Venezuela: information on the political party Justice First (Primero Justicia), including membership procedures, structure and leadership at the national level and in Maracaibo (2014-May 2016)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||11 May 2016|
|Citation / Document Symbol||VEN105518.E|
|Related Document(s)||Venezuela : information sur le parti politique Justice d'abord (Primero Justicia), y compris les procédures d'adhésion, la structure et les dirigeants à l'échelle nationale et à Maracaibo (2014-mai 2016)|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Venezuela: information on the political party Justice First (Primero Justicia), including membership procedures, structure and leadership at the national level and in Maracaibo (2014-May 2016), 11 May 2016, VEN105518.E, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/591612444.html [accessed 28 March 2020]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Sources indicate that Justice First started as a civil society organization focused on legal reform (lecturer 28 Apr. 2016; PHW 2015, 1623), and became a political party in 2000 (ibid.). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a PhD candidate in politics and international relations at the Australian National University, who focuses on the politics of Venezuela and Latin America, stated that Justice First positions itself as a centrist party, "committed to social liberalism and Christian-democrat principles" (PhD candidate 3 May 2016). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an associate professor of political science and law at Montclair State University in New Jersey, who focuses on Venezuelan and comparative politics, stated that, although in Venezuela Justice First is considered a centre-right party, he would characterize it as a social democratic party, adding that it has been "consistently anti-Chavista" (Associate Professor 28 Apr. 2016). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science of the University of Toronto, who specializes in Venezuelan politics, similarly indicated that supporters of the government see Justice First as a "right-wing group" or "coup-mongers" (golpistas) and an "enemy of the government" (lecturer 28 Apr. 2016).
Sources indicate that Justice First is a member of the Democratic Unity Table (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD), a group of opposition parties (International Crisis Group 23 Sept. 2014; PhD candidate 3 May 2016). The PhD candidate noted that Justice First is the main political party within this alliance (ibid.). For information on treatment of members of Justice First by authorities, see Response to Information Request VEN105385.
2. Membership Procedures
The Justice First party statutes indicate that those who
- are Venezuelan,
- are legally allowed to vote,
- identify with the objectives and values of Justice First,
- do not belong to another party,
- [translation] "have not been expulsed from any party for acts against public morality nor have been convicted … for the perpetration of crimes against persons, property or public assets" …
- declare in writing … that they want to be members, through the appropriate registration systems
can become members of Justice First, "without discrimination based on religious belief, race, sex or social condition" (Primero Justicia 18 Apr. 2012, Art. 7). The statutes further indicate that the [translation] "competent authorities" of the party have 30 days to reject membership applications, and if this does not happen, the applicant will be entered on the National Registry for Members and Supporters (Registro Nacional de Militantes y Simpatizantes) of the Electoral Organization and Registration System (Sistema de Organización y Registro Electoral, SORE) (ibid.). For further information on membership applications and membership cards, see Response to Information Request VEN105043. Article 12 of the Justice First party statutes further notes that supporters, defined as [translation] "those citizens who identify with the party and want to help carry out its programs, plans, workshops and community work," may register with the National Registry for Members and Supporters (ibid., Art. 12). Further information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Information on specific membership procedures for Maracaibo and the state of Zulia could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
According to the lecturer, "[r]egardless of what it says on paper about their structure, the opposition parties are usually dominated by a key figure, and they are not internally democratic," which is the case of Justice First (lecturer 28 Apr. 2016). The same source noted that "[t]here is strict discipline within [the] ranks [of Justice First]" and that the party overall is "very focused on national politics" (ibid.).
The PhD candidate provided the information in the following paragraph regarding the structure of Justice First.
