The human rights violations occurring in Venezuela– from thousands of arbitrary arrests to beatings and rapes to the murder of unarmed teenagers— have taken up little of the international spotlight in the past year. They have, however, increasingly caught the attention of human rights groups like Amnesty International, which details and condemns the abuses in a report released this week.
The report, titled The Faces of Impunity, tallies the total number of known arbitrary detentions, killings, and abuses by the Venezuelan government since the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo López for organizing a protest against the socialist government in February 2012. Amnesty reports that at least 3,351 people were arrested since the López arrest and, of those, 1,404 still face charges and await trial.
Forty-three people have died since the protests escalated in the past year, and 878 protestors and security personnel have reported injuries. Among the dead are 22-year-old beauty queen Genesis Carmona, 28-year-old Adriana Urquiola (who was pregnant at the time she was shot dead), and the aforementioned 14-year-old Kluiverth Roa.
Amnesty International reveals that the government does not end the torment of the families of those killed with the death of that relative, but has, on multiple occasions, continued to harass the family should they demand justice for their fallen kin:
Guillermo Sánchez died after he was beaten and shot by a pro-government armed group in La Isabelica (Valencia State) in March 2014. His wife, Ghina Rodríguez, and their two children had to flee the country after they received death threats for demanding justice. They are still waiting for those responsible for Guillermo’s death to be held to account.
Amnesty notes that those who survive encounters with police report being “beaten, burnt, sexually abused, asphyxiated, electrocuted and threatened with death while in custody.” Others reported being subjected to electric shock while in prison. While many Venezuelans have tried to seek help with authorities, few have their cases addressed, much less resolved. Amnesty notes that “of 238 reports of human rights violations… only 13 have resulted in charges being brought.”
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has asserted on numerous occasions that his government respects human rights despite the statistic evidence to the contrary. “Ours is the most advanced Constitution regarding human rights and the letter of the law is alive,” he said in April 2014 in response to accusations of using state violence to silence opposition.
Despite assurances to the contrary, the United States government has taken measures against the Maduro government as a result of these human rights violations, most recently with an executive order issued by President Barack Obama sanctioning multiple high-ranking Venezuelan officials in charge of state security apparatuses. Maduro, in response, has issued a requirement to at least one private school that children must write hate letters (“drawings are accepted) to President Obama calling for a repeal of the sanctions and an accusation that President Obama had plotted a “false flag” operation in which American planes disguised as the Venezuelan military would bomb Caracas.
Maduro has previously accused Vice President Joe Biden of plotting the overthrow of his government.