Venezuela: IACHR Condemns Politically Motivated Persecution of Individuals in Run-Up to Elections

July 14, 2023

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Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the restrictions on the right to participate in government, opposition candidates' freedom of association, and protests to demand rights in Venezuela. The State must guarantee pluralism in the conducting of public affairs, be it directly or through freely elected representatives, while allowing the exercise of peaceful protest.

On June 30, 2023, through official announcement No. DGPE-23-08-00-008, the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Venezuela announced that opposition candidate María Corina Machado had been disqualified from holding public office for 15 years, thus preventing her from running for the 2024 presidential elections. This disqualification follows that of other well-known opposition leaders aspiring to run for president, such as Henrique Capriles and Freddy Superlano.

Disqualifications of this sort are not new in Venezuela. In 2021, during the elections for regional and municipal authorities, the National Electoral Council rejected 27 candidates who were disqualified by the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic. This decision had a disproportionate impact on opposition political parties, such as the Communist Party of Venezuela, which received 15 disqualifications, and the opposition parties that formed the coalition known as the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), which received at least 3 disqualifications.

The IACHR noted that the State of Venezuela was internationally condemned for sanctions of this sort in the López Mendoza case. In this regard, it reiterated that no administrative body may use disqualification or dismissal as sanctions to restrict the political rights to elect candidates or to run for election. In line with inter-American standards, to consolidate and protect democratic order while respecting human rights, sanctions of this sort can only be imposed following a conviction resulting from a criminal proceeding.

Furthermore, the IACHR was particularly concerned over the arbitrary detention of three unionized members of Siderúrgica del Orinoco, a state-owned company, during a peaceful protest to demand labor rights in the state of Bolivar on June 11. According to reports from civil society organizations, so far this year, more than 20 workers have been arrested in similar circumstances, summoned to appear before court periodically, and, in some cases, charged with crimes such as "incitement to hatred."

The issuing of administrative disqualifications to opposition candidates and the arbitrary detention of trade unionists are not isolated events. Instead, they are the result of a State policy that seeks to shut down civic space in Venezuela. The IACHR noted that exercising the right to participate in government constitutes an end in itself and is a means available to democratic societies to guarantee other rights.

The Venezuelan State urgently needs to genuinely commit to democracy and the rule of law, lift administrative disqualifications, refrain from arbitrary detentions, and allow political participation on equal terms.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 155/23

10:30 AM