On May 15, more than 150 organizations and individuals across Venezuelan civil society issued this statement (translation below, see the original here) in response to recent events and the country’s deepening crisis, calling for an urgent embrace of nonviolent, realistic strategies for change. The statement is being circulated on social media with the hashtag #LiderazgoDemocratico, or “Democratic Leadership.”
1.) The pandemic has aggravated the preexisting Complex Humanitarian Emergency.
The extreme gasoline shortage; which continues to be the greatest obstacle for the population to access food and medicine; the destruction of the capacity to distribute clean water to homes; the accelerated deterioration of the already deficient electricity services; the loss of livelihoods for millions of families, are dynamics that existed PRIOR to the spread of COVID-19. Today we see that these issues are being aggravated by the pandemic, and highlight the responsibility of those who exercise control over public policy.
2.) Those in Miraflores prioritize remaining in power indefinitely and illegally over the well-being of the Venezuelan people.
In the face of falling petroleum income, disputed political legitimacy, as well as the progressive deterioration of institutional conduct and the indifference to the suffering of the population, the de facto Maduro government has focused on retaining power by means of repression, abandoning its state obligations to respect, protect, and guarantee the human rights of the entire population without discrimination. For the Venezuelan people, the state apparatus is now a source of intimidation, not an instrument for their well-being with the strength or operational and technical capacity to address the coronavirus pandemic and the preexisting humanitarian emergency.
3.) Those within the highest spheres of the de facto Maduro government have impeded all paths to a constitutional, peaceful, and citizen-led solution to the conflict.
The functional, social and political collapse of the regime has led to the dissolution of the state and society, because the government has closed all standard paths that, in a democratic society, would facilitate a constitutional and peaceful resolution of conflict. With the unconstitutional imposition of a Constitutional National Assembly, the execution of fraudulent presidential elections in May of 2018—which were not recognized by many within and outside of the country, including by some that had participated in the elections—with the partisan manipulation of the justice system, the National Armed Forces (FAN), state security forces, and the electoral body; the alternation of power has disappeared, and with it the possibility that Venezuelans can peacefully elect authorities capable of addressing the Complex Humanitarian Emergency, which has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
4.) Due to its errors, the interim government presided by representative Juan Gerardo Guaidó Marquez, President of the National Assembly, today faces a dramatic political crisis.
At the beginning of 2019, when the institutional crisis peaked with the proclamation of Guaidó as President as a result of electoral fraud, it opened the possibility for a negotiated resolution to the Venezuelan conflict. However, this opportunity was wasted in favor of the adoption of a political formula (“the end of the usurpation, transitional government, and free elections”) that was put in place for the exit of Nicolás Maduro from power, not as a result of a peaceful, democratic, or citizen-based strategy. Instead, this was a strategy to promote the exit of the government by a supposed fracture of the National Armed Forces, or an improbable show of force by a foreign government, which goes against democratic practice.
5.) The movement to return to democracy must act democratically.
The crisis of the interim government presided by Juan Guaidó became evident following the events related to ‘Operation Gedeon,’ through which at least one member of the interim government (‘high commissioners,’ ‘advisors,’ and ‘chiefs of the strategy committee’) was implicated in conduct that is inconsistent with the constitutional norm and human rights. The implicated individuals acted in ways contradictory to the responsibility to lead a process of political transition in favor of the strategy that, “all cards are on the table, and under the table.”
Given this critical situation, with a collapsed regime, an opposition without a clear strategy to produce a transition that is peaceful, electoral, and constitutional; and an escalating humanitarian situation, the subscribing organizations recommend the following:
A.) To the Maduro regime:
- Take concrete steps towards a National Humanitarian Accord that addresses the pandemic (and the preexisting complex humanitarian emergency): Liberate all political prisoners, put an end to official and paramilitary repression against legitimate social protest, and respect the work of the medical sector, the production sector, journalists and human rights defenders.
