Violently Silencing Protest
In early 2014, unarmed protestors took to the streets of Venezuela, in order to demand greater freedoms. They were met with violence from police and soldiers. Human Rights Watch reported that demonstrators suffered severe beatings and indiscriminate firing of live ammunition, while those who were arrested were often subject to torture. At least 40 people were killed in the protests and around 650 injured. In January, the government essentially sanctioned such violence, passing a resolution which empowers the use of fire arms by security forces to maintain public order.
Imprisonment of Opposition Leaders
Opposition leaders have been routinely arrested and imprisoned on spurious charges. In September, Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the opposition Popular Will party was imprisoned for 13 years and 9 months for conspiracy to commit a crime, incitement, arson and causing damage to public property during the 2014 protests. Amnesty International said that there was “no credible evidence” against Lopez, who is just one of many long-term political prisoners.
Even civil society leaders are deemed subversive by the regime. President Maduro has alleged that Rocío San Miguel, director of a nongovernmental organization (NGO) promoting accountability of the security forces, is “fully involved in an attempted coup” in Venezuela.
The Maduro regime has routinely made use of an amended 2004 law which permits the media to be restricted should it be deemed to “foment citizens’ anxiety,” “alter public order,” or any number of other alleged infractions.
During 2014, Colombian television channel NTN 24 had its transmission blocked, while Maduro accused CNN of “war propaganda.” Meanwhile, Venezuela’s oldest private television channel, RCTV has been removed from the airwaves, while the editorial lines of both Globovision and El Universal, the country’s oldest newspaper, have become far less critical of the government after being mysteriously sold to new buyers.
In a recent report, Amnesty International says that journalists and media outlets critical of the authorities “faced defamation charges, attacks and intimidation.”
Violence against Women and Minorities
Statistics from the Public Prosecutor’s Office indicated that although more than 70,000 complaints of gender-based violence were received during 2014, less than 1% went to trial. And of those that did go to court, 96% of the cases did not result in a conviction.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International reported that in 2014, there were “continuing reports of violence” against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people in Venezuela, and that “those responsible were rarely held to account.”