Violence in Venezuela: Publicizing President Maduro’s Crimes

February 19, 2015

Violence is a normal and daily occurrence in Venezuela. It is common to wake up, get to school, and hear a story about someone you know getting mugged at gunpoint the night before. Statistically, someone gets murdered at gunpoint every 30 minutes in Venezuela. Kidnappings, muggings, violence—these are all part of our daily life. It’s no longer shocking to hear these stories; in fact, most Venezuelans don’t even bat an eye at the violence surrounding them.

Recently, the Venezuelan government under President Nicolás Maduro approved a bill that legalizes the use of lethal violence against protesters. The bill is a response to the increasing number of protests denouncing high rates of inflation, lack of food and services, and rampant insecurity that are happening throughout the entire country. As the price of oil continues to drop, more protests asking for change are expected. Now, for Venezuelans—a people so accustomed to violence—this bill is many steps too far.

This bill is not only a very obvious and clear violation of human rights, but it also legalizes the already-normalized violence and military repression so prevalent in Venezuela. It goes completely against the constitution, not to mention the famous words of the praised “liberator” of the people, Simón Bolívar: “Curse the soldier who aims his gun against his own people.”

The situation gets worse: a resolution passed this January states that the armed forces should go to “extremes” not to use force against pregnant women, boys, girls, adolescents, older people, people with special needs, or other “vulnerable” people. Despite the stipulation, force against these “vulnerable” people is not completely prohibited. And where is this line drawn? Unfortunately, it depends solely on the discretion of the president.

But wait, there’s more bad news. There is also no line drawn between what kind of protest the armed forces are allowed to employ lethal force against: does this include peaceful protests? If a group of students are peacefully protesting for higher salaries for their professors, can they be legally massacred? Guess so. Again, this line also depends on the discretion of the president, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that a protest supporting the government—even if it does get violent—will be exempt from the use of lethal force.

This is not where the problems  end. The government often relies on paramilitary forces that are extremely violent and have been known to attack opposition protesters in previous protests as well as intimidate voters on election days. These paramilitary forces now are legally allowed to carry out these violent and illegal acts, without any repercussions—not that there were any before the bill was passed.

These paramilitary forces are not even the only concern. There is widespread corruption in the armed forces and the police which has unfortunately become a normal occurrence. Stories about victims attempting to report crimes, then getting to a police station and seeing their very own muggers or kidnappers in uniform are extremely common. Under the same protest law, this corruption is legalized. When a police officer or general of the armed forces commits one of these crimes, they’re not considered criminals under the law

I could go on, because there are many more aspects of this law that make it even more outrageous. I am disgusted at my government and at this violation of human rights, which shows how little human rights matter to the government of Venezuela. The government essentially created a “legal” instrument to keep using the same brutal force it has always used to repress protests—but only opposition protests, of course. Protests were essentially the last tool left for the opposition, which I count myself a member of, to fight against the repressive dictatorship. Under Venezuelan law, most opposition leaders have already been either incarcerated or stripped of their powers. Elections are often rigged, and at this point—I do not even think my vote counts at all. Protests were the last thing we had to demand change from this government, and now even that is gone, unless we are willing to put our life on the line. In fairness, we already do every time we leave the safety of our homes—but the risks we face are now legally sanctioned by the government.

The most outrageous fact of all is how little attention and action from the international community this bill has had. There is nothing “disguised” about this dictatorship, and now with the price of oil plummeting, black gold cannot even guarantee it’s survival. Repression will. Unfortunately, the international community seems content to sit in silence and enjoy the massacre that will occur.


Read More

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Angelis David

Muy bueno tu escrito Marielena, te felicito!!


Good piece! Clear and sound. Keep those articles coming!