Political persecution against real and perceived dissent in Venezuela has intensified in recent days. Physical attacks and harassment against militants of opposition pre-candidates during campaign events for a primary process that already has disqualified candidates, ongoing nullity sues and an undefined National Electoral Council (CNE), was followed by the criminal conviction against 6 union leaders for alleged charges of terrorism, and more recently, the arbitrary interventions ordered by the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) on the Venezuelan Red Cross and the Communist Party of Venezuela.
To this escalation of attacks against participation in public affairs and civil society, another arbitrariness is added under a new arrest warrant issued against the former mayor of Caracas along with a request for extradition to Spain. This last action is based on some statements offered by the former mayor in an opinion program abroad that, according to the Attorney General imposed by the illegitimate national constituent assembly, constitute “the crimes of treason, conspiracy, incitement and association to commit a crime.”
On the same day that the Attorney General issued other of his habitual statements of persecution and stigmatization against opposition leaders, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published a press release requiring the State to “protect civic space and guarantee participation in matters of public interest without any type of discrimination”. The IACHR stated that the recent decisions of the Supreme Court not only affect the freedom of association and political participation, but also “create new obstacles to overcome the institutional crisis in a country characterized by the absence of the rule of law.”
Hours later, and unlike the silence before other declarations of the inter-American organization, the State replied to it through a statement. Following the hostile line that its Foreign Ministry directs against multilateralism – which has already attacked the European Union, the United Nations Special Procedures, the International Fact-Finding Mission, the International Criminal Court, among others -, the State rejected “the obedient and mercenary actions of the IACHR in our region, behaving as a spokesperson for the Department of State of the United States of America.” Furthermore, it reiterated the decision to remain disassociated from the inter-American human rights system, thus ratifying its indolence in the face of the situation of thousands of victims inside and outside the country, as well as the little or no effectiveness of the technical assistance in human rights that it claims would be receiving, and despising the call of his supposed ally, President Petro, to return to the inter-American system.
Far from taking actions to enhance the institutional and democratic setting, the State intensifies its policy of persecution and closure of civic space, thereby undermining the possibilities of credible presidential elections in 2024. The increase in repression and control of civil society seems be assumed as a political objective despite the presence on the ground of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Criminal Court and recent attempts with the international community to resume the process in Mexico. The State is sending very dangerous signals within a context intended to attenuate it. On the contrary, when deciding to raise the levels of arbitrariness, a worsening of the humanitarian and human rights crisis scenario in a pre-electoral environment must put in motion all the actors who work for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in the country.
A turning point has taken place in the political and human rights crisis in Venezuela. The international community cannot accept that August sets the tone for the upcoming months and much less that it becomes the new normality in the institutional landscape. AlertaVenezuela calls for refining the advocacy strategy in order not only to stop this on-going wave of repression but also to generate a broader and concerted effort that demands conditions for free, independent and safe work by civil society and that helps out at once to pave the way for elections that still do not have clear horizons.