Annual Report: Venezuela 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Venezuela 2010

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  • In August, two men shot at José Luis Urbano, President of the Foundation for the Defence of the Right to Education, an NGO working to promote and defend the constitutional right to free education for all. He and other members of the Foundation had been the targets of a series of attacks and threats. By the end of the year, nobody had been brought to justice for this attack or for the shooting in 2007 which left José Luis Urbano seriously injured. No protection measures had been put in place for him, his family or other members of the Foundation by the end of 2009.
  • In October, Oscar Barrios was shot dead in the town of Guanayén, Aragua State, by two armed men dressed in similar clothing to that worn by police officers. The shooting followed a six-year campaign of harassment and intimidation against the Barrios family which began after they reported the killing of Narciso Barrios by police officers in 2003. Further killings of family members took place: Luis Barrios was killed in 2004 and Rigoberto Barrios in 2005. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Venezuela to take the necessary measures to guarantee the right to life and security of the Barrios family and to bring those responsible for the killings to justice.
  • In November, human rights defender Mijail Martínez was shot dead in Lara state. He had been working with the Committee of Victims Against Impunity in Lara on a documentary film featuring the stories of people who had suffered human rights violations at the hands of police officers. By the end of the year nobody had been brought to justice for the killing and no protection had been provided for the family.

Freedom of expression

Journalists were harassed, intimidated and threatened. At least 34 radio stations had their licences revoked for non-compliance with statutory telecommunications regulations. However, as noted in August by the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the authorities' public statement that these stations "play[ed] at destabilizing Venezuela" indicated that their editorial stance could have been the actual reason behind the closure.

There was concern that a draft law which would criminalize the dissemination of information in media outlets which was "false" and could "harm the interest of the state" could undermine freedom of information and expression. The law remained before the National Assembly at the end of the year.

In August, staff at the Caracas offices of the television channel Globovisión were attacked by armed men. Teargas grenades were thrown and one of the security guards was beaten. Globovisión was widely regarded as opposing government policies. In January, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling ordering the authorities to investigate reports of intimidation and physical and verbal attacks against Globovisión staff. No investigation had been initiated by the end of the year.

Repression of dissent

Members of opposition political parties were harassed, threatened and intimidated, including by the use of spurious criminal charges. On several occasions the security forces failed to intervene when government supporters physically attacked suspected opponents.