By Manuel Gago, Venezuela Country Specialist, AIUSA (This post was originally published @ AI USA Blog
The spiral of violence tearing through Venezuela takes more than a tweet to address.
The crisis has been intensifying for years, a fact accentuated each additional day that the Venezuelan government continues to fiercely repress and prosecute those who demand answers regarding the serious lack of food, medicine, and freedom. Since February 2014, protests on the streets have escalated, with more than one hundred people dead, hundreds injured, and dozens of detainees. No wonder citizens are fleeing- over 14,700 Venezuelans applied for asylum in the United States in the 2016 fiscal year.
Amnesty International has closely tracked the situation and has sent several high-level commissions to meet with the government, opposition, and victims of human rights violations in Venezuela, in addition to publishing several reports and press releases on the deteriorating situation. Activists from around the world have been mobilized to call for the authorities to respond to demands- like those for the release of Prisoner of Conscience Leopoldo López, an opposition leader who was condemned to 14 years in a military prison for leading several protests in 2014 and was recently moved to house arrest. In 2016, Amnesty International achieved the release of LGBTQ activist and Member of Parliament Rosmit Mantilla.
But today, in July 2017? At this very moment, the streets of Venezuela are replete with discontent and danger. Just halfway through the 2017 fiscal year, the number of applications for asylum is on track to soar even higherthan last year. The government recently activated “Plan Zamora,” a security mechanism that, despite repeated reports of abuses at the hands of armed civilian groups, deploys civilians alongside military and police forces to quell protests. On July 5, Venezuelan Independence Day, pro-government militia forces attacked a session of the National Assembly and injured opposition lawmakers.
We must not ignore the daily trauma of Venezuelans raising their voices to demand freedom, and facing brutal repression from their government as a consequence. We must do more than just tweet. Now more than ever, we must demand that the Venezuelan government stop its record of repression. We should also support human rights defenders, journalists, reporting media, and others who are claiming their rights despite the danger.
But how could you possibly fit all of that into 140 characters? Stepping out into the street when protests are taking place in Venezuela should not be a death sentence, being detained for your opinions should not be a life-sentence. Join Amnesty International to demand respect for basic rights in Venezuela.