Need for Change in Venezuela

Sonia Zapata during her visit to the EU Parliament

We are pleased to inform that on June 5th, we were present at a EU Parliament debate. Sonia Zapata, our co-founder, was part of a panel discussion about Venezuela.

The debate “Need for change in Venezuela” was organized by Dita Charanzova” (Member of the European Parlament for the ALDE group) in collaboration with the European Lawyers Foundation.

The discussion focused on Human Rights violations, lack of civil liberties, the dismantling of the Rule of Law, the lack of independence of the judiciary and the collapse of all the democratic institutions in Venezuela.

The main presentation was given by Gonzalo Himiob, Executive Director of Foro Penal, who provided an overview and update on repression, including numbers of political prisoners, arbitrary detentions, persons subject to special measures, civilians subject to military tribunals, detainees who have been in jail with no judicial orders and/or whose hearings have been postponed many times.

Representatives of other Venezuelan Human Rights NGOs and groups also had the opportunity to explain the current situation from their own perspective and gave concrete examples of human rights violations in Venezuela.

As the only panel member not based in Venezuela, Sonia Zapata´s intervention (representing Foro Penal Norway and the Norwegian Venezuelan Justice Alliance) aimed at explaining how the human right violations, anti-democratic behavior of the regime and general crisis affect Venezuelans living abroad.

Three concrete examples were provided:

1- The inability of Venezuelan authorities to issue new passports, or at least extensions, causing distress to thousands of Venezuelans who find themselves literally stranded in other countries being unable to travel abroad or execute their works properly when this requires business trips, and even facing serious problems to renew their residence permits.

2- The regretable attitude of certain Venezuelan embassies who use hostile techniques to intimidate Venezuelan activists and Human Rights defenders organizing or participating in protests or somehow speaking up against the regime in their host countries. The Venezuelan embassy in Norway was discussed as an example; and

3- The situation of Venezuelan pensionersabroad, who after years contributing to the Venezuelan social security system, have been forced to leave the country at an old age in order to survive but have no means to sustain themselves in their new host countries. This, in spite of existing bilateral agreements in many cases.

Other recent developments including the Report of the OAS and its implications, the Refugee crisis, etc were discussed.

It is worth noting that 2 other large Venezuelan events took place at the EU Parliament that same day: one in connection with the anniversary of the Sakharov prize and a rather large Refugee gathering organized by the Brussels-based Venezuelan platform VenEuropa.

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