Social Conflict in Venezuela, February 2014
Protests numbers rose 400% in February
18 murders*, 2.382 injured and 1.254 imprisoned
*Updated 03.15.14: 24 murders
The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social, OVCS) registered in February 2014 at least 2.247 protests. This number is 400.5% higher than in January, when there were registered 445.
The protests in February represent the highest number registered in a single month in the last 10 years. The tensions and conflicts in Venezuela have been rising at a steady rate since the second trimester of 2013.
From the first week of February, a wave of peaceful protests started in Venezuela, rallied mainly by young college students and activists from political parties in the opposition, to which progressively the communities joined.
The protests began demanding the right to citizen safety and the strong complaint for the high crime and violence rates in the universities. Then the demands started including other civil rights, such as food access, political participation, respect for the human life, liberty and personal integrity, and freedom of speech. The number of protests increased proportionally to the increase in repression by the State.
The most widely used form of protest in this period was shutting down streets, followed by demonstrations, marches and ‘cacerolazos’ (beating of empty pots to create loud noise from inside the homes). The number of people involved was impressive in all of the street demonstrations.
The Venezuelan government answered the peaceful demonstration with a systematic repression, violating human rights and militarizing some cities. This lead to a total of at least 18 people killed, 2.382 injured and 1.254 imprisoned.
The Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana, GNB) and the Bolivarian National Police (Policia Nacional Bolivariana, PNB) were the security forces who commited most of the violation of the human rights of the demonstrators. These were followed by the Bolivarian Service of Intelligence (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia, SEBIN) and the local municipal police forces. Beside the public force depleted by the State, the demonstrators were attacked by ‘colectivos’, paramilitary groups composed of pro-government armed civilians, who act with the permissiveness and complicity of State officials.
These attacks were ordered and backed by President Nicolás Maduro and by the state governors who belong to the ruling party, by representatives in the National Assembly, including its president Diosdado Cabello, as well.
The repression pattern was characterized by:
a) Joined attacks by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) and the armed colectivos.
b) Attacks to the demonstrators during the transmission of mandatory presidential broadcastings in radio and television.
c) Most of the protests attacked by the armed colectivos, people murdered or withn gunshot wounds were reported.
d) The harshest raids took place after 6pm.
e) Systematic employment of toxic substances and firearms.
f) Cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of the imprisoned demonstrators.
g) Torture and sexual abuse of the imprisoned demonstrators.
h) Arbitrary detentions.
i) Illegal squattings.
j) Criminalization of the protests.
k) Agression to journalists.
l) Persecution of leaders from opposition parties.
It must be noted that in the middle of the crisis the President rallied a political act called Conference for Peace (Conferencia por la Paz), gathering government secretaries, representatives, businessmen and media personalities, with the objective of promoting dialogue and the resolution to the conflict. Nevertheless, while the conference was taking place, mandatorily broadcasted in radio and television, in the streets of Venezuela the repression to the demonstrators carried on.
The peace speech did not stand up to the facts. While the President was calling for dialogue he also ordered the complete militarization of the Táchira state, suspending even basic rights such as the right to protest peacefully.
Another relevant aspect and a consequence of the repression was the intesification of the protests in the last weeks of February. On the other hand, in the middle of the chaos unleashed in the country, several criminal groups carried on vandalisim and looting. In the last 4 days of February, the OVCS registered at least 10 lootings and 25 looting attemps in 4 states.
From the begining of the term of Nicolás Maduro, the peaceful protests in the streets have been controled with an disproportionate and undifferentiated use of the force, particulary when the protests have a political content. It looks as if the lack of leadership and capacity to resolve the conflicts was compensated with an increasing use and presence of the military in the streets.
By the time of this investigation, protests are still reported in the main cities in the country. We are preoccupied with the call the President did to the colectivos, community councils and civil unities with military formation to dissolve the protests. With this measure a confrontation between factions in the civil population is being promoted. We consider these measures taken by the venezuelan government as prone to ignite a bigger and wider conflict.
During the February protests, several human rights NGO’s dedicated to document cases, denounce abuses, acompany the victims and assist them legally and psicologically. Here is a list of some of these NGO’s:
- Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello http://w2.ucab.edu.ve/cddhh.html
- Provea http://www.derechos.org.ve/
- Instituto Prensa y Sociedad Venezuela (IPYS) http://www.ipys.org.ve/ipys-venezuela.aspx
- OVCS http://www.observatoriodeconflictos.org.ve/
- Conflictove http://www.conflictove.org.ve/
- Amnistía Internacional Venezuela http://amnistia.me/
- Foro Penal Venezolano http://www.foropenal.com/
- Cofavic http://www.cofavic.org/
This investigation of tendencies employs as main resource the monitoring of the situation through national and regional media. Also official sources and NGO’s. It’s stressed the direct observation as non-participant in some of the studied phenomena. To acceed to the daily monitoring of the protestswe sugest to consult www.conflictove.org.ve, Twitter: @ConflictoVe
We invite you to visit of site www.observatoriodeconflictos.org.ve
Reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us in Twitter: @OVCSOCIAL
 The Office of the Attoney General of the Republic (Fiscalía General de la República, FGR) officially reported the death of 18 people. It’s necessary to clarify that according to the investigation done by the OVCS, only 10 were demonstrators. The remaining 8, according to the Attorney, were killed by impacts with objects left after the protests, allegedly used in the demonstrations.