Venezuela- Overview

Venezuelan civil society is operating in a context of escalating political polarisation, economic crisis and class divisions which have led to the erosion of the basic freedoms sustaining civic space. Since 2014, Venezuela has witnessed increasing social conflict and anti-government mobilisation related to some of the country’s main problems – namely, crime and insecurity, inflation, shortages of consumer goods, political intolerance and the deterioration of civil liberties. While the overwhelming majority of protests are peaceful, some are met with excessive use of force and legal restrictions on the right to protest, with the situation worsening in mid-2016. On 13 May 2016 the president decreed a ‘state of exception and economic emergency’, and subsequent protests sparked by food shortages resulted in the use of tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators. Advocacy CSOs and human rights activists feel increasingly threatened as receiving foreign donations remains very difficult, domestic donors have become afraid to appear publicly as such, and the government seeks to erode their legitimacy by systematically denouncing them on the media as traitors, conspirators trying to undermine Venezuelan democracy or overthrow the government, and delegates of US imperialism. Notably, CSOs that submitted reports to UN or regional human rights bodies were accused of representing ‘dark interests.’