces of data evidence that disinformation is another way in which the Maduro regime attempts to disguise its systematic violent actions against the most vulnerable. In 2017, all information regarding the matter that the government published was a power point slide, posted in a tweet. Besides inaccurate, Amnesty indicates the image did not have dis-aggregated or reliable data, and did not even include the deaths caused by security forces. Contrasting with the 62 homicides per 100,000 people reported by the government, NGOs indicated the number is actually 89.
According to the Argentine Security Ministry, Argentina’s number was 5.2 in 2017, the world average being 5.3. In fact, Venezuela was the country with the third highest rate of violent deaths in only after Syria and El Salvador. The disproportionate larger figure illustrates how the absence of both the rule of law and lawful state coercion in Venezuela, added to the state of complete deprivation the country is currently in, has an enabling effect that contributes to the spreading of violence among its inhabitants.
As a result, 2.3 million people have fled Venezuela since 2014, according to United Nations figures. And those who stayed face extreme shortages of food and medication: the report indicates that food supply covers 75% of the daily caloric needs, and that 64 percent of the people lost, on average, 11 kg in weight in 2017. Moreover, the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation informed that shortage of medicines reaches 85 percent.
Amid this dramatic context, Maduro was again under the spotlight this week after the surfacing of a series of videos showing him and his wife, Cilia Flores, feasting at one of the most luxurious and expensive restaurants in the world, in Turkey – with a dish costing more than US $275.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been filmed eating a lavish steak lunch with celebrity chef Salt Bae – while around 90% of Venezuelans live in poverty and some scavenge for food. pic.twitter.com/kUjMF2Vu4s
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) September 19, 2018
Images illustrate a dramatic and exclusive performance of chef Nustret Gokce carving meat in front of Maduro and his wife at his restaurant in Istanbul. Gokce posted three videos of Maduro’s visit on Instagram, but (for obvious reasons) these were later deleted. although that predictably did not stop them from going viral and sparking worldwide outrage.