Transparency International, the global anti-corruption coalition, asks the Venezuelan leadership to uphold the right of access to information and the freedom to protest amid increasing violence and information blackouts in recent days. They need to stop the armed groups of government supporters from acting with impunity and guarantee the rights of detained students.
Venezuelan authorities must investigate the violence during demonstrations in an independent manner. Investigations should not be an excuse to prosecute political opponents, as it has been the case recently, or a reason to limit the right of citizens to be informed and their freedom of speech.
Nation-wide demonstrations erupted last week against high levels of insecurity and crime, an inflation rate of over 50 per cent and lack of basic goods, such as flour and toilet paper; something that should not be necessary in a country so rich with natural resources. So far, at least four people were killed, sixty injured and an unknown number detained, including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Venezuela currently suffers from weak institutions and corruption. As Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index shows, Venezuela consistently has one of the highest levels of perceived corruption in the world. The lack of independent institutions able to monitor the government’s activities, allowing it to be held accountable, makes the country extremely vulnerable to corruption.
Venezuela’s weak institutions exacerbate the current situation and their limited autonomy makes them ineffective in guaranteeing the rights of all citizens. Venezuela can rely on proper legislation, but laws are not enforced. For example, Articles 44, 49, 58, 68 and 108 of Venezuela’s Constitution have been violated during the recent protests, notably by denying citizens access to impartial and uncensored information, limiting the right to peaceful protest as well as refusing some of the arrested citizens their right to due process such as the right to be defended.
“The Venezuelan judiciary has the chance to gain international respect by making sure that justice functions in an independent way and that Lopez gets a fair trial. This is a historical opportunity for Venezuela, a time to bring change”, said Alejandro Salas, Transparency International’s Regional Director for the Americas.
At this point of history in Latin American politics, it is crucial to reinforce people’s trust in institutions and democracy. Venezuela and President Maduro should grasp this opportunity. Democracy is not only a matter of Election Day but should be lived every day.
Note to editors: For daily updates with relevant information on the situation in Venezuela, please see these news bulletins prepared by Transparencia Venezuela, our national chapter in the country: http://transparencia.org.ve/febrero-en-venezuela/