June 22, 2017
Keymer Ávila | @Keymer_Avila
The Government assumes the protests as a war in which the protesters are the internal enemy. In this framework, the term “internal order” arises, which is a military, warlike concept that has nothing to do with the control of demonstrations.
Last week I had an exchange with the journalist Mónica Duarte from the newspaper La Razón , it was for a special work called “ Sixty years of state repression ” that has already been published. Her questions were interesting, especially since some sectors persecuted in the past now stand as persecutors, and justify their current actions “because it was done in the past as well.” They try to make comparisons and argue that “more was done before”, that the neighbor “does it too”, an immature logic that seeks to legitimize their current miseries. They are like scolded children who try to defend themselves by pointing out that others do it too and don’t tell them anything, that everyone is against them, that they have it in their grip.
Surely the current persecuted will be the future executioners, in a cyclical logic that in our case has as its center the appropriation of oil rents. That is why it is important to create structural, political, institutional, legal, social, discursive and ideological restraints to impose limits on everyone who is in the exercise of power , right now and in the future, regardless of who exercises it. This is not at all about believing that the State is “neutral”, on the contrary, being fully aware of how sectors and groups with unspeakable interests take it as loot is that their power before the law must be limited .
Below I present the complete exchange I had with Monica, who with her questions made me think about these aspects. It should be noted that these reflections were generated before the reprehensible events that occurred on June 13 in the El Paraíso Residential Complex, known as “Los Verdes ”. Serve this event to make contrasts and reflect on the current violence: structural, institutional, political and street. That kind of repressive action should not be tolerated or justified in any way. The most serious thing is that what happened in that residential area could only be the beginning. PLO logicnow seems to extend beyond impoverished areas and the hunting of alleged criminals, an attempt to democratize it may be underway, so its manifestations may be diversifying and becoming more sophisticated. The important thing is to try to be coherent and to maintain the principles, especially in these difficult times that we have had to live.
– How has the demonstration of the State forces in controlling the demonstrations been ? Can you characterize them?
-Unfortunately the rule in these contexts is the logic of the exception, this is not a particularity of the Venezuelan case, it is a rationality of every group that is in power. The state reaction does not always correspond to the degree or level of resistance or aggressiveness of the demonstrations, it is difficult to generalize in the abstract to any event, let’s try to analyze data and concrete situations.
First of all, it should be noted that many of the rallies have been peaceful and have been massively attended; but there have also been violent demonstrations and sometimes specific crimes have been committed in them. The important thing is not to confuse one event with another. The peaceful demonstration is a right and when it stops being peaceful it loses that legitimate status. You cannot and should not generalize, you cannot give the same treatment of a peaceful demonstration to one that is not and vice versa. The guiding principles must be legality, proportionality and the need for State intervention.
We recently worked on the report on the right to personal liberty in Venezuela for Provea, which has not yet been published. Among the conclusions is that during 2016 there was a 324% increase in arrests that occurred in the context of demonstrations regarding to 2015 , and 62% over the general average of the last 26 years. The general trend is towards their increase. Some have made comparisons with the events of 2014 and claim that in 2017 the numbers are much higher. But it is not just about illegal or arbitrary arrests, there are also complaints of excessive and disproportionate use of force, illegal searches , torture, ill-treatment, harassment and even the commission of crimes such as robbery against protesters.. The other side of the coin is that there are already at least four officials who have died in the context of the conflict in recent months. There have also been very serious cases of lynching and burning of people, such as that of Orlando Figuera .
What can be affirmed is something that I have been maintaining since the OLP began almost two years ago: the criminal justice system swings like a pendulum that goes from absences and neglect to excesses, without ever stopping in the golden mean. The security forces at this juncture err by default or excess . We can appreciate how in some areas of the country the development of violent demonstrations is allowed as if the State did not exist , they even set up checkpoints to collect tolls from citizens, sometimes under the complicit gaze of officials. The other extreme is the brutal and unnecessary repression about which there are many complaints and records in digital media, not to mention thatAt least nine people have died due to the intervention of the public force . Neither of the two extremes is good, nor legal, nor does it contribute to the reduction of the current conflict. On the contrary, it seems that both extreme sides are betting on an escalation of violence.
– Can these manifestations of repression be considered violations of human rights or crimes against humanity? In which cases?
