This week, the Centro para los Defensores y la Justicia (CDJ), a Venezuelan NGO that works to defend human rights and document threats to human rights defenders in the country, published a report exposing that a total of 140 individuals and organizations working in the defense of human rights in Venezuela were subject to threats, attacks, and social control by the Maduro government in July. The number represents a significant increase from previous months, and compares to 35 such attacks in the month of June.
Human rights defenders, members of the opposition, and human rights activists faced a surge of repression and security threats in July, with the Maduro government launching a crackdown on perceived dissidents amid violent clashes between the Venezuelan police and organized crime groups in the Cota 905 neighborhood of Caracas. The offensive by the Maduro government included the arrest of opposition leader Freddy Guevara, who was subsequently released on August 15, harassment and threats against several other members of the Voluntad Popular opposition party including Juan Guaidó, and the arbitrary detention of Fundaredes President Javier Tarazona, who remains in detention along with three of his colleagues.
The CDJ report documents a total of 140 incidents in the month of July, which includes 112 cases of stigmatization and defamation, 14 instances of intimidation and harassment, 5 arbitrary detentions, 4 judicial proceedings, and 2 raids on offices. Out of the attacks in July, 72 (51%) were against human rights defenders, and the other 68 were against human rights and humanitarian organizations. The primary perpetrators of the attacks documented were the state-run media, public officials of the Maduro government, and the state security forces, including the National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and the National Police (PNB). The 140 attacks documented in July add to 374 documented in the first 6 months of the year, bringing the total number of cases reported by CDJ in 2021 to 514.
- After Mayor of Bogotá Claudia López announced the creation of a special police force to investigate, capture and prosecute crimes committed by migrants in the city on August 18, Colombia’s Defensoría del Pueblo responded on Twitter denouncing the measure for exacerbating xenophobia and contributing to the criminalization of Venezuelans and other migrants.
- Three months after the launch of the first phase of Colombia’s plan to extend regular status to the 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees in the country, the International Rescue Committee reports that migrants still face challenges in accessing the program due to difficulties in accessing the internet platform and a lack of clear information around eligibility and requirements to receive the protected status.
- In a press conference, Venezuelan opposition leader Julio Borges called on the Chilean government to reevaluate its migration policy to allow Venezuelan migrants and refugees to safely and legally enter the country. The demand follows public outcry from human rights defenders in response to recent mass deportations of Venezuelans under the Piñera administration.
- After meeting with high-level officials during a visit to Colombia, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) stated in a press conference that the Colombian government has not received sufficient support for its reception of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in the country. The Senator pointed out that the response to the Venezuelan migration crisis, which compares in scale with mass displacements in the Middle East, has not received comparable financial support from the international community.
- On Tuesday, Nicolás Maduro declared a state of emergency due to flooding in Mérida state which has resulted in the deaths of at least 20 people. Officials report that over 1,200 houses were destroyed in the disaster.
- A new report presented on August 25 by Venezuelan NGO Acción Solidaria drawing from research collected throughout 2020 documents 1,436 violations of the right to health over the course of the year. The report finds that women, children and adolescents were most affected by the lack of access to resources such as medicine and antibiotics, and medical equipment such as incubators and ventilators.
- The Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social documented 671 protests across the country in the month of July, the majority of which (66%) were linked with demands for economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights. The number of protests in July represents an average of 22 protests per day, and an increase of 8.75% from the previous month.
- Opposition parties in Venezuela remain divided over whether or not to participate in regional and local elections scheduled for November 21. While candidates from major parties such as Primero Justicia and Acción Democrática have begun to present candidates and have expressed their intention to participate, the Plataforma Unitaria led by Juan Guaidó has yet to take an official stance. This indecision has been met with public frustration by members of the mainstream opposition parties such as Tomás Guanipa of Primero Justicia, and two representatives of the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) resigned this week in protest of the coalition’s hesitation to make a decision on the matter.
- The Maduro government is reportedly allowing exiled opposition representatives to return to the country to participate in upcoming elections in November. A number of previously exiled individuals including Enzo Scarano of the Cuentas Claras party, Americo de Grazia of Causa Radical, Juan Miguel Matheus, José Manuel Olivares, and Tomás Guanipa, these latter of the Primero Justicia party, have already returned to Venezuela.
- Representatives of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Duarte Pacheco, the institution’s President, arrived in Venezuela on Monday to meet with Chavista and opposition representatives in the National Assembly elected in 2020, at the invitation of the Maduro government. As Efecto Cocuyo notes, the IPU has not clearly defined which National Assembly—that elected in 2015 and led by Juan Guaidó, or that elected in the widely-questioned December 2020 election and led by Jorge Rodríguez—it sees as legitimate and appears to maintain communication with both. The IUP also met with members of the Guaidó-led National Assembly, as Tal Cual reports.
- On August 24, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro publicly celebrated the launch of negotiations between Chavismo and the opposition in Mexico, and stated that the OAS is willing to cooperate to support the process. This is a notable change from Almagro’s response to the 2019 negotiations, which he reacted to by calling for an escalation of pressure to include “credible threats” against the Maduro government.
- This week, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez announced that the Maduro government had presented a dossier to the International Criminal Court (ICC) with evidence of the impact of U.S. sanctions on the country’s humanitarian situation and access to basic goods such as medicine and health care.
- This week, President of Venezuela’s National Academy of Medicine Enrique López Loyo stated that, at the current pace of vaccination in the country, it will be impossible to achieve herd immunity by the end of 2022. López Loyo also claimed that the U.S. and the WHO would be willing to donate vaccines to Venezuela if the Mesa Técnica de Vacunación were reactivated.
- The NGO Médicos Unidos reported that the Maduro government has continued to receive vaccines from China without informing the public, generating mistrust and concern around the transparency of the distribution process. Members of the opposition have spoken out against the government for politicizing the vaccination process and demand that health workers and those with preexisting conditions be prioritized for access to the vaccine.