Press Release

IACHR Calls on Venezuelan State to Adopt Comprehensive Measures in the Face of Scarcity in Venezuela

July 22, 2016

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regrets the urgent situation of extreme scarcity and shortages of medicine, medical supplies, and food in Venezuela. This situation has led to a significant deterioration in living conditions in the country and an increase in violence, which results in harm to people’s health, personal integrity, and life, to the detriment of the rights protected by the inter-American and universal human rights instruments.

The Commission observes with concern that this situation of scarcity and shortages of basic products such as medicine and food has a negative impact on conditions to guarantee that Venezuelans can live a life of dignity, and it urges the State to adopt comprehensive measures to overcome this crisis.

The problem of medicine shortages is reportedly taking place in a context of serious deficiencies in the infrastructure and services of the health-care system in the country. The IACHR has received information regarding severely unhealthy conditions in medical centers, a significant number of neonatal deaths, the lack of needed maternal health services for pregnant and postpartum women, the reuse of disposable equipment and supplies, and the long waits for critical surgical interventions, among other situations of major concern. This situation is of particular concern with regard to groups in a vulnerable situation, such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities, chronic diseases, and HIV, among other affected groups.

The IACHR held a hearing on the right to health and access to medicine in Venezuela on June 7, 2016, during the special session that took place in Santiago, Chile. The State of Venezuela participated with a high-level delegation, led by the Minister of Health, and offered its viewpoints and official information. The hearing also included testimony from fathers and mothers who had tried unsuccessfully to obtain medicines on which their children’s lives depended. The organizations that requested the hearing provided information regarding children and adolescents who die because of the lack of access to medicine and timely medical care, and requested urgent measures to address this grave situation.

In terms of the right to food, the IACHR has been informed that it is impossible to obtain access to the food needed for an adequate diet, in keeping with the provisions established by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its General Comment No. 12. The IACHR, meanwhile, has received information indicating that some segments of society lack the means to obtain basic food items and maintain a diet of three meals a day. Young children are especially affected due to the stage of their development, as are other groups for whom nutritional deficiencies have negative impacts on their health.

The IACHR observes that the State has adopted a series of measures to ration consumption of basic food items, including the creation of local food supply networks, but observes that these measures appear to be insufficient to ensure the right to food for all Venezuelans.

The IACHR expresses its deep concern over the tensions and acts of violence arising from this context of food and medicine shortages in Venezuela. In this context there has been a proliferation of groups of speculators or “bachaqueros,” acts of corruption, clashes between individuals, looting of stores and shopping centers, and violence carried out in the framework of demonstrations and acts of public protest. Also of concern is the extensive irregular movement across Venezuela’s borders with neighboring countries by people looking to buy food and other staples.

In the context of protests against inflation and shortages of food, medicine, and other basic goods, there have reportedly been clashes between protesters and law enforcement that have resulted in deaths and injuries. The Commission reiterates that the use of force in the context of a public protest must be the exception, not the rule, and must be governed by principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality. The IACHR has expressed its concern regarding the declaration of the “state of exception and economic emergency” in Venezuela, in a press release dated June 1, 2016, and it has continued to monitor the situation.

The IACHR urges the State to adopt urgent public policy measures with a human rights perspective, measures that consider the special circumstances of vulnerable individuals, groups, and communities—such as children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, among others—and that address people’s basic needs, in order to guarantee their rights to health and food, in accordance with international norms.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 096/16