At the national level, a "very broad" National Political Committee, consisting of current and former party leaders and elected politicians, "names the key party positions" and appoints the National Board of Directors (Junta de Dirección Nacional), which in turn "self-selects a smaller coordinating or executive committee," led by the National Coordinator and the General Secretary. This structure of political committee, board, and executive committee is "more or less repeated at the regional or state level," where the Political Coordinator and the General Secretary seem to be the "most prominent" roles, with other key positions being the Executive Coordinator and the Organizing Secretary. At the local level, a resident "with community leadership" is designated as the Municipal Coordinator. This coordinator, together with a local Organizing Secretary, works to organize volunteers at the parish level for party activities and advocacy work. The local volunteers are "often referred to as 'justicieros.'" Local level party leaders regularly meet with regional party directors to discuss strategy. A "stated aim" of Justice First is to have a party presence in every region, municipality and parish, but the regional and municipal party bodies "have little autonomy" when it comes to organizational or political matters. Such decisions are taken by the political committee at the national level (PhD candidate 3 May 2016). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
3.1 National, State, Municipal and Parish Bodies
According to the Justice First party statutes, the main bodies at the national level include: the National Political Committee and the National Board of Directors, both headed by the National Coordinator; the Operating Committee; the General Secretariat, headed by the General Secretary; and the Organizing Secretariat, headed by the Organizing Secretary (Primero Justicia 18 Apr. 2012, Art. 19, 23, 26, 30, 34). A translation of the statutes articles related to the structure of the party is attached to this Response.
The statutes indicate that at the state level, the party structure is comprised of a State Political Committee, a State Board of Directors and a State Coordinator (ibid., Art. 45, 47, 49). At the municipal level, there is a Municipal Political Committee, a Municipal Board of Directors and a Municipal Coordinator (ibid., Art. 53, 55, 57). At the parish level, there is a Parish Board of Directors, a Parish Coordinator and Volunteer Committees (Comités Justicieros) (ibid., Arts. 61, 63, 67).
According to the Justice First statutes, the party is organized into different secretariats, which are in charge of the implementation of political and social programs and projects of the party (ibid., Art. 37). Secretariats [translation] "must create chapters" at the national, state, municipal and parochial levels (ibid.). The Justice First website indicates that the party has the following national secretariats:
- Education - to bring together teachers (ibid. n.d.e);
- Family Justice - to promote family values and respect for the human being (ibid. n.d.g);
- Farming Justice - to execute Justice First's agricultural policies and to promote the wellbeing of farming families and improve food sovereignty in Venezuela (ibid. n.d.d);
- Labour Justice - to support the creation of strong unions (ibid. n.d.j);
- Justice for Professionals - to bring together professionals and technical workers in the party (ibid. n.d.h);
- translation] "justice on the street" - to carry out social work, and form networks, as well as to develop grass roots leaders (ibid. n.d.f);
- Security - to monitor crime and generate proposals to improve citizen security in Venezuela (ibid. n.d.b);
- Youth Justice - to bring together members between the ages of 18 and 28, in order to promote youth participation (ibid. n.d.i).
4. National Leaders
Sources mention the following leaders and positions in Justice First at the national level:
- Julio Borges, National Coordinator (PHW 2015, 1623; PhD candidate; Primero Justicia n.d.a) and head of the MUD's parliamentary faction (International Crisis Group 1 Feb. 2016, 22);
- Carlos Arocha, National Organizing Secretary (Primero Justicia n.d.a) or "former" national organization secretary (PhD candidate 3 May 2016);
- Henrique Capriles Radonski, governor of the state of Miranda (PhD candidate 3 May 2016; Teaching fellow 25 Apr. 2016). Sources also report that he is a two time presidential candidate (ibid; PHW 2015, 1623);
- Edinson Ferrer, Organizing Secretary (El Mundo 4 Apr. 2016; El Universal 14 Mar. 2014; PhD candidate 3 May 2016);
- Hernando Garzón, National Youth Secretary (El Universal 27 Apr. 2014);
- Tomás Guanipa, National General Secretary (Primero Justicia n.d.a; PhD candidate 3 May 2016). Member of the National Assembly for Zulia (El Nacional 18 Apr. 2016);
- Eliud Kovach, National Activism Secretary (PhD candidate 3 May 2016; El Universal 1 Jan. 2016)
- Richard Mardo, Deputy Secretary General (Primero Justicia, n.d.a) or member of the "national directory" (PhD candidate 3 May 2016);
- Gustavo Padrón, National Education Secretary (PhD candidate 3 May 2016; Primero Justicia 5 Apr. 2016);
5. Structure and Leaders in Zulia and Maracaibo
Sources mention the following leaders and positions of Justice First in the state of Zulia:
- Soraly Arteaga, Regional Secretary for Family Justice (PhD candidate 3 May 2016; Primero Justicia 12 Mar. 2015)
- Rafael Ramírez Colina, member elect to the National Assembly for the state of Zulia (El Universal 1 Jan. 2016);
- David de la Cruz, Regional Organization Secretary for the state of Zulia (PhD candidate 3 May 2016; El Universal 1 Jan. 2016);
- Juan Pablo Guanipa, State Coordinator for Zulia (Primero Justicia n.d.c; Diario La Verdad 21 Jan. 2016) and member of the National Assembly (ibid.);
- Roberto Matos, Regional Coordinator for Universities (PhD candidate 3 May 2016); or University Coordinator in the University of Zulia (ZPD 19 June 2015);
- Cecilia Leonardi, Coordinator for Training and Regional Coordinator for Justice and Democracy in Zulia (Primero Justicia 25 Jan. 2016) or Regional Coordinator for Political Training (PhD candidate 3 May 2016);
- Nerio Romero, leader in Zulia (Primero Justicia 6 Oct. 2015) or member of the Regional Board (PhD candidate 3 May 2016);
- Joaquín Salas, Regional Youth Coordinator (Primero Justicia 13 Feb. 2016);
- Avilio Troconiz, member of the National Assembly for Zulia (Primero Justicia n.d.; PhD candidate 3 May 2016).
