Pro-government collectives continue to reinforce a hostile environment for dissenters in Venezuela

Peaceful Assembly

On 16th September 2019, around 400 teachers gathered in front of the Ministry of Education in Caracas to demand salary increases and the resignation of Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz. Alleged members of pro-government “colectivos” attempted to disrupt the protest, riding into the crowd on motorcycles and firing gunshots in the air. Dressed as civilians, these groups also threw water at demonstrators and beat up teachers who were participating. According to newspaper El Nacional, the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) tried to control clashes but were rebuffed by protesters. The demonstration ended with a call for a national strike. On 18th September 2019, the Venezuelan Federation of Teachers blamed the Minister of Education for the attacks against the unions.

On 21st September 2019, “colectivosattacked demonstrators who were expressing support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó in Los Eucaliptos, Caracas. The radical Chavista group used firearms, stones and sticks to intimidate and attack protesters. Jonathan Bello, a cameraman for Venezolanos Por la Información(VPI) TV channel, was reportedly injured in the clashes. Juan Guaidó was expected to make an appearance in Los Eucaliptos for an event, but his visit was cancelled due to the attacks.

Expression

On 17th September 2019, a security guard for Adolfo Pons Hospital in Maracaibo, Zuila state, allegedly attacked three reporters from the VPI TV channel who were reporting on the precarious conditions at the hospital, following a complaint. The hospital’s security guard blocked the press crew’s access to the hospital facilities and tried to grab their camera. Journalist María Carolina Quintero also stated that the guard pushed her.

On 19th September 2019, the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) arbitrarily detained Jose Guillermo Mendoza, a graphics industry worker. Mendoza was transporting CD covers from the musical “Ministro: Qué es su trabajo? – un extraño tributo al punk venezolano" (Minister: What is your job? – an odd tribute to Venezuelan punk) promoted by human rights CSOs Provea, Redes Ayuda and Humano Derecho Radio. The project seeks to highlight the serious human rights violations in Venezuela while showing the links between Venezuelan punk and the country’s social struggles. The police arrested Mendoza for transporting material considered subversive, and also confiscated the CD covers. Provea representatives were summoned to the police station to explain the material. On 20th September 2019, after 18 hours in prison, Mendoza was released.

On 24th September 2019, journalists Wandort Dumont of 800 Noticias and Stefany Brito of El Nacional were threatened by an unidentified man while covering a legislative session in the government-led Assembly. The journalists were broadcasting the intervention of deputy Darío Vivas when a National Assembly Television (ANTV) employee accused Vivas of the theft of public funds and unlawful dismissal of ANTV workers. Dumont was going to record the altercation when a man threatened him and ordered him not to record the episode. Other members of the press spoke in his defence and were also threatened. Vivas is a deputy from the governing party Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV).

Association

On 25th September 2019, civil society organisations denounced the persecution of dissidents in Venezuela in a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). According to reports, the NGOs attending also highlighted the impunity for human rights violators in the country. On the same day, the IACHR announced the creation of a special mechanism, Mecanismo Especial de Seguimiento para Venezuela (Special Follow-up Mechanism for Venezuela - MESEVE), to monitor the implementation of the recommendations for the country made by IACHR. With MESEVE, the IACHR plans to draft two reports: one on the situation of human rights in Venezuela, and another on the forced migration of Venezuelans.