Mérida, Venezuela (12/06/2018). – The public demonstrations that have taken place between January and April 2018, in the Venezuelan states of Táchira, Mérida and Trujillo, were due to citizens demands to have access to public services such as drinking water, electricity, domestic gas, and waste collection.
The Observatory of Human Rights of the University of Los Andes (ODH-ULA) registered 185 spontaneous citizen demonstrations in the three Andean states of Venezuela, where numerous human rights – including the rights to food, health, education, housing, freedom of speech, access to information, among others – have been severely vulnerated. The inhabitants were mainly claiming for better public services, knowing that without them, they would be unable to lead lives in accordance with human dignity. Out of the 185 citizen-led demonstrations registered in the Andean region by the ODH-ULA between January and April, 2018, 69 percent resulted from failures in public services.
Considering that poor public services deprives people from the full enjoyment of their rights to life, health, education, food, housing, and access to information, and that the State breaches the National Constitution and international treaties on human rights, the ODH-ULA urges the Venezuelan government to take the necessary measures in order to guarantee people access to better goods and services.
Likewise, the ODH-ULA recommends to provide maintenance and to make the required investments in the whole infrastructure destined to public services, thus the State may fulfill its obligations to ensure the enjoyment of human rights.
More power cuts and less water
76 percent of the protests that occurred in Táchira, Mérida and Trujillo states from January to April 2018, were motivated by failures in the electric service. Blackouts were constant, as much as three or four per day. In many areas, power cuts extended even for more than ten hours.
What is more, when power electric was finally restored in homes, there were continuous brownouts that broke down home appliances. Consumers were never compensated for these damages since there is not a single government agency responsible with receiving citizen complaints.
It is important to note that electricity is the basis for human rights such as proper food, health, housing, and education. In this regard, the U.N. states as part of its 2030 Agenda, approved by the General Assembly in 2015, the Goal 7, which consists in “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
During these months, at least seven protests related to failures of water supply were also registered. 57 percent of these in Mérida, 14 percent in Táchira, and 29 percent in Trujillo. Just as with electricity, there were also failures in the drinking water supply system. The government does not establish schedules for suspension periods of water service, therefore, users do not know what to expect. People cannot even anticipate this situation since hyperinflation rates have impoverished the population thus making impossible to buy safe-water containers. Again, this lack of services negatively affects basic needs such as food preparation, personal hygiene, house hygiene and cleaning.
The irregularity of drinking water distribution is mainly due to lack of maintenance and investment in dams, facilities, storage units, pump valves, pipelines, and other equipment. In the case of Merida city, in particular, failures of water supply were also related to power outages that affected water pumping systems.
No gas and surrounded by trash
Domestic gas, or rather the lack of it, has been another reason for people to protest. Out of all the citizen demonstrations that occurred in the states of Táchira and Trujillo, 5 percent were gas-related, while in Mérida, state protests for this service were more frequent, with a rate of 20 percent. That is, 11 percent of the protest registered by the ODH-ULA concerning domestic gas supply.
Similarly, there were protests in Mérida city against the solid waste accumulation in streets and avenues. The uncollected garbage polluted the university town, created a friendly environment for flies, vultures, and other dangerous pests to proliferate, and made up a public health concern overall.
In light of the alarming circumstances in which citizens from the Andean region of Venezuela are living, plus the current humanitarian crisis in the country, the ODH-ULA calls on the State to immediately resolve the serious economic and social crisis. The observatory also urges the Venezuelan government to allow humanitarian aid to get to the people, as envisaged in the international humanitarian law, thus countries, institutions, and human rights organizations that have offered aid may assist the population.
The ODH-ULA also recalls that the Article 117 of the Venezuelan National Constitution, which the current government openly breaches, establishes the State´s duty to ensure people’s rights to access to high quality goods and services, to access adequate and non-misleading information concerning the characteristics of goods and services they consume, to establish the mechanisms of consumer protection and compensation for damages caused, and to determine the corresponding penalties for the violations of these rights. / Press ODH-ULA