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Civil society challenges the government before the Human Rights Council Analysis of the contributions of CSOS to the third cycle of the UPR Venezuela

The three main inputs for the Universal Periodic Review of Venezuela, to be held on January 25, will be the national report, on which we have already made some comments, the OHCHR compilation on the scope of international obligations and cooperation with the mechanisms and international human rights bodies, which we will analyze in a future piece, and the summary of the communications from the interested parties, which includes the contributions of civil society and the Ombudsman’s Office. This third document is the subject of the present analysis, beginning with some quantitative data, to close with reflections on the substance.

There was a total of 174 contributions (individual and joint), which contrasts with the 519 inputs presented in the second cycle and the 579 in the first cycle. The difference in the number of contributions of the third cycle with respect to the previous two is explained by a very significant drop in participation by organizations linked to the government, both inside and outside the country. While in the first two cycles, pro-government organizations represented nearly two-thirds of the contributions, this time they only reach 16%.

During the first cycle, the government managed to line up a number of organizations that, although their main function is not the defense and promotion of human rights, are (or were?) faithful spokespersons for official propaganda, as is the case of the communal councils (more than 250 contributions in the first cycle) and the water tables (71 contributions in the second cycle). Similarly, there were about 150 individual contributions from other countries by organizations clearly aligned with the government. Interestingly, in the first cycle there were about 100 organizations from Bolivia that sent individual contributions on Venezuela and a few other joint contributions, while the total number of contributions to the Bolivian UPR for that same cycle was 7 individual and 7 joint. No Bolivian organization sent contributions for the third cycle of Venezuela. Cuba, whose organizations had sent at least 20 individual contributions for the first cycle from Venezuela, did not send any contributions for the third cycle.

Other figures that make a difference are those of joint contributions, that is, those sent by more than one organization on topics of common interest. While in the second cycle there were 41 joint contributions, of which 9 were from official organizations, in the current cycle there were 80 joint contributions, of which only 3 are pro-government (two national and one international). Thus, there is an increase in joint contributions in general and a drop in the participation of official coalitions.

Regarding the participation of organizations from other countries, a drop is also observed: from 77 foreign individual contributions in 2016, this cycle reached 9 contributions, only one of which was from an organization favorable to the government. Again, the drop is mainly due to the almost complete absence of contributions sympathetic to the regime.

This cycle is thus characterized by a sharp drop in pro-government organizations and a valuable advance in independent contributions in coalition, which speaks of a greater articulation of CSOs, despite the adverse conditions in which they have had to work in recent years.

Two other data of interest, before making some reflections on the substance. First, the lack of contribution from the IACHR is striking. Although the information obtained indicates that this was not a deliberate omission, it is an unfortunate absence. Second, for the first time the Ombudsman’s Office participates with a report without being recognized as an independent institution. This lack of independence is pointed out in the description made by the OHCHR of the profile of the institution.

Substantively, the contributions reflect three large blocks. In the first place, there are issues that had been noted in the second cycle and that have a strong presence in this cycle, such as the case of the complex humanitarian emergency, the human mobility crisis, and the accelerated deterioration of democratic institutions, with the disappearance of the rule of law.

Secondly, trends that began to appear in the second cycle are alarmingly consolidated, as is the case of the exponential growth in the numbers of extrajudicial executions, disappearances, and arbitrary detentions, as well as the change of a pattern of torture that it is no longer just generalized, but also systematic.

Finally, the contributions provide important insights into the alarming state of social rights and the breach of international commitments by the government. Hard data in these areas will allow the international community not to fall into the trap of what will surely be the official discourse that will seek, on the one hand, to present sanctions as the only explanation for the sharp deterioration in the well-being of the population and, on other hand, pretend to fulfill international commitments by showing the presence of the OHCHR in Venezuela as an expression of good will. Both discourses are false and the contributions of the CSOs prove it.