Venezuela: Poverty, quality of life and political dialogue

Protest in Venezuela.
(Photo: PROVEA.)

The achievements in the fight against poverty that income statistics attribute to the government of Venezuela since 1999 are overshadowed by violence and insecurity that impede the full exercise of the rights to education, health, recreation and enjoyment of public spaces. Constitutional and legal reforms since 2008 represent another setback following the progress of basic rights in the first presidency of Hugo Chavez, by centralizing political power, restricting participation and democratic freedoms and pluralism, and increasing militarization of society. At the same time, the authorities insist on the criminalization of social protest and human rights.

The significant decline in poverty began during the administrations of President Chavez but stagnated in his second term (2007-2013). The reduction, which had been 16.4% between 2004 and 2006, was only 1.8% in the next four years.

Violence and insecurity in the main cities of the country have affected the quality of life of the population, undermining the enjoyment of social rights of the most vulnerable sectors. A reduction in the hours of night class in secondary and higher education is compounded by the resignation of educators in high crime areas. Besides, overnight emergency services of the national hospital network are being closed and consultation hours in private health medical centers are being restricted. In addition, the large number of people injured by firearms collapses intensive care wards.

Moreover, there has been a policy of criminalization of human rights advocacy that does not recognize neither the instances of international protection nor civil society organizations that use them.

After the presidential elections in Venezuela on April 14, which showed a country politically divided into two roughly equal parts, Provea and other human rights organizations called for a dialogue between the opposition and the government to provide a peaceful and democratic solution to the political crisis.

The polarization existing in Venezuela is a negative scenario for social peace and respect for human rights. The election result is the evidence of a divided country in relation to the social, economic and political model. The agreement reached at the National Assembly to establish a constructive dialogue to enable the adoption of the legislation urgently needed in the country is a positive step. But this attitude of dialogue should be extended to all State institutional management, recognizing the others and respecting the constitutional provisions, especially the human rights set forth therein.

Source: Social Watch Report 2013, National report from Venezuela