Maracaibo.- The precarity of living conditions in Zulia, the hyperinflationary phenomenon and the increase in police violence are some of the situations which marked the human rights situation in the state of Zulia.
The Human Rights Commission of the State of Zulia (Codhez, Comisión para los Derechos Humanos del Estado Zulia) launched the “2019 Annual Report on the General Situation of Human Rights” of the region, along with the its final report on food security in Maracaibo for the year 2019.
Each chapter of the report documents events that occurred in Zulia which involve the violation of personal liberties and due process, the right to life, personal integrity and security, the complex humanitarian emergency, the rights of indigenous peoples and environmental rights.
Public services in chaos
Codhez reports that the public services crisis became chronic during 2019, especially when it comes to the provision of electricity and water services. Throughout the year, multiple general blackouts were registered, amongst them the first national blackout on March 7th, which was the longest of the blackouts at 101 hours without electricity in Zulia.
The limited access to water in the state is also worsened by the electricity crisis. People from Zulia find themselves forced to search for and haul water collected from water outlets located in streets, plazas or ravines, or buying water from water trucks in US dollars.
The deterioration of living conditions in Zulia has developed in a scenario of censorship against the press, perpetrated not just through a policy of harassment and persecution against some journalists, but also through raids and closures of media outlets.
Households are more dependent of others in order to eat
In its report on food security, Codhez highlights that the high costs of food items continue to be one of the main obstacles to have access to an adequate diet for households in Maracaibo. In one year, prices of the 21 basic food items monitored by Codhez increased by +6,763% on average.
Between January 2019 and January 2020, the prices of chicken increased, on average, by +4,102%, the price of beef by +4,019%, and the price of grains by +10.726%.
This study demonstrates that the income of households in Maracaibo is insufficient when purchasing food, making remittances received from family members who have migrated fundamental for the livelihood of many families: 5 of every 10 households receive monthly remittances from family members abroad, and 4 of every 10 receives between USD 11 and USD 50 every month.
The dependency of families, who are not able to feed themselves, is evidence of the food insecurity of the majority of households in Maracaibo, who do not have access to an adequate and nutritious diet. In 7 of every 10 households, children did not have a healthy diet, ate less than they should have, and had a diet based on a low variety of food items.
Food insecurity is a situation present in all of Maracaibo’s districts. Cristo de Aranza, Antonio Borjas Romero, Caracciolo Parra Pérez, Manual Dagnino, Bolívar, San Isidro, Luis Hurtado Higuera and Venancio Pulgar are the districts with the highest levels of acute and moderate food insecurity in the city.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan State’s assistance programs have proven to be insufficient as they do not offer, in the best of cases, more than USD 8 a month. The report also shows that the government CLAP program is not viable. According to the survey, no household in Maracaibo received the CLAP food box on a bi-weekly or monthly basis during 2019. The frequency of the distribution of CLAP boxes was supposed to be once every two weeks according to government officials.
The violation of the right to life was systematic. The growing number of deaths caused by Venezuelan State security forces provides evidence for the policy of extrajudicial executions which has already been alerted by international organizations.
During 2019, 657 people were assassinated by Venezuelan State security forces in 497 violent events in the state of Zulia – 491 which were claimed to be confrontations. In 2018, the number of people killed by State security forces was 279, representing an increase of 135.48%.
The age of people who have died due to police violence is higher amongst young people between 20 and 25 years old, according to the data registered by Codhez, which mirrors the national trend. During the first semester of the year, 18.33% of victims were amongst this age group and during the second semester of the year it was 29.08%.
The FAES (Fuerzas de Acciones Especiales de la Policía Nacional Bolivariana), whose dissolution was expressly called for by Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was the second most lethal police body in the state, accounting for 18.47% of violent deaths caused, only trailing the CICPC (forensic police) which were present in 20.88% of violent events.
The human rights crisis is structural
In this report, Codhez reiterates that the human rights crisis in Venezuela is of a structural nature, caused by the breaking of the constitutional and democratic order which has led to a complex humanitarian emergency without precedents.
Codhez urges the Venezuelan State to cease its policy of extrajudicial executions, to investigate and sanction those responsible in the design and execution of human rights violations perpetrated by security forces, along with the appropriate reparations for victims.
Codhez also calls on international human rights mechanisms – specifically those dedicated to the right to food – to examine the situation of this right in Venezuela and to intercede in favor of the restitution of this right as soon as possible.
Translation: Hearts On Venezuela