Repression of protests killed 15 people in 2018

Association

On 9th July 2018, local CSO PROVEA published a statement saying that during the first semester of 2018, 85 people have been kidnapped by the State for political reasons. The organisation stated that these were people taken and held in custody by the police without charges or a court order. In addition, PROVEA documented 51 cases of people detained where no further information about their whereabouts was provided. On average, people were disappeared for about 11 days before appearing before a court.  

The deteriorating health of political prisoners, especially those detained in the military prison Ramo Verde is also of concern. The lack of medical attention in detention has been previously reported in the Monitor. In that sense, on 8th June, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary measures to Juan Carlos Caguaripano, a former police officer who is under arrest accused of rebellion and requires medical attention but it has been denied by the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia (SEBIN). The Commission urged the State to "adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the health, life and personal integrity of Juan Carlos Caguaripano, by providing adequate medical care in accordance with international standards". 

Smear campaign against rights activist 

A coalition of organisations working for health rights (CODEVIDA) condemned those that had orchestrated a defamation campaign against Francisco Valencia, President of the coalition. The Health Minister Luis Lopez said in a radio program that Valencia was a paid worker of the multinational corporation Roche, and his main objective was to discredit the Venezuelan Government because it wasn’t buying medicines from the company but from other suppliers.

Peaceful Assembly

On 12th July the Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social (Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict - OVCS) published a report on social protests in Venezuela for the first half of 2018. During this period, 5,315 protests took place in the country, an average of 30 daily protests, which also represents an 8 percent increase compared to the first semester of 2017. 84 percent of the protests were related to social, economic, cultural and environmental rights, greatly outnumbering protests for political reasons. The main demands in these protests were for labour rights (2019 protests), basic public services (1391) and food (792). 

The repression of protests also continues. 15 people have so far been killed during protests in 2018. For example, 12 year old Evelio José Rodríguez Robles was killed during a protest in Bolivar State on 16th July 2018. Reports indicate that security forces started using firearms to disperse the protest and one bullet hit him while he was walking by the area, not even participating in the protest. 

Expression

El Nacional, the only independent newspaper that still has a printed edition has been subject to harassment throughout 2018. On 22nd May, CONATEL, the  country's regulatory body, announced that it will start an investigation into the newspaper for its coverage of the presidential elections on 20th May 2018. According to CONATEL, El Nacional's coverage promoted hatred and questioned the legitimately elected authorities in the country. 

In a separate incident, on 5th June, a court rejected the appeal of El Nacional over a lawsuit presented by  Parliamentarian Diosdado Cabello in 2015 that forces the newspaper to pay a US$ 12,500 fine. The lawsuit was brought after the newspaper shared an investigation of a Spanish newspaper that links Cabello with a network of drug trafficking and money laundering. 

In a separate incident related to CONATEL, on 5th June, the university radio ULA FM received a warning from the regulatory body stating that they must stop broadcasting messages that cause fear amongst the population. CONATEL referred to a message given by a teacher at the University, expressing her concern over the poor living conditions facing Venezuelans.

Prior to the presidential elections, on 16th May, police officers prevented a group of journalists from entering the National Assembly. Cameraman Jose Rivas was reported to to have been physically assaulted by military officers, causing injuries and damage to his camera.  

Venezuelan CSO Espacio Publico reports that between January and June 2018 there have been 219 attacks on the freedom of expression in Venezuela. Just on the day of the presidential elections, 20th May, the organisation identified 28 cases of violation of freedom of expression, that affected 23 people from 17 different media outlets. The most common violation related to the ban on journalists to accessing voting centres.