EspañolA recent study released by the Venezuelan Program on Action and Education on Human Rights (Provea) denounced President Nicolás Maduro for turning Venezuela into “a factory of poverty,” with crime and impunity out of control.
Inti Rodríguez, the research coordinator with Provea, dug into the details with the PanAm Post. He also spoke about the recent review by the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, to which he said the government presented “outdated” statistics, from two years ago.
What is the key data?
This report stems from two concerns. The first one is the surge in poverty in Venezuela, a consequence of the series of economic measures imposed by the government, which have impacted the income of the average family. The measures have resulted in a worse quality of life, and a backslide for all the social improvements touted under the administration of [former President Hugo] Chávez. In two years, Maduro has eroded them.
The other big concern is that impunity in Venezuela keeps the victims from obtaining justice. Those responsible for human-rights violations, as well as non-political criminals, are never tried.
Over 96 percent of citizen requests for authorities to review alleged irregular activity from the state are rejected. The position of the Supreme Court of Justice is to give priority to the interests of the state over citizen rights.
The General Attorney’s Office has become the main tool to criminalize social demonstrations in the country. Over the last year, 3,459 people have been detained. That’s the highest number in the last 25 years.
The response of the Venezuelan state towards social unrest has not been very democratic, but rather authoritarian. They have resorted to internal and external enemy rationale to encourage repression and persecution of dissidents.
Regarding violations to the physical integrity of constituents, Provea has documented a 480 percent increase. Some 819 people were victims of mistreatment and torture [in 2014].
How would you rate the Maduro administration?
Exclusion and authoritarianism describe the government of Nicolás Maduro. Put frankly, Maduro is a factory of poverty for the country.
Every hour, 48 families became poor in 2013. This is a number published by the National Institute of Statistics, and it rose in 2014 and will continue to rise in 2015.
Rising poverty, failed social programs, the important deceleration of new housing construction, and a worsening health situation — all stem from the politics of division pushed by Chávez.
Where does Provea get the data for the reports?
Over the last 26 years, Provea’s reports have been based on the statistics released by the state. However, there are always more restrictions and obstacles to access public information in Venezuela.
Provea obtained access to the balances and accounts of different ministries across the country. The poverty numbers are from 2013. We also worked on our own estimates, considering the last official numbers on education, declines in family income, the cost of basic food consumption, and of course we examine studies conducted by Andrés Bello Catholic University, the Central University of Venezuela, and Simón Bolivar University, about the living conditions in the country.
Furthermore, we rely on complaints, investigations, and our own research during the year.
Why do state officials not make data available?
They are violating the constitutional right to public information. The government has gone against accountability procedures, another constitutional principle. They are keeping the citizens and NGOs from empowering themselves with information.
They have refused to publish the monthly inflation report of the Central Bank and the shortage index. The lack of all this data compromises the right to information of the population.
A recent example is the award of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to Venezuela for her fight against hunger, a decision based on information prepared by the Chávez administration.
On June 2, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights held a session to review Venezuela on its compliance with international treaties. It analyzed the efforts and measures implemented by the government concerning health care, housing, education, etc. Despite all the numbers of the Chávez administration, however, we presented alternative figures that contradicted the official position.
The situation is not directly linked with the fall of oil prices and much less to an alleged economic war. The regression is due to the economic measures of this government. Over the last two years, under Maduro, there has been cumulative inflation of 127 percent, while in the previous six years the cumulative rate was 130 percent.
What was the UN reaction when Venezuelan officials rationalized their behavior?
The experts expressed concern and alarm over the performance of the country, and on June 22 they will release the findings and recommendation, including deadlines for the Venezuelan government to comply. We are sure that they will ask the government to change its behavior regarding these rights.
While we expect the findings, the NGOs, along with the people, will work to apply mechanisms to oversee the government’s progress.
Venezuela is part of the UN Human Rights Council, and if it fails any of these exams it will impact on the country’s international image. Furthermore, it will affect the poverty rates and fuel social conflict.
Can Venezuela be compared to other countries in the Americas?
The ALBA-member countries, natural allies of the Venezuelan government, have showed positive indicators on social rights. On the other hand, Venezuela has gone backwards.
Regarding civil and political rights, there is a criminalization process in the Americas, including the United States. In fact, we have presented, along with 30 NGOs, a report to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, where we address the similarities among our governments regarding this item. Venezuela is one of the gravest cases.