- Value recent studies and projections by the Academy of Physical, Mathematic and Natural Sciences about the spread of COVID-19, and then use these findings to report on the advances in the last two months in terms of building the capacity of the response and evaluating the gaps in attention, facing the most adverse scenario. End any type of persecution and/or criminalization of the spread of technical information about COVID-19.
- Comply with all recommendations by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in her various oral and written statements before the Human Rights Commission. Offer logistical, operational, and security services for the functioning of the different UN humanitarian agencies installed in the country, and also for NGOs that assist and protect populations and communities through humanitarian programs.
- Do not use the quarantine as a mechanism to limit the rights of people and end the practice of criminalizing citizen protest. Likewise, end the practice of using the military to intimidate the exercise of independent journalism.
- Create an INDEPENDENT AUTHORITY integrated by experts with the necessary medical and scientific knowledge in compliance with international standards and recommendations by the World Health Organization. This authority should have the operational capacity to position the efforts of Venezuelan society against the pandemic and coordinate the efforts of different sectors of the country to design the most effective response possible, both to the pandemic and its future economic and social impacts.
- Set up TASK FORCES TO ATTEND TO THE CRISIS, with the same characteristics as the Independent Authority against the pandemic, so that they can operate in the following 4 dimensions of the crisis: gasoline, potable water, electricity, and access to food.
B.) To the interim government presided by Juan Guaidó:
- Publicly rectify the current ambiguity which it has adopted, , reiterating without hesitation that the way to achieve change is not violent but peaceful, constitutional, and democratic. Beyond this effort, in the streets and in any situation of political negotiation, be oriented to restore the electoral and political rights of all Venezuelans, so that the people can determine their future in legitimate and free elections.
- Within the National Assembly, promote the need for an institutional investigation regarding ‘Operation Gedeon,’ which clarifies who was involved, the source of the funds, and the conditions of the supposed contract, about which at least one advisor of the interim government admitted to contracting mercenaries. This is among the various aspects that contradict the Venezuelan constitution and international norms.
- Completely separate the activities of the National Assembly as a public legislative body from the activities of the partisan organizations that make up the Venezuelan opposition. The lack of institutionality in favor of the partisan leadership of the opposition cannot continue to result in the erosion of democratic institutions. Just as it is undemocratic that the PSUV remains the only force in executive power, and it is absolutely unacceptable for the G4 to have the same role as the legislature.
- In relation to the previous criteria, we urge Juan Guaidó and the parties of the opposition to reconstruct the democratic alliance, equipping it with institutional mechanisms (checks and balances, internal and external controls) that allow for a serious, broad and deep discussion, and lead to political reform within the democratic coalition. In order for the movement to return to democracy to be a credible source of hope at this dark time, it must have leadership that is collective and capable of discussing and executing an inclusive and successful strategy, which could be expressed to the country and the world through a coherent voice.
C.) To both the Maduro regime and the interim government:
We emphatically urge the reactivation of a credible, balanced, and inclusive mechanism with feasible goals that is facilitated by recognized mediators to advance legitimate solutions to the Venezuelan crisis. As difficult as an effort at political negotiation may be, it will always be preferable to the reprehensible decision to contract mercenaries, or the use of special Russian forces within the country. Venezuelans of all political backgrounds are tired of these practices, which result in the loss of lives and the heightened suffering of the majority, without supporting sustainable solutions to the unsustainable political, social, and economic crisis. The latter will continue to deepen if the interests of the country are not put above individual goals. As such, we demand the resumption of the Oslo mechanism as a tool to find new strategies that work to overcome the deep political crisis in Venezuela and the return to constitutional norms. This dialogue must continue without suspension until both parties have found a solution without dehumanizing and criminalizing one another.
Our civil society organizations continue working to ensure that the hopes of the population translate to actual change, and a solution that in practice commits to the survival, liberty, and security of the majority.
