The opposition and some groups of international communities have accused the government of unfair election practices, claiming that the election itself did not meet the required international standards of transparency and justice for the people of Venezuela. Oppression and crackdowns of opposition loyalists are ongoing, as the government continues to jail protestors, crack down any street protests and even to the extent of using military courts to prosecute civilians. Some of the reasons there is a crisis in Venezuela is due to jailing of political opponents and extrajudicial killings are executions ordered by those in power to silence people who are considered a threat to national security, while they are innocent victims who are thought to be a threat to the leadership. Most of all, influence from international communities is not helping the situation. To solve the issue, military action and media influence could be utilized. However, it is recommendable that the only option for Venezuela is military action.
President Nicolas Maduro won the recent elections in Venezuela against an opposition that has been weakened by years of oppression and injustice. The opposition and some groups of international communities have accused the government of unfair election practices, claiming that the election itself did not meet the required international standards of transparency and justice for the people of Venezuela (World Report, 2019). As of now, there are no independent governing bodies in Venezuela that can act as a check for the government and presidents executive power. Even the courts now answer to the Maduro government and efforts by the opposition leader who has also declared himself a self-appointed president do not offer solace for the people. Oppression and crackdowns of opposition loyalists are ongoing, as the government continues to jail protestors, crack down any street protests and even to the extent of using military courts to prosecute civilians. To ensure that the opposition has no power, the government has further scrambled the legislature previously controlled by the opposition.
As a result of the ongoing crisis, there are severe shortages of basic human necessities such as medicine, food supplies, healthcare as well as shelter. Also, most people who have been jailed complain of poor jail conditions, impunity and lack of human rights as well as the harassment of media and human rights activists (Daniels, 2019). The situation has further caused millions of Venezuela’s to migrate and seek political asylum to neighboring countries, spurring one of the most significant migrations in recent past, and the largest in Latin history.
More than 32 million Venezuelans have been reported to have fled out of the country since the year 2014. The most troubling fact is that most of the refugees have not been registered and are still seeking political asylum and assistance (World Report, 2019). The people of Venezuela are compelled to leave their country because of the human rights violations, political crisis, and the lack of humanitarian efforts to combat the growing crisis within the country. One of the reasons most refugees have not been registered is that most may not qualify for refugee status. If not, they would have to be returned to their country where they are assured of facing severe issues such as lack of subsidence, political prosecution and even jail time.
Even those who have managed to flee to other countries remain highly disadvantaged due to lack of job permits to enable them to feed for the children, take them to school and even access essential services such as healthcare. As a result, they remain vulnerable and may be exploited and abused.
Causes of the Crisis
Persecution of Political Opponents
One of the issues affecting the leadership in Venezuela is the jailing of political opponents. The surest way to ensure that a government is run with impunity is to jail all opponents who may present something better to the people. Currently, Venezuelan jails have hosted more than 230 political prisoners (World Report, 2019). One of the most vocal opposition leaders in Venezuela Leopoldo Lopez was charged with incitation of violence and jailed for 13 years even though the courts were unable to establish his wrongdoings and the lack of evidence to support the case against him in court. Despite this, the courts are now controlled by the government, and so, he was sentenced anyway. Other opposition leaders sought exile to avoid being prosecuted on made up charges.
One of the characteristics of a failing government is being involved in extrajudicial killings. Extrajudicial killings are executions ordered by those in power to silence people who are considered a threat to national security, while they are innocent victims who are thought to be a threat to the leadership. One of the most public executions in Venezuela was the killing of Officer Oscar Perez, who openly challenged the people of Venezuela to stand up against the oppression by the government (World Report, 2019). According to news reports, Oscar was executed by the government and a cover-up created to show that the officer was in a confrontation with the police. Before he died, he claimed through videos posted on social media that he was surrounded alongside several others by the police and was trying to negotiate a surrender, although the police intended to kill him instead. Reports indicated that he was killed by a shot in the head, despite trying to surrender. He was extra-judicially killed with seven other people hiding with him that day.
As if not enough, the government went ahead and formed an operation group referred to as Operations People’s liberations. The government claimed that OLP operations would be to ensure that the rising security issues are dealt with appropriately. What they meant was that the program was a kill squad to eliminate any threats to the government. The group killed government rivals, mistreated and tortured detainees as well as destroyed homes and deported people out of the country. By the year 2017, it was reported that more than 500 people had been victimized, murdered and raided by the OLP (World Report, 2019). On the side of the government, they claimed that the supposed victims were criminals who died while confronting the police and law enforcement. The claims by the government stood even though there were many witnesses such as the families of those killed by the raids sanctioned by the government. In most cases, victims were just arrested and never to be seen again.
