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On April 7, the Center for Legal Studies, Justice, and Society (Dejusticia) published a report highlighting the challenges facing civil society actors in Venezuela, as well as their resistance and resilience in their continued defense of human rights in the country. The report, entitled “Defending Human Rights in Venezuela,” is the result of extensive research and interviews with human rights defenders from 30 different organizations working in seven cities across Venezuela.
“Defending Human Rights in Venezuela” highlights the extensive challenges that human rights defenders confront in carrying out their work in Venezuela, including ongoing attacks, intimidation, and harassment of civil society activists by the Maduro government. The findings of this report are perhaps more relevant than ever this week, when the Maduro government announced a new repressive measure requiring Venezuelan NGOs to provide potentially sensitive information about the communities and victims they work with to authorities. The report also offers a series of recommendations to help foreign actors best support and empower the efforts of Venezuelan civil society organizations from abroad. Here you can access the press release with the report’s main findings in English, and the full report in Spanish.
On the date of the report launch, Dejusticia and WOLA cosponsored a public event to discuss the content and findings of the study, featuring report author Ezequiel Monsalve, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor, Director of the Center for Defenders and Justice Marianna Romero, WOLA Director for Venezuela Geoff Ramsey, and moderated by report author and human rights defender Ligia Bolivar. The recording of the event with English interpretation can be found on WOLA’s YouTube page.
- On April 10, the Nominations Committee of the PSUV-majority National Assembly released an list of 38 candidates to be considered for positions in the electoral council (CNE), which in addition to a previous list of 67 individuals leaves a total candidate field of 105. The Nominations Committee maintains that the final list of candidates for the CNE will be made public on April 27, initiating the final 10-day process for the National Assembly to vote on the CNE’s final makeup.
- This week, members of the PSUV-dominated National Assembly visited Brussels in an apparent attempt to repair relations between the EU and the Maduro government after a dispute earlier this year in which Maduro expelled EU Ambassador to Venezuela Isabel Brilhante. National Assembly Vice President Iris Varela reportedly met with EU diplomats, sparking opposition among EU politicians who disapproved of the meeting.
- On April 13, Venezuelan military commander Manuel Bernal Martinez announced that at least 1,000 members of the country’s volunteer militia force would be deployed to the border state of Apure amid ongoing clashes with Colombian rebel forces. On Twitter, Nicolas Maduro justified the deployment as a “war of the people against irregular and terrorist groups from Colombia.” WOLA’s Geoff Ramsey and Kristen Martinez-Gugerli discuss the military escalation on the border with military intelligence expert Andrei Serbin Pont in the latest episode of The Venezuela Briefing podcast.
- Colombian Foreign Minister Claudia Blum released a video on Twitter announcing that the Colombian Foreign Ministry had expressed its concern regarding the armed conflict on the border with Venezuela to the UN Secretary General and the President of the UN Security Council, attributing the violence to the Maduro government’s continued support for criminal groups in the region. The communication follows a request from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry to the UN on April 6, which placed the blame for the conflict on the Colombian government for failing to fully implement the peace accords.
- This week, a member of the Employers’ Representative of the Governing Body of the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicated that the organization has the tools to impose sanctions on the Maduro government for its incompliance with international standards around the rights of workers and business owners in Venezuela. The warning comes after the ILO had previously denounced the Maduro government for failing to respect essential labor rights, such as a livable minimum wage and the right to unionize.
- Following comments by Maduro’s Communications Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez stating that the media reporting on the border conflict in Apure should be regarded as “enemies,” a group of 75 civil society organizations signed on to a joint statement rejecting these remarks for “criminalizing the serious and independent work” of independent media and civil society organizations.
- In March 2021, the Centro de Justicia y Paz (CEPAZ) documented 88 acts of persecution and criminalization against members of the press, human rights activists, and political actors, bringing the overall estimated number of cases this year to 215.
- On April 12, the Dominican Republic launched its online platform allowing Venezuelan migrants in the country to access regular status and inform themselves about the regularization process. The Dominican Republic’s immigration agency estimates that the plan will benefit 115,000 Venezuelans residing in the country, 89.7% of whom currently lack regular status.
- This week, a delegation of foreign leaders from the Colombian government, international embassies, and UN agencies visited the Colombian border town of Arauquita to evaluate the situation of the nearly 6,000 Venezuelans who have been displaced by the border conflict in Apure. On Thursday, local authorities in the state of Arauca reported that 23 of the refugees staying in Colombian shelters in the state had tested positive for COVID-19.
- In a press conference on April 12, President-elect of Ecuador Guillermo Lasso announced his intention to initiate a broad regularization plan for Venezuelan migrants in the country in close coordination with the United Nations.
- After Vice President Delcy Rodriguez announced on Saturday that the Maduro government had paid $64 million—half of the required amount—for the 2.4 million COVID-19 doses reserved for Venezuela through the WHO-linked COVAX initiative, on Monday Maduro announced in a televised address that his government had secured the full $120 million needed to obtain the vaccines. The surprise announcement follows months of negotiations with the opposition to unfreeze Venezuelan assets held abroad to access the funds needed to purchase the vaccines, after the Maduro government had claimed that it did not have enough money on its own to make the payment due to U.S. sanctions. Maduro did not disclose where the funds came from, but said that “at the right moment” it would be revealed.
- It is notable that after the announcement, Juan Guaido announced the opposition would continue to offer to pay for vaccines with unfrozen funds held abroad, and would remain in negotiations with the government through the COVAX mechanism. On the government side, Jorge Rodriguez also said that they would continue talks with the Guaido opposition about ho to widen access to a COVID vaccine, the first time that the Maduro government has officially recognized these negotiations.
- Facing an ever-worsening wave of COVID cases in Venezuela amid the spread of the Brazilian COVID-19 variant, President of the Association of Private Clinics Manuel Meneses this week asserted that private clinics in the country are nearing full capacity. Meneses stated that between 94% and 97% of beds in private clinics in Caracas are currently occupied, and that ICU units are between 90% and 94% full. Infectious disease expert Julio Castro echoed these concerns around hospital capacity, stating that Venezuela is in its “worst moment” of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the official numbers published by the Maduro government do not reflect the reality of the crisis.