8: The human rights situation and migration
Why do people not protest anymore, when life is so difficult? When Guaidó declared himself president of Venezuela, as a country located in South America according to EHISTORYLIB, in January 2019, it was in the middle of a wave of demonstrations. There were mass demonstrations over a longer period of time also in 2014 and 2017. Later there have been many, but smaller demonstrations.
Two things explain it. First, people are scared. According to the human rights organization Foro Penal, 15,045 people were arrested for political reasons between 2014 and 2019.
Today, there are 392 political prisoners in the country. In July, a report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights showed that political prisoners are being systematically subjected to torture . During the demonstrations in 2014, 43 people were killed and according to the Attorney General, 111 were killed in 2017 .
Another major human rights problem is extrajudicial executions carried out by police and special forces. These take place in various operations to crack down on crime. According to government figures , 6,856 people were killed in security operations between January 1, 2018 and May 2019 . In addition, there are abuses carried out by government-affiliated civilian militias and armed gangs. The armed militias have over 1.6 million members.
Another explanation for smaller demonstrations is simply that there are fewer people left. According to official figures, 4.5 million Venezuelans have now fled the country . About 15 percent of the population, or almost as many as live in Norway. Many believe that the number is higher and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 6.5 million people will have traveled by the end of 2020 .
Another phenomenon is that people are moving from the countryside to the capital Caracas because there is now a humanitarian crisis in the countryside in parts of the country. There, health services, water and electricity supply work even worse than in the cities, and in some areas there have been both famines and outbreaks of serious disease epidemics.
9: The future of Venezuela
So what can one expect from 2020? The Maduro government has shown its willingness to set aside all socialist principles in order to survive and circumvent US sanctions. Some of the consequences are the dollarization of the economy, acceptance of criminal economic activity, and what can be called a paramilitarization of the state.
What we are seeing now is a paradoxical situation in which the government is increasingly controlling politics, but has lost control of society and territory. It also makes a political solution more difficult. A negotiated solution does not seem very likely in 2020. What could change the situation are new signals from the USA and China. Both have expressed support for new negotiations. In other words, the key to the success of new negotiations can be found outside Venezuela’s increasingly porous borders.
- March 2013: Hugo Chávez, president and leader of the “Bolivarian Revolution”, dies.
- April 2013: Nicolás Maduro, the successor to Chávez, wins the presidential election by a landslide over the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles.
- January – March 2014: Major protests led by students and radical sections of the opposition demand Maduro’s resignation. More than 40 people die in the clashes.
- July 2014: Oil prices begin to fall. From a level above 100 dollars a barrel, the price a year and a half later is close to 30 dollars a barrel. The oil country Venezuela is losing large export revenues.
- December 2015: Opposition gains a large majority during the election to the National Assembly.
- Autumn 2016: The opposition gathers to organize a referendum on Maduro, but the process is blocked by the authorities.
- Winter 2016/17: The Vatican facilitates a dialogue attempt between the government and the opposition. The attempt fails quickly, after the government refuses to follow up on its obligations.
- Spring 2017: The Supreme Court deprives the National Assembly of its authority. This will be the start of a wave of massive protests. More than 120 people are killed and more than 3,000 wounded in clashes with security forces and armed gangs.
- July 2017: The Maduro government holds elections to a “constitutional assembly”. In practice, this replaces the National Assembly.
- Winter 2017/18: A new attempt at negotiations, facilitated by the Dominican Republic, will facilitate free presidential elections. The attempt fails in February, and the Maduro government announces presidential elections in May.
- May 20, 2018: Maduro wins the presidential election after several opposition candidates have been refused to run. The United States, Europe and many Latin American countries do not recognize the result
- January 10, 2019: Maduro is sworn in for his second term.
- January 23, 2019: The opposition believes the inauguration of Maduro is invalid, and points out the leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s rightful president.
- April 30, 2019: Juan Guaidó, along with other opposition leaders, urges the military to revolt against the Maduro government. The uprising fails.
- May 4, 2019: A new attempt at negotiations, with Norway as facilitator, is announced. Negotiations break down in August.
- January 5, 2020: Juan Guaidó is to be re-elected leader of the National Assembly. After several opposition politicians are denied entry, Maduro loyalist Luis Parra is elected as Guaidós’ replacement. Guaidó is later sworn in to the same office nearby.