Venezuela: calculated repression could constitute persecution


The policy of repression in Venezuela has been based on the coordination of attacks and stigmatizing messages broadcast by media with links to Nicolás Maduro’s government and politically motivated arbitrary arrests by the security forces under his command, with a marked pattern of political discrimination, concludes new research published today by Amnesty International in conjunction with the Foro Penal and the Centro para los Defensores y la Justicia (CDJ).


“The world has known for years about the policy of repression that Nicolás Maduro’s government has put in place. Our research shows that there are instances where there is an extremely high correlation between public stigmatization and politically motivated arbitrary arrests. This correlation is a new indicator of a systematic policy of repression and points to the crime against humanity of persecution, which must be investigated by the international justice system,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.


The research for the report, Calculated Repression: Correlation between stigmatization and arbitrary detentions in Venezuela, was conducted for over a year, in collaboration with Foro Penal and the CDJ, two human rights organizations based in Caracas. Different statistical models were applied to the records of both organizations covering the period between January 2019 and June 2021, including Pearson’s correlation and other descriptive analytics such as evolutionary analysis and percentage frequency distribution. The statistical models were validated by a peer review process.


Marianna Romero, Director General of the CDJ, stated that they “documented how the stigmatization campaigns have been the basis of the policy of repression and criminalization in Venezuela. From the highest levels of the state, the system has been designed to discredit, accuse, threaten and target those who defend, promote and demand respect for human rights, through public statements, the media and social, personal and institutional networks. This research clearly shows how this stigmatization is based on the rationale that there is an enemy within and results in manifestations of acts of violence and persecution by the state”.


The study revealed a correlation between politically motivated arbitrary arrests, carried out by state security officials, and stigmatization, carried out by various media outlets. This analysis showed that, while in 2019 the general correlation between both variables was 29%, in 2020 it increased to 42% and in the first half of 2021 it reached 77%.


The annual correlations between arbitrary arrests and stigmatization also vary in relation to the different security forces involved in the arrests. In 2019, there is a greater correlation (74%) with arrests by intelligence agencies (Military Counter-Intelligence General Directorate, DGCIM, and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, SEBIN). In 2020 the correlation is greater (92%) with arrests by the units under the command of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB), including the Special Action Forces (FAES). And in 2021 the correlation is highest with civil and decentralized bodies, such as the FAES, municipal police forces and the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps (CICPC), where the correlation between arrest and stigmatization is 92%.


Another significant finding was the high correlation (94%) observed from January 2019 to June 2021, between the stigmatization by the television programme “Con El Mazo Dando” and politically motivated arbitrary arrests carried out by a military security body and prosecuted in the military courts.


The qualitative dimension of the research includes analysis of the phenomena of stigmatization, politically motivated arbitrary arrests, the nature and functioning of media outlets linked to the government — many of which receive public funding — and the socio-political context in the country during the period covered by the study. All this was compared against international human rights standards and international criminal law, leading to the conclusion that the patterns of stigmatization suggest the existence of political persecution.


“According to the results obtained, there is no doubt that there is a close relationship between agents of the Venezuelan state, public and private media outlets, and attacks against human rights defenders, which should not go unpunished”, said Gonzalo Himiob, Director of Foro Penal.


The organizations involved call on the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to consider including in its investigation into crimes against humanity in Venezuela the facts set out in this research, with a view to determining key actors, specific cases and possible participants in the crimes against humanity of arbitrary deprivation of liberty and persecution. They also call on the international community to continue supporting the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission in its mandate to contribute to accountability for human rights violations in Venezuela since 2014.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Duncan Tucker: duncan.tucker@amnesty.org


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