–The repression can be legal or illegal, if the repression is legally justified, that is, if we are facing a specific crime, the State must intervene in a timely manner through its security forces, who do not have any competence to apply punishments, they are only they can contain this situation and arrest the offenders, the only one who can legally repress is the judge through a sentence, after investigation and accusation by the Public Ministry. That is legal repression, which if it respects all steps and due constitutional and legal guarantees cannot be considered a violation of human rights”.
On the other hand, if the State security forces fly all those procedures and formalities, granting themselves repressive powers, to apply punishment, even in cases of specific crimes, they would be committing human rights violations. If this action is the expression of a generalized or systematic attack against a civilian population and is part of a State policy, it goes to another level and would constitute a crime against humanity.
In any event, the State in terms of human rights has a double character: a positive duty of protection and a negative duty that consists of not doing harm. That is, he has responsibility either by action or by omission. That is why you are a State, to make you responsible.
– Is there a history of similar previous actions in Venezuela?
–The struggles in the street and the defense of the power of the governments are part of our history, the works of Margarita López Maya are already classics on these issues. For example, Provea has been monitoring violations of the right to freedom in demonstrations for 27 years. In 1990, she counted some 1,490 people illegally and arbitrarily detained, a figure surpassed only in 2014, when the figure reached 3,459 people.
–What has the Zamora Plan consisted of? Is this the first time that an operation of this type has been applied to control public order?
-In these matters, the exception must not be allowed to become the rule, that is the logic that prevails from power to protect itself. Sometimes we have the bad habit of believing that we are discovering warm water… until the 90s the Law of Vagrants and Crooks was in force and in 1989 they suspended constitutional guarantees with the effects that we all know. We currently have more than a year under the logic of “emergency” which is a way of saying “state of exception”.
The problem lies in confusing the protests and their control, which is a dimension of citizen security, with a war in which the protesters are the internal enemy and therefore it is not a matter of citizen security but of national security, that is where the military appear and dominate. In this framework, the term “internal order” arises, which is a military, warlike concept that has nothing to do with the control of demonstrations, which is a civil task, and consequently citizen security.
“That is why it is important to have very differentiated concepts and terms, it is necessary to clearly distinguish citizen security from the security of the nation, the civil of the military, the control of demonstrations of a war against the enemy. There is an official sector that has been working on these mergers and confusions for a long time so that military logic is the one that prevails, hence a series of legislative reforms that have been carried out through authorization from the year 2014 in which it was created, for example , the “Protection System for Peace”. Beyond the Orwellian name that seems like a confession, these reforms point to the confusion of the concepts of citizen security and national security, merging civil and military spheres, national defense policy with criminal policy, protests with criminal phenomena and threats to the security of the nation, citizen participation in the elaboration of public policy with police and military actions carried out by the community itself,
The problem lies in confusing the protests and their control, which is a dimension of citizen security, with a war in which the protesters are the internal enemy and therefore it is not a matter of citizen security but of national security, that is where the military appear and dominate
–Which security forces have acted? How are their performances different?
–We are going from what should be, from the criteria and levels of police action that is one of the great contributions of the Venezuelan police model, which is found both in the legislation and in the resolutions currently in force in the country. In the first place, we have the municipal police that do not have direct competence in the control of demonstrations, nor do they have the equipment for these tasks, they should only limit the exercise of their activities to support tasks, giving the due orientations to the people and the control of the external perimeter of the conflict zone, in order to preserve their security, prevent and avoid escalation in the confrontation and facilitate the operation of the other police forces.
The state police , on the other hand, do have the power to organize trained and equipped personnel to control meetings and demonstrations that compromise public order, social peace and coexistence, in their territorial space. The state police are directly responsible for containing the demonstrations and ensuring public order in their territory. In the event that these are overwhelmed in their capacity and means, they must be immediately supported by the existing national bodies with competence in this matter, the PNB or the GNB. Unfortunately, at this juncture, the participation of these police forces, who should be the first to intervene and prevent the escalation of the conflict, has not been appreciated.
At a second level is the PNB, which has jurisdiction throughout the national territory in matters of public order; it must intervene only when the intensity of the situation exceeds the capacity and means of the state police.
Lastly, the GNB, which in this supposed transitory stage of development and institutional strengthening of the PNB, can exercise, in an exceptional, residual and subsidiary manner, tasks of controlling demonstrations and public order. In providing this area of the police service, this body must be governed by citizen security regulations, which are civil, not military, since they perform citizen security tasks, not national security.
