WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
31 Aug 2023 | Joint Statement

Increased Repression and Political Persecution Closes Civic Space in Venezuela

We, the undersigned organizations, reject the increased activity and further advancement of the repressive system of the Venezuelan State in the current pre-electoral context. This pattern of persecution has materialized through the undermining of the exercise of fundamental rights, such as political participation, freedom of expression and the right of association, maintaining the long-standing restriction of civic and democratic space in the country.

During the month of August 2023 alone, 6 trade unionists were sentenced to 16 years in prison after having been tried by a court with jurisdiction over terrorism for crimes of conspiracy and association to commit a crime.

Also, on August 15, Mrs. Yosida Vanegas, mother of Sergeant Juan Carlos Monasterios who was tried and convicted for attempted assassination, was detained without a warrant in a police station and disappeared in the state of Táchira. According to the information shared by her relatives at the time, Mrs. Monasterios was detained in the police station to be transferred to Caracas by a Commission of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence. 

Additionally, on August 21, nurse and leader José Cádiz was arrested by the Bolivarian National Police in front of his house, and on August 23, Globovisión anchor Seir Contreras was fired after having expressed himself and questioned Congressman Ramón Magallanes during an interview.

Delsa Solorzano, María Corina Machado and other candidates have also received threats to their physical integrity in the context of their tours in different states of the country regarding their pre-candidacy for the upcoming electoral processes.

The Venezuelan State continues to retaliate against civil society through aggression and criminalization as a form of retaliation for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and participation in public affairs. We are concerned about the increase in acts of violence and intimidation in the pre-electoral phase, which we believe are intended to have an inhibitory effect on future electoral processes. This is in addition to political disqualifications without a definitive ruling, acts of intimidation and harassment of sectors of society that seek to encourage political participation through primary elections, together with the judicial intervention of civil associations such as the Venezuelan Red Cross and political parties such as the Communist Party of Venezuela. These are intended to dissuade and condition the electorate in Venezuela, which together with the institutional and factual obstacles imposed by the State, limit an authentic electoral process, compliant with national and international human rights standards, and further restrict civic space in the country.

The persecution of the Venezuelan State through the criminalization of dissident voices must cease. It is the obligation of the State to take steps towards guaranteeing the integrity of future electoral processes, to prevent electoral violence, to guarantee and respect, without discrimination, the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and political participation of citizens, social actors and political parties.

To see the list of signatory organizations, click here.