Key International Actors
The international community has been very keen on following the issues that have been happening in Venezuela. Apart from the Venezuelan army, Maduro is also backed by China, Russia as well Bolivia, Cuba and the UN Security Council (Daniels, 2019). The US, European Union, Argentina, Brazil alongside other Latin countries are in support of the opposition leader. In addition to those backing the alleged presidents, the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda started efforts to analyze the situation in Venezuela and to start investigations aimed at having the international criminal court intervene because the court has jurisdiction.
Neighboring South American countries who are ICC members are in support of the ICC intervention, mainly because they have been directly affected primarily by the massive Venezuelan citizen exodus since the crisis began (Melimopoulos, 2019). Whether they support the government or the opposition, most neighboring South American countries have made efforts to accommodate Venezuelans as best as they can during the crisis. However, Venezuelans are facing challenges as some conditions that have been set such as passport requirements have become impossible for most refugees. Even if they get across the borders, it is difficult for them to acquire legal status necessary for them to live better lives and get employment.
International Campaign Options
United Nations Security Council Intervention
When a crisis occurs in a country, some systems have been set to help deal with the issues and reduce human conflict. Such systems such as the United Nations security cancel have a mandate to prevent human rights violations and ensure security for the people in affected countries. The United Nations charter’s main agenda is to maintain international security and peace (United Nations Human Rights, n.d.). Conflict and human violence undermine and impede development. When a country has gone as far as Venezuela, it is likely that things will only get serious. Human rights violations are rampant, the government is involved in extrajudicial killings, and most of all, there is no democracy.
If people are not allowed to vote a government they want, no peace will be attained in the near future. The situation in Venezuela has already gone beyond repair. Millions of citizens have fled while others have lost their lives because they can no longer access any basic needs such as food, shelter, and medication. At this point, the United Nations should implement the framework set to deal with the crisis. At the moment, the current President is backed by the military (United Nations Human Rights, n.d.). Also, the UN Security Council supports him. For this reason, deploying military control, tactics, and weapons may be the only option to salvage the country. Since the government has already been accused of using brutal force against its citizens, the United Nations should take charge to ensure that the recovery efforts fall in line with international humanitarian laws as well as human rights.
Using Media to promote Peace and Reconciliation
Media is a tool that could be utilized to foster reconciliation and peace. During a political crisis, it is difficult to gather people in one place and discuss issues constructively. However, access to media such as the internet, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide a neutral ground where people can talk and discuss issues without the fear of intimidation and confrontation (Snow & Scavo, 2016). The media can be used as the voice to remind people that they belong in one country and that national interests are significant than political differences.
In countries where there is a political crisis, national broadcasting stations are mainly compromised and may be used by the government to foster its agenda. However, news reporting from impartial broadcasters such as CNN and BBC among others could be utilized to foster reconciliation by providing fact-based reports that reflect transparency (Snow & Scavo, 2016). Such networks should avoid supporting confident political leaders, instead report news that is inclined to bring peace and reconciliation.
Media intervention is too late for Venezuela. Most of the Venezuelan media work for the government and would not report impartial news. In the early stages of the crisis, news reports and media would have been instrumental in avoiding a crisis. Current, the only option for Venezuela is military action. The international community is not doing the country any good by supporting two rivals at the expense of the people. The United Nations Council is in support of the current president despite the numerous war crimes that he might have participated. The ideal workaround is to support military action, bring the country back to normal then open charges for any political leader who might have participated in violations against human rights with the help of the International Criminal Court.
Daniels, J. P. (2019, January 04). ‘It’s like 1984’: Venezuela targets human rights defenders. Retrieved April 17, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jan/03/venezuela-human-rights-arrests-nicolas-maduro
Melimopoulos, E. (2019, April 10). US calls on UN to recognise Guaido as Venezuela’s president. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/calls-recognise-guaido-venezuela-president-190410184904958.html
Snow, C., & Scavo, A. (2016). Media and Political Participation: Fostering Inclusive … Retrieved from http://dataportal.bbcmediaaction.org/site/assets/uploads/2016/07/Political-Participation-research-report-1.pdf
United Nations Human Rights. (n.d.). Violence and insecurity. Retrieved April 17, 2019, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/aboutus/pages/violenceandinsecurity.aspx
World Report. (2019, January 17). World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Venezuela. Retrieved April 17, 2019, from https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/venezuela