Signed in Caracas, May 15, 2020
A.C. Anzoátegui Sin Sida
A.C. Brisas Orinoco
A.C. Radar de los Barrios
Acceso A La Justicia
Asociación Civil Mujeres en Línea
Asociación Civil Saber es Poder-AsoSaber
Asociación Venezolana para la hemofilia
Baruta En Movimiento
Catedra de DDHH de la UCLA
Centro de Acción y Defensa por los Derechos Humanos – Cadef
Cepaz – Centro de Justicia y Paz
Ciudadanía con Compromiso A.C.
Civilis Derechos Humanos
Clima21 – Ambiente y Derechos Humanos
Comisión para los Derechos Humanos y la Ciudadanía CODEHCIU
Comunidad en Movimiento A.C.
Conciencia Ciudadana A.C.
Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional
Equipo de Proyectos y Asesoría Social (Edepa)
Fundación Ambientalista de Caricuao
Fundación Centro Gumilla
Fundación de Derechos Humanos de Los Llanos (Fundehullan)
Fundación Especialmente Amigos
Fundación La Gran Victoria
Fundación Fototeca de Barquisimeto
Instituto de Altos Estudios Sindicales (Inaesin)
Instituto Mead de Venezuela A.C.
Laboratorio de Paz
Monitor Social AC
Movimiento Ciudadano Dale Letra
Movimiento de Sindicatos de Base (Mosbase)
Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la ULA
Observatorio Electoral Venezolano (OEV)
Observatorio Global de Comunicación y Democracia
Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (OVP)
Organización Comunitaria Fe, Alegría y Paz
Organización Comunitaria Brisas Orinoco
Organización Comunitaria Libertador
Organización Comunitaria El Junquito y su Gente
Organización Comunitaria Esperanza Punceres
Organización Comunitaria Solidario Punceres
Organización Humanitaria Las Vírgenes
Organización Humanitaria Zona 10
Organización Natural Bio Conservation A.C.
Positivos en Colectivo
Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea)
Proyecta Ciudadanía A.C.
Red de Defensores de Derechos Humanos del estado Cojedes (REDEFENCO)
Red de Organizaciones Ambientales de Venezuela (ARA)
Semillero Humano A.C.
Una Ventana a la Libertad
UNICRISTIANA de Venezuela
Unión Vecinal para la Participación Ciudadana A.C.
Universitas Fundación / Proyecto Roscio
WOLA (The Washington Office on Latin America)
Adrian Torres Marcano, UCV Professor
Anndy Nieves, Attorney
Ángel Zambrano Cobo
Beatriz Marín Bolívar
Carlos Guerra García
Carmen González Coronel, Attorney/Professor/Social Activist
Claudia E. Requejo
Claudia Nikken, University Professor
Francisco Martínez G, Former President of Fedecámaras
Flavia Pesci Feltri, UCV Professor
Gabriela Buada Blondell
Gilianys Quintero Requejo
Ignacio Avalos, University Professor
Inés Quintero, Historian
Isabella Picón – Activist of Labo Ciudadano
Jairo García Méndez, Attorney
Jesús “Chuo” Torrealba, Journalist and Social Activist
José Rafael Peña Farías, Social Activist
José G. González
Juan Luis Sosa
Keymer Ávila, USV Researcher
Laura Louza, Attorney
Leonardo Carvajal, University Researcher
Lexys Rendón, Human Rights Activist
Lissette González, Sociologist
Luisa Rodríguez Táriba
Luis Francisco Cabezas
Luis R. Jiménez P.
María Auxiliadora Mejías
María E. Escobar
Margarita López Maya, Historian
Mariela Ramírez, Social Activist
Mibelis Acevedo Donís
Nelson Freitez Amaro, University Professor
Nelson Garrido, Photographer
Oscar Murillo, Journalist and University Professor
Rafael G. Curvelo E.
Rafael Uzcátegui, Sociologist
Rocío San Miguel
Rodolfo A. Rico, Journalist
Ronal D. Santil
Simón Gómez Guaimara- Professor of International Law
Trinidad M. Palma
Valeska Martínez P.
William Requejo Orobio