EspañolIn the midst of the flood of information about Venezuela’s crisis, an important fact has gone unnoticed: the third Venezuela report presented by Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), to José Luiz Machado E. Costa, Brazil’s ambassador and president of the OAS Permanent Council.
If the two previous reports on Venezuela (June 2016 and May 2017) had already revealed the true face of Nicolás Maduro‘s regime in all its authoritarianism and brutality, this one is much more severe.
Almagro called on the international community not to remain indifferent to the plight of Venezuelans who have been protesting the dictatorship for over a hundred days now. “The international community must continue to put pressure on the regime by all means possible, including the application of specific sanctions against persons who commit serious human rights violations or who are involved in corruption and or drug trafficking and organized crime,” he said.
In addition, he urged OAS member states to demand Venezuela’s regime:
- The immediate suspension of the Constituent National Assembly election, a bid to rewrite the Constitution;
- An immediate stop to violent repression against dissidents. Respect for the individual rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and peaceful protest, without threats, detention, imprisonment or torture;
- A large-scale investigation into the acts of key regime figures and their subordinates to ensure accountability for crimes committed against the civilian population in Venezuela;
- The immediate release of all political prisoners;
- The immediate call for free, fair, and transparent elections. Such elections shall conform to international standards and include the presence of international observers. All bans against political parties, organizations and candidates should be suspended in order to ensure full participation;
- The immediate establishment of a channel to provide humanitarian assistance directly to the people of Venezuela;
- A return to the constitutional order with full respect for the separation of powers of each branch of government;
- Finally, the establishment of an effective mechanism to investigate widespread corruption, theft, and waste of public resources, similar to the Guatemalan or Honduran models.
Although the report highlights other concerns, such as the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and attacks on freedom of expression, what stands out the most is the violations of the Constitution and the laws enacted by Nicolás Maduro and the executive branch, as well as its systematic practices of human rights violations (including killings and torture) and the role that the international community can play in reestablishing political rights of Venezuelans.
The PanAm Post presents a summary of these points below.
Concerning Human Rights Violations
Almagro pointed out that “the Venezuelan government’s response to the recent protests is a deliberate policy thought up by the executive branch… the regime persists in the systematic violation of the Constitution and in the systematic use of violent repression, the only means that allow Maduro to remain in power “and adds that” behind every detainee, behind every political prisoner, behind every tortured and murdered person, there are institutions that must be held accountable. The responsibility lies with that regime and its unbridled corruption. That government’s hands are stained with blood. ”
And it goes further: “By giving orders aimed at violently repressing citizens who go out into the streets to demand their rights, President Nicolás Maduro is potentially responsible under international law. Numerous and constant public statements make clear that this government uses violent repression as tactic for control… the head of state has explicitly incited the Armed Forces, armed groups, and other actors adept to the regime, to repress opponents,” Almagro said.
“Those who pull the trigger are motivated by their leaders and obey their instructions and messages. Leaders include the commanders of the armed forces, the police, and the executive branch, assisted and supported by the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman and other authorities. President Maduro, the vice president of the ruling party, the government’s vice president and the cabinet are all politically guilty of the current violently repressive state of affairs. ”
Concerning the Loss of Legitimacy
Almagro’s report stresses how, since 2013, Maduro’s regime has been undermining democratic institutions, and by doing so, its own legitimacy.
It has done so through encroachment and violation of citizens’ rights: “In Venezuela the right to universal suffrage has been violated; the regime has violated its fundamental pact with its own people and with the community of states, its commitment to defend democracy and human rights. That regime has ceased to represent a legitimate sovereignty because it no longer has the support of the will of the people … Over the last 18 years, state control has gradually passed to a hegemonic party led by a tyrant. In the process, basic democratic principles have been disappearing and the violations of human rights have increased.”
The report adds that “the regime of President Maduro has systematically violated the spirit and provisions of the Venezuelat Constitution, including the Fundamental Principles contained in Title I; those relating to the distribution of public power, included in Title IV; and those corresponding to the organization of national public power, established in Title V. One must also add to this the violations of the civil, political, economic, human, and social protections guaranteed in Titles III, VI, and VII of the Constitution.”
On the elections convened illegally by Maduro to rewrite the Constitution, he says that “they cannot be considered a democratic process. It must be seen for what it is: a clear attempt to eliminate the last features of the the electoral arbitrator. It is illegitimate and spurious because he has repeatedly shown his partiality. Any result that could arise from that process would be illegitimate given the unilateral initiative of the call by the executive.”
Concerning Repression and Torture
Almagro’s report details allegations of torture against detainees, indicating that sexual abuse, hitting, wounding, and use of human excrement are frequent practices. He also denounced the use of military tribunals to try civilians and disregard of orders issued by the Public Prosecutor’s Office to release prisoners.
“The firing of shotgun [rubber] bullets at close range into crowds of demonstrators who have already been arrested or detained by the public forces is another example of systemic torture. There are hundreds of victims who are being crippled in some way, with the loss of an eye for example, or other serious injuries to their face, or loss of a vital organ or a limb,” the report said.
“The National Bolivarian Guard, the institution primarily in charge of exercising power in Venezuela, is directly responsible for the repression that has resulted in the deaths, imprisonment, and torture of so many. The brutal repression demonstrates that the national guard is the engine that drives the violation of human rights to life, liberty, and due process,” Almagro stressed.
This report will have huge ramifications in the future for everyone mentioned in it. The international community, especially this hemisphere’s and those 13 OAS countries that abstained from voting to sanction Maduro in May should reconsider their position.
Maduro and his cronies have passed a point of no return, and as Almagro said, “the Venezuelan government can no longer expect the support of the people, and so they stay in power by means of deliberate violations to the Constitution and the use of force. The people of Venezuela have been deprived of their basic civil, political, and human rights. Those who are in power in Venezuela could put an end to this crisis, return to democracy, and reestablish constitutional order. They have chosen not to.”
Those who would make themselves their accomplices will eventually have to answer before history and before courts set up to reclaim justice where now the only rule is brute force.