Sources mention the following leaders and positions of Justice First in Maracaibo, the capital city of the state of Zulia:
- José Camargo, Coordinator of the Municipal Education Secretariat in Maracaibo (Primero Justicia 15 Jan. 2016);
- Italo Cuervo, Municipal Youth Coordinator in Maracaibo (Primero Justicia 13 Feb. 2016);
- Romer Rubio, Municipal Coordinator for Maracaibo (Primero Justicia 29 Jan. 2016; ZPD 4 Sept. 2015).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Associate Professor, Montclair State University. 28 April 2016. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.
El Nacional.18 April.2016. "Tomás Guanipa: este miércoles terminaremos de aprobar la Ley de Referendo." [Accessed: 22 Apr. 2016]
El Universal. 1 January 2016. María Teresa Luengo. "Dirigentes de PJ: hay que acompañar al pueblo en lo que viene para el país." [Accessed 5 May 2016]
International Crisis Group. 1 February 2016. CrisisWatch. No. 150. [Accessed 13 Apr. 2016]
International Crisis Group. 23 September 2014. Venezuela: Dangerous Inertia. Latin America Briefing No. 31. [Accessed 13 April 2016]
Lecturer, University of Toronto. 28 April 2016. Telephone interview.
PhD candidate, Australian National University. 3 May 2016. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.
Political Handbook of the World 2015 (PHW). 2015. "Venezuela." Edited by Thomas Lansford. Washington, DC: CQ Press. [Accessed 13 Apr. 2016]
Primero Justicia. 5 April 2016. "Gustavo Padrón: el aumento de salario fraccionado no cubre las necesidades de los docentes." [Accessed 4 May 2016]
Primero Justicia. 29 January 2016. Primero Justicia Zulia. "Romer Rubio: 'Ley de propiedad de viviendas honra el compromiso que hicimos el 6D ante el pueblo'." [Accessed 3 May 2016]
Teaching fellow, University of London. 25 April 2016. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.
Zulia por Dentro (ZPD). 4 September 2015. "Romer Rubio: 'Los venezolanos viven un viacrucis para conseguir los alimentos'." [Accessed 4 May 2016]
Zulia por Dentro (ZPD). 19 June 2015. "Roberto Matos: 'una lata de atún cuesta un día de salario mínimo'." [Accessed 4 May 2016]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Lecturer, Australian National University; Professor, Tulane University; Professor, Universidad Católica Andres Bello.
Internet sites, including: Agencia Venezolana de Noticias; Amnesty International; Biendateao.com; BBC; Carter Center; Diario 2001; DiarioRepublica.com; ecoi.net; The Economist; Factiva; Friedrich Ebert Stiftung; Globovisión; Human Rights Watch; International Federation for Human Rights; IRIN; LatinNews; Minority Rights Group International; Noticias24; NoticiasCol.com; Notitarde; Radio France internationale; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Transparency International; Ultimas Noticias; United Nations – Development Program, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Refworld, ReliefWeb; United States – Congressional Research Service, Department of State; Venevisión; venezuelanalysis.com.
Primero Justicia. 18 April 2012. Estatutos del Movimiento Primero Justicia (Statutes of the Justice First Movement). Excerpts translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada. [Accessed 18 Apr. 2016]