Democracy and Human Rights: Legislative Elections in Venezuela
My name is María Lucrecia Hernández, director of the human rights organization, SURES in Venezuela. An organization dedicated to the promotion, defense, and monitoring of human rights in our country. We are an interdisciplinary team of psychologists, lawyers, economists, internationalists, and social workers who have been working on human rights issues for more than 25 years in Venezuela. We are united by the defense of human rights for a critical, emancipatory vision against hegemonic and the struggle and defense for populations in conditions of greater vulnerability in our country.
Today, we want to talk about the issue of the elections in Venezuela and human rights. But before doing so, it is necessary to take into account and contextualize Venezuelan society and how we have lived in our country for more than 20 years.
In the first place, we have to inform you that Venezuela has been subjected to different coups in our country. The first occurred in 2002 and then in 2019. Also, we have suffered from acts of political interference, military interference executed by foreign powers against our country which have tried to destabilize our democratic system. They have been attempting to destabilize all the social policies the Venezuelan state has developed over the past 25 years. From 16 years to now, we have also experienced an economic, financial, and commercial blockade by the United States government and its allies that have impacted the Venezuelan citizens’ human rights.
In that context, we must analyze the elections in our country and analyze this electoral process that we will experience in our country in a few days. I think it is essential to consider other human rights organizations that have been monitoring these actions. SURES and other organizations have monitored the unilateral, coercive measures, wrongly named as sanctions, against our country, which has directly affected the Venezuelan people.
These elections have great significance for the population who have been impacted by more than 450 coercive measures dictated against our country by the government of the United States, the European Union, and other European countries. Those measures have caused an economic, financial, and commercial blockade against the Venezuelan people and have caused suffering, and pain, especially in society’s most vulnerable sections. We add to this situation the COVID-19 pandemic that the world is currently living and has been threatening throughout 2020. In this regard, we have detected that before or after electoral processes in Venezuela, the United States government has hardened its interventionist policy and its coercive measures against the Venezuelan state. This occurred in the last presidential election, where President Nicolas was elected and in the election of the constituents to the National Constituent Assembly. The United States government applied coercive or unilateral measures against our country, regardless of the Venezuelan people’s vast participation in our electoral process throughout our recent history. So, it is crucial that we, social movements and human rights organizations worldwide, be on the lookout during this new electoral process and the possible coercive measure attacks against our country.
The next elections that will take place in Venezuela are free, fair, transparent, and safe. SURES will participate as national observers to monitor the electoral process. Throughout the years, SURES has kept a trajectory in defense of human rights. SURES has contributed to maintaining a balanced position in the face of the high polarization of the country. Our task is to observe that the process could offer the necessary guarantees as established and provided by the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela.
One of the main characteristics of the actual electoral process is the significant participation by sectors of the most diverse national political currents in our country. Candidates from the ruling party (United Socialist Party of Venezuela or PSUV), left-wing dissenting ruptures from the PSUV, parties of the democratic opposition, traditional parties, and new and emerging and evangelical parties submitted their candidacies in this election. It is vital to acknowledge the high participation that is expected in this new electoral process. It is about free elections, where a vast spectrum of ideological structures are represented and the profound expression of the country’s democracy.
People will elect 277 seats out of 14,400 electoral candidacies. This is fundamental, increasing more than 66 percent of the seats available at the National Assembly. This will allow a greater protagonist participation that is expressed in the diversity of the sectors that make up our country’s daily life. This extensive participation of the social sectors means strengthening the principle of the progressiveness of human rights and voting as a fundamental right in the country. The right to vote as a human right constitutes a tool to solve our political and social problems. The vast participation of political and ideological sectors will strengthen democracy and put a fundamental basis to achieve balance and social peace. As a human rights organization, we celebrate the candidacy of young people, women, indigenous people, Afro-descendants, sexual diversity, and people with disabilities. This shows the inclusivity progress of the different sectors that are part of our country.
As a national mediating organization, we are concerned about some national and international sectors that insist on intervening with our process, advocating to suspend or reschedule this electoral process for next year. It is worth remembering the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s constitution and its Article 187, Number 19. That constitutional article establishes that corresponds to the National Assembly, how they may dictate their own regulations. In this order, the internal law and debate in Article 2 establish the beginning of each constitutional period, the legislative power will carry out the installation session of the National Assembly will be carried out, without prior notice, at 11:00 a.m. on January 5 or the next day as soon as possible. On that day, the National Assembly should examine the representatives’ credentials, elect the Board of Directors, and start the annual period of ordinary sessions. Based on this, the extension of mandates beyond what is established in our constitution, as unconstitutional as it would be, is a weakening of Venezuelan democracy. The aspiration of the majority of the population is to carry out the electoral process on December 6. The essential purpose of the state is the democratic exercise of the popular will. The guarantee of compliance with the principles, rights, and duties recognized and enshrined in Article 3. For this reason, the electoral process we are going to develop on December 6 cannot be postponed in our country.
Finally, we ask the international community, social movements, human rights movements, and people of good faith to support this electoral process in Venezuela and reject any act using violence also aimed at generating disturbances in our country. Any voice that tries to violate this electoral process should be dismissed. Venezuela requests from the international community and organizations to bring support to this electoral process we will develop in a civic and democratic manner next December 6.