Maduro's Barbarism, documented in granular detail

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Anti-government protest in Caracas, Venezuela - 22 Mar 2014 - via AP Images
Anti-government protest in Caracas, Venezuela - 22 Mar 2014 - via AP Images
Anti-government protest in Caracas, Venezuela – 22 Mar 2014 – via AP Images

It’s not that those of us who follow Venezuela are in any doubt about the scale of Human Rights violations the country has witnessed this year. It’s that, for posterity – and for the courts, the day we have any worth the name – generic hand-wringing is not enough. We need these violations documented, in granular detail.

That’s just what Human Rights Watch does in this exceptionally damning report. Over 103 pages, they document 45 specific instances of abuse in minute detail, on the basis of first-hand witness and victim statements.

This means taking an investigator’s approach to the task, looking for corroborating details from independent sources to weave together detailed narratives that leave really very little room for doubt.

A taste, from a protest in Valencia on March 20th:

Martínez, who had been participating in the protests, also fled when National Guard motorcycles approached, and was trapped on the same street as Méndez and Rodríguez.[59] There, he was knocked to the ground by a passing guardsman on a motorcycle, and then surrounded by about a dozen guardsmen, who kicked him repeatedly all over his body though he offered no resistance, he told Human Rights Watch.

When the beating stopped, he lifted himself up and held out his wallet to the officers, saying it was the only thing he had on his person. In response, he said, the guards, “Grabbed me by the head, threw me to the ground, put a boot on my face and shot me.” He was shot him in the thigh at point blank range. The rubber bullet struck a set of keys in his pocket, blowing metal fragments from several keys into his leg. He said he did not feel any pain at first due to the shock, but reached down and touched an exposed part of the bone on his leg.

Maldonado, who was trapped on the same street, did not know Martínez, but saw what happened. He described Martínez’s beating, recounted how Martínez was shot at point blank range, and provided other details corroborating Martínez’s account.[60]

Maldonado said Martínez was one of four people that he saw national guardsmen shoot on the street from point blank range. He told Human Rights Watch that, from his vantage point halfway down the street, he saw one of the guardsmen give orders to others to shoot the individuals. None were resisting arrest or posed a flight risk, Maldonado said. In each instance, the guardsman gave the same order: “Give it to this one,” after which the individuals were shot.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. I just read the article and was about to post the link. NGOs often soft pedal their reports for political reasons. This report and it’s conclusions are blunt and unequivocal. This should be interpreted as clear alarm to the world that something is drastically wrong in Venezuela.

  2. Was it worth it?

    This sons of bitches seem to be handcuffed to power.

    Yeah, the world knows now that the government is what its always been, but so what, they do not give a damn.

    I guess that when we least expect it the house of cards will crumble, but they seem fixated on pulling the whole country down with them.

    [that’s quite enough, primo…]

  3. We need these violations documented, in granular detail…

    … so that people like Mark Weissbrot or the journalists that work for The Guardian or Le Monde Diplomatique, and basically every other leftist in the world, have to find ever more creative ways of defending Maduro’s government. Nothing else will be accomplished.

    • Journalists at The Guardian haven’t been defending Maduro for ages, as far as I recall.
      Weissbrot and Gott write there on “Comments for free”, just like Mr Toro did once.
      Gott used to write as a journalist for The Guardian decades ago, until people found out he was a KGB informant.

      In any case, I welcome this report and I shall use it to document a couple of things on Wikipedia German and Spanish. Can someone use it for English here?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Venezuelan_protests

      Thanks! Please do!

      • I suppose after all these years I shouldn’t be surprised people don’t understand the news between the news and the editorial page. It’s not actually hard, though: if it’s in the opinion page, the person writing it is not perpetrating an act of journalism.

        • Sorry for my use of the word “journalist” in my post. I guess I meant to say “those damn people who write opinion articles in those damn leftist journals defending Maduro’s government, and are the only ones allowed to write there”, but I was a bit lazy and said “journalists”.

          In any case, I’m just f@#%ing pissed off that these people keep defending the government no matter what, cos you know, leftists are the good guys, and since they are the good guys, they are allowed to violate human rights.

    • I don’t think bashing the left adds to the discussion. Whenever Human Rights Watch criticizes the USA, it is accused of being a leftist radical NGO by someone. The fact is, the barbarism transcends the political debate. That’s why regimes of all political stripes and lineages endorse a base-line of human behaviour in international law. Below which the Maduro regime has now clearly sunk.

  4. Indeed the no one seems to care outside of the country. Not in a serous way anyway. The mad dogs in power have a very keen sensory perception. Had there been any genuine disapproval out there in the power centers that count they would not have been so brazen. The mere fact that the boldness of the crimes committed is in frank accent tells us that they see a clear coast to do what they darn well please. I guess the way they see it their oppressor pawns the BNG and BNP are running a very distant second to the likes of the Islamic basij (Iran). Where the order to shoot is not for rubber bullets but real ones. Anyway,it is more than obvious that no one worth their salt is interested in aiding the democratic forces and those that (say they) do are worthless incompetents (or worse sell outs) like Ms. McCoy of the Carter center with very dubious intentions.

    • Although there has been little international attention on Venezuela, Maduro seems to be very sensitive to the relatively few international comments that have been made. And the HRW report mentions the National Guard shooting photographer with rubber bullets while accusing her of publishing the “SOS Venezuela” pictures. We need to find ways to maintain the international pressure and increase its effectiveness.

