Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2008
Venezuela is a constitutional democracy with a population of approximately 26 million. In December 2006 voters reelected President Hugo Chavez of the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) with approximately 63 percent of the popular vote. Official observation missions from both the European Union and Organization of American States (OAS) deemed the elections generally free and fair but noted some irregularities. While civilian authorities generally maintained control of the security forces, there were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of government authority.Politicization of the judiciary and official harassment of the media and of the political opposition continued to characterize the human rights situation during the year. The following human rights problems were reported: unlawful killings; disappearances reportedly involving security forces; torture and abuse of detainees; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests and detentions; a corrupt, inefficient, and politicized judicial system characterized by trial delays, impunity, and violations of due process; searches without warrants of private homes; official intimidation and attacks on the independent media; government-promoted anti-Semitism; widespread corruption at all levels of government; violence against women; trafficking in persons; and restrictions on workers’ right of association.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including