In a recent balance that I made with the data published by the Public Ministry, it can be seen that the security body associated with the largest number of cases of fatalities in the context of demonstrations is the GNB, followed by the state police and the PNB, which is to be expected, since, as I have explained, they are the bodies with competence in this matter.
– Can this repression of dissent be compared to the political crimes between 1958 and 1998 that the State has called “State terrorism” in the commission for justice and truth?
-It is very difficult to generalize and to make a serious, academic judgment, away from the polarization and the prevailing partisan interests, it would be necessary to do a minimum investigation in this regard, otherwise any answer would be lax. For example, one would have to do a job of comparing those 40 years that you allude to a similar period, or contrast specific figures by year, which is not easy given the precariousness and historical opacity regarding the figures and information related to these events. These are data that no government will be exhibiting.
The Commission for Justice and Truth , after several years, managed to systematize the cases of some 10,071 victims, of which 459 correspond to forced disappearances and some 1,425 to people murdered, all for political reasons.
In eminently normative terms it is easier to make contrasts, before, as I have already told you, we had a Law on Vagrants and Crooks and a Code of Criminal Procedure that in some way facilitated excesses and arbitrariness on the part of power. Currently our legislation is comparatively much more guaranteeing. The detail is how much compliance with this legislation is respected today.
What we can do are some contrasts with recent years, for example, the number of political prisoners from 2014 skyrocketed significantly, this type of case was very exceptional during the government of President Chávez, they could be counted with the fingers of one hand.
Beyond the political motive, I am concerned about the general expansion of the penal system and the intensification of its operation. The Attorney General reported a few months ago that last year 4,667 people died at the hands of the State security forces and this does not seem to matter to anyone, with the OLP a blank check has been given to the State security forces . On the other hand, incarceration rates have also skyrocketed. Forced disappearances appear more and more frequently, last year the cases of Tumeremo , Cariaco and Barlovento were emblematic.When we tolerate this type of excesses towards alleged criminals, we are leaving the table ready for the State itself to violate the rights of all of us for any reason, be it political or grossly criminal, unfortunately both reasons are not mutually exclusive .
In conclusion: before 98 we did not live in Disneyland nor were we governed by the Discalced Carmelites, currently neither, and if we continue how we are going, what is coming could be worse , for this reason we must join efforts so that the current conflict diminishes and ceases soon. The core of everything must be respect for the Constitution , the laws and the institutional and electoral channels.
–How far can the excessive, and even deadly, use of state repression go? Are there legal limits to it? Are being fulfilled?
–The limit is the right to life and the law. Only in the extreme case in which an official in the exercise of his duty is fatally attacked, does he have the right to legitimate defense. He can also make use of potentially deadly force when strictly necessary to save another life, as established by the Penal Code for any citizen, and in the case of the police function, it also has rules for the Progressive and Differentiated Use of the Force. These exceptions cannot be transferred to any situation where anyone can be killed for any reason without any subsequent liability. The justification for the existence of the State is the protection of its citizens, not the other way around.
– Can the conflict reach the standards of an internal armed conflict?
–The extremes of both political sides seem to be playing that, we are facing extreme options outside the law, general elections or an imposed constituent, both unconstitutional proposals are raised in extortive terms, if they are not accepted we are going to war. All the active forces of society, who are not in any of the minority extremes, must deactivate that war bomb. The war for the extremes is big business, politically profitable for both, detrimental to the rest of the country of which we are the vast majority.
–Nicolás Maduro has proposed creating a new truth commission to investigate and clarify the violent events that occurred in the protests. Is this body the right one to deal with these cases?
-The Truth Commissions to be successful in their tasks must be the product of a consensus among all sectors, it cannot be a partisan commission or adepts, it must be made up of people of high credibility for all the actors involved. I do not see that we currently have the climate to achieve something similar, I also believe that as a society we should not wait for the formation of a commission of this type, much less allow new delaying tactics to be put together to assume and solve the problems that we face. What we must do is demand that the institutions fulfill their role: the Public Ministry, the criminal courts and the Ombudsman must exercise the corresponding external and criminal controls, and the State security forces themselves must implement their internal and disciplinary controls timely and effectively, the law begins at home, those who commit excesses and crimes must be turned over to the competent bodies. The Attorney General has pointed out how they investigate and charge officials and thenthe security forces do not carry out their apprehension . The situation has reached such an extreme that even the Minister of Defense himself recently admitted the excesses of the GNB and made a public call for their attention , now those words must materialize in concrete institutional actions.
Publicado originalmente en Provea.