VENEZUELA 2022 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
While Venezuela is legally a multiparty, constitutional republic, the regime of Nicolas Maduro claims control over all public institutions. In November 2021, the Maduro regime organized regional and municipal elections largely perceived as skewed in their favor. Election observers and media reported arbitrary arrests, criminalization of opposition parties’ activities, bans on candidates, and media censorship during the elections. The European Union was allowed to act as election observer for the first time in 15 years, but the Maduro regime asked its observers to leave the country before they could present their final report. In the final report, the European Union noted significant structural deficiencies to the electoral system and provided the regime with 23 recommendations to improve electoral conditions.
The Bolivarian National Guard – a branch of the military that reports to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace – is responsible for maintaining public order, guarding the exterior of key government installations and prisons, conducting counternarcotics operations, monitoring borders, and providing law enforcement in remote areas. The Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace controls the National Scientific, Criminal, and Investigative Corps, which conducts most criminal investigations, and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, which collects intelligence within the country and abroad and is responsible for investigating cases of corruption, subversion, and arms trafficking. Police consist of municipal, state, and national forces. Mayors and governors oversee municipal and state police forces. The Bolivarian National Police report to the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace. The national police largely focus on policing Caracas’ Libertador municipality; patrolling Caracas-area highways, railways, and metro system; and protecting diplomatic missions. The national armed forces patrol other areas of the country. Civilian authorities’ control over the security forces continued to decline and was deeply politicized. Increasingly unpopular with citizens, the Maduro regime depended on civilian and military intelligence services, and to a lesser extent, proregime armed gangs known as colectivos, to neutralize political opposition and subdue the population. There were reports that members of security forces committed numerous abuses. A September UN report detailed the systematic use of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service and the Military Counterintelligence Directorate to intimidate and control the activities of political opponents.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by regime forces; forced disappearances by the regime; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention by security forces; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; unlawful interference with privacy; unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and enforcement of or threat to enforce criminal libel laws to limit expression; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic or intimate partner violence, sexual violence, workplace violence, femicide, and other forms of such violence; substantial barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting indigenous peoples such as the Yanomami; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association; and the worst forms of child labor.
The Maduro regime took no effective action to meaningfully identify, investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who may have committed human rights abuses or engaged in corruption.
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