Head of state and government: Hugo Chávez Frías
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 29 million
Life expectancy: 74.2 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 24/19 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 95.2 per cent
Politically motivated charges were brought against those who opposed government policies. Human rights defenders were attacked and intimidated. Human rights violations by the security forces were reported. Progress in combating violence against women was slow.
In the September legislative elections the ruling party lost its two-thirds majority.
Demonstrations were held throughout the year, in most cases sparked by discontent over labour rights and public services.
In January, the government took six television channels off air amid concerns that the measure was aimed at curtailing the right to freedom of expression. Five were able to resume transmission. An appeal by the sixth, RCTV International, remained pending at the end of the year.
Human rights defenders
Human rights defenders continued to be attacked and threatened. Those responsible were not brought to justice.
In May, after publicly criticizing military officials, Rocío San Miguel, President of the civil society organization Citizen Control, was followed by two unidentified men in an unmarked car and was later told that there had been an attempt to issue her with an arrest warrant.
In July, Víctor Martínez was beaten in the street by an unidentified man while distributing flyers in which he alleged that the police had been involved in the death of his son, Mijail Martínez, in 2009. No one had been brought to justice for the killing of Mijail Martínez or the attack against Víctor Martínez by the end of the year.
Repression of dissent
Those critical of the government were prosecuted on politically motivated charges in what appeared to be an attempt to silence them.
In March, Oswaldo Álvarez Paz, a member of an opposition party and ex-governor of the Zulia State; Guillermo Zuloaga, owner of TV station Globovisión; and Wilmer Azuaje, an opposition candidate for the governorship of Barinas State, were detained for several days on spurious charges. The charges remained pending at the end of the year.
Richard Blanco, Prefect of Caracas, was released in April, after four months in prison, but continued to face unsubstantiated charges of inciting violence and injuring a police officer during a demonstration against an education law in 2009.
In November, the trial began of trade unionist Rubén González, general secretary of Sintraferrominera, the union representing workers at the state-run iron mine CVG Ferrominera Orinoco in Bolivar State. He was charged with inciting a crime, curtailing people's freedom to work, and violating a security zone following his participation in a strike in 2009. He had been in pre-trial detention for over a year and the charges against him appeared to be disproportionate.
Violence against women and girls
Gender-based crime remained a concern. In October, the attorney general announced the establishment of more prosecutors' offices to deal with these crimes. Between January and August, the Public Prosecutor's Office received more than 65,000 complaints of gender-based violence.
Six years after Alexandra Hidalgo was kidnapped, raped and tortured by five men, only two of the suspects had been prosecuted. Despite the authorities' commitment to ensure that those responsible were brought to justice, no progress was made in the case during the year.
In April, Jennifer Carolina Viera was stabbed to death by her husband in Valencia. He had been arrested in March in Merida, after Jennifer Viera had been hospitalized, but released on bail and issued with an injunction forbidding him from approaching his wife.
Police and security forces
Public security remained a major concern and, according to latest figures released by the Institute of National Statistics, more than 21,000 people were killed nationwide in 2009. There were allegations of police involvement in killings and enforced disappearances.
In September, Wilmer José Flores Barrios became the sixth member of the Barrios family to be killed in circumstances suggesting the involvement of members of the Aragua State Police. At the end of the year, Venezuela had not adopted measures to protect the family, nor had it ordered an effective investigation into these crimes.
In March, eyewitnesses saw three labourers – Gabriel Antonio Ramírez, José Leonardo Ramírez and Nedfrank Xavier Cona – being bundled into an unmarked car by a group of between 17 and 20 police officers in the city of Barcelona, Anzoátegui State. At the end of the year, the whereabouts of the men remained unknown. Six police officers were under arrest at the end of 2010 in connection with the incident; a higher-ranking officer remained at liberty.
Independence of the judiciary
Judge María Lourdes Afiuni Mora remained in prison awaiting trial. She had been detained in December 2009 on unsubstantiated charges. Three UN Special Rapporteurs described her arrest as a blow to the independence of judges and lawyers in Venezuela, and demanded her immediate and unconditional release. Judge Afiuni was threatened by inmates, some of whom had been convicted following trials over which she presided. She also reported that she was denied adequate medical treatment.
In November the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern at the number of deaths and injuries in Venezuelan prisons. Between January and November, 352 deaths and 736 injuries were recorded, according to national human rights organizations.
The Commission also reiterated concerns over prison conditions following a riot in March in Yare I prison in Caracas which resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, and reports received in November about violence between inmates in Uribana prison, Lara State.
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