  5. Unfortunately it might happen as it did with The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that took place in Geneva, Swiss presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council at its 25th regular session last March 17th. The U.N Human Right Council “UN HRC”resolution was massively voted and denied by only six countries: China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela & Vietnam. http://votescount.hrw.org.

    Then again. this is a 1st step, then this report needs to be presented at the UN HRC and then voted and then, depending on the vote results to the Security Council before it goes to the International Criminal Court “ICC” or for a special tribunal. It’s a slow process, who said it was going to be fast?

    Great work from Vivanco’s team at HRW. Thanks.

  6. OK, we all agree, chavistas are brutes and Maduro behaves like a dictator, fully documented for posterity and if we are lucky for some court to pass judgement in the future.

    My question to the enlightened is if Venezuela going to join the brutish club of Zimbabwe, Cuba and Iran?

    The Cuban and Iranian phenomena of making the country unlivable to anyone that does not comply with the regimen, finally leaving the society intellectually anemic and supple to the whims of the masters.

  7. Human Rights pressure from the EU could be better. When María Corina Machado presented her case before the EU Foreign Policy commission their extreme left members freaked out and the conservative and socialdemocratic mayority ostentatiously sang “The Internationale” to make fun of them. At least, thats what a german pro-chavista portal reported. Nothing against humor, but what effectively are they doing to stop the suffering of protestors?

  8. To all of the people calling for action from abroad, what exactly are you expecting them to do? Send the marines? That isn’t going to happen and mere “pressure” from outside is not going to work either. The goal of the foreign opinion campaign is to make sure that everyone outside fully understands the situation here, will not go ballistic, and will accept the results when what really needs to be done is done

    • The goals I see agree more or less with what you say but I do hope for something else.
      If we got really organised and presented the information in a clear, succinct way, the international community might be FORCED to pressurize the regime to do things that should be no-brainers:

      1) introduce some kind of mechanism for a cleaner National Electoral Council where the leaders are not just government tools
      2) accept a mechanism whereby any future referendum can be organised without the danger of a Lista – read international observers if the regime says we are going to cheat on signatures just to call for the referendum-
      3) accept to give the Venezuelan opposition a slot in the public – NATIONAL – TV of at least 5% of the time
      (not at 3 am) OR
      4) accept the realisation of regular – at least once every 6 months – debates on national TV, live

      3) is hard. 4) should be feasible. The problem is that few people in America, specially in Spanish America, grasp the essence of a debate. A debate is not to convince your opponent in the arena. A debate is a (non-physical) fight that allows viewers to decide whom they more or less support.

      Unfortunately, we have allowed such idiotic creatures as McCoy from the Carter Centre to actually tell us
      closed-door dialogues are what is needed. She is crazy. Closed-door dialogues might be fine for hard
      talks at EU levels or in Switzerland, but in Venezuela they are not possible for the simple fact Maduristas are of no good faith.

      I despair because few seem to understand the potential of a real debate. I thought after the parallel monologues we had in the first session of the so-called “dialogue” that people would get it but we are back to closed-door talks…

    • Action from abroad doesn’t mean send the Marines.
      But there should be more pressure. The European Commission for Common Foreign Policy wanted to send a delegation to Caracas to check Human Rights situation without waiting for permit from Caracas. Great idea, but when will they go? Include the venezuelan Human Rights situation in trade talks EU – Mercosur. Stop the nonsense of RaFa as venezuelan representative of Bundesdruckerei.

  9. A real debate is not possible with criminals .

    Who can’t understand that?

    answers:

    1. someone who does not know what real debate is

    2. someone who does not know what constitutes a criminal mind

  10. I saw a comment recently about Venezuela being a totalitarian state, which it clearly is not. In a totalitarianism, the state has the explicit right to suppress political opposition by imprisonment or execution, explicit control of all media, and explicit title to the nation’s wealth.

    Venezuela is something in some ways much worse. In a civil polity, there are rules against violence, against stealing, protecting free speech, and procedures to enforce these laws. Factions are restrained by the knowledge that even their ideological supporters will turn on them for such acts. A single act in violation of these rules can be enough to bring down a government – or violations of the procedures. (“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.”)

    The security and judicial arms of a government are expected to enforce these rules impartially.

    When members of a faction commit criminal acts for their cause, knowing that their allies will deny, excuse, defend, or even celebrate the crimes, it’s a very bad sign. In 1856, pro-slavery U.S. Representative Preston Brooks brutally assaulted abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate chamber, breaking a walking stick over Sumner’s head. He was never punished, and many Southerners sent him new walking sticks. Four years later came the American Civil War.

    When police or military forces join in such crimes, that’s a very bad sign. In July 1936, José Calvo Sotelo, leader of the monarchist party in the Cortes of Spain, was kidnapped and murdered by leftist gunmen including officers of the Assault Guard. A few days later came the Spanish Civil War.

    Where the “red line” is can vary, of course. In Venezuela, the red line has been pushed very far back indeed.

    In a totalitarianism, the tyranny can practice repression and the associated crimes because the people are brainwashed and intimidated. In a healthy civil polity, a tyrant who attempts such repression will be stopped and overthrown, because everyone, even agents of the state, will resist. The chavernment and its goons know they can commit almost any crime short of murder with impunity – because they have a large bloc of supporters who put their political allegiance above the rules of civil polity.

    The problem is not that Venezuelans are afraid to speak out against these actions. It is that a large number of them approve the actions.

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