Friday, May 27, 2016

The militarization of Venezuela

Venezuela is in the midst of a stunning, political, economic and social collapse.  The country of 30 million people is facing dire food and medicine shortages, power outages that have forced the workweek for government employees to be reduced to two days, and one of the world's highest murder rates.  Earlier this month, President Nicolas Maduro declared a state of emergency to counter what he called "foreign threats."

The militarization of Venezuela is very evident in the exaggerated presence of members of the military impeding demonstrations by the opposition and the systematic vigilance of the military of the long lines of people for food.  The military has arrested civilians for manifesting their discontent with some irregular situation in the sale of food as well as for having to wait for innumerable hours on line just to buy food.  It's not just a case of justified or unjustified detention, but some civilians are being tried by military tribunals when it is clear that no civilian should be tried by a military court. Despite this well known jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court, the Constitutional Chamber as well as the Criminal Law Chamber of the Supreme Court have interpreted the Venezuelan Constitution, in a manner so as to conflict with international human rights norms, and to permit the trial of civilians by military courts.

In 2015, several persons were tried by military courts during protests against the long food lines after having been charged with the crimes of "attack" and "insulting the armed forces," both of which are set forth in Article 501 and 502 of the Code of Military Justice.

With the recent declaration of a state of emergency it is feared that more civilians will be processed by military justice for expressing a certain amount of discontent for the long food lines.  The government is trying to resolve everything with the participation of the military, who are the ones controlling the basic businesses, the distribution of food and some of the universities, --all of which is contrary to any democratic advance.

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