The Continuing Fight for Human Rights in Venezuela
Ever since Venezuela gained independence, the country had many national problems, such as high poverty rates, and a wide social gap between the wealthy, minority European group, and the poor majority African and native decent Venezuelan citizens. The past 200 years, especially the last 20 years this country made many great leaps to address these social problems. Under the leadership of Hugo Chávez who took office in 1999, he led the country to become a more socialist and equal country (“Hugo Chávez”). The social gap between the rich and the poor narrowed and many social and cultural rights were given to its people. Although under Chávez’s leadership this country have made great leaps in addressing many of the country’s social problems, Chávez and his administration had committed many human rights violations ranging from political oppression, to deteriorating the country’s domestic security. The large ongoing protests in Venezuela are a result of years of social, political, and economic rights violations that the citizens of Venezuela are constantly fighting for.
The protests in Venezuela that began in early February were a major sign of the internal problems that were already prevalent in the country. In the beginning, the demands from the protesters were simple, they wanted better public security and stop rising crime rates. The people of Venezuela wanted the right to security and safety that existed in the 1980s, before Chávez took power. In article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Every one has the right to life, liberty and security of person” (McCarty). Under Chávez’s leadership, violent crimes rate have dramatically increased from 19 killed per 100,000 inhabitants in 1998 to 79 killed per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013 (Benedetti). These rates rose due to Chávez fulfilling his own political agenda, which as an unexpected cause that lead to increase in crime rates. Due to rampant police corruption caused by the government ineffective policies to check law enforcers, it was estimated that 1 in every 5 crimes committed were from law enforcement (“Crime in Venezuela”). Rampant police corruption and weak judicial powers in Venezuela lead to the increasing rate of crime committed every year. After crime rates quadrupled in the last 24 years the people, mainly middle class citizens, have had enough of the violence, and have taken to the streets to voice their concerns and demands for their right to live in a safe community. One can say that a government exist to bring order and safety for its people, but the Venezuelan government has done little to curb crime. It can be said that Venezuela has a long ways to go to secure its people’s right to safety and security.
As the protest continued the demands from the protesters evolved and included the demand for political tolerance. Since Chávez took office, he passed laws and policies that hindered his political opponents. Chávez and the legislators passed laws to politically take over the judicial branch by filling the justice positions with government supporters and ousted any justice that posed a threat to Chávez’s position (“World Report 2013: Venezuela”). With the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government under Chávez’s control, he can pretty much do what he wanted. He went to extent of violating some human rights such as arresting or jailing political opponents and censoring media. Television stations that broadcast opposing views of Chávez’s policies were usually shut down and journalists were intimidated to stop writing anti-government articles. These actions violated the citizen’s right to freedom of press. These violations are ironic due to the Venezuelan constitution explicitly declared in article 58 that everyone has the right to “timely, truthful, impartial and uncensored information” (Article 58, Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela). But because of the weakened...