Irregular Armed Groups & Human Rights in Venezuela

October 10, 2023 - 10:00 am

Skylight Room
The Graduate Center, CUNY

During the last decade, there has been a proliferation of irregular armed groups in Venezuela, including paramilitary groups, large organized crime gangs, and irregular organizations of Colombian origin. The growth of these irregular armed groups with territorial control and governance capacity is occurring in a context of power fragmentation, which generates serious governance problems and constitutes a barrier to the recovery of institutionalism, democracy, and the rule of law in the country.

These groups are causing a serious impact on the rights of the Venezuelan population and limitations on access to humanitarian action. Despite the challenges this presents, it is a topic absent from public debate, so it is expected that one of the contributions of this text will be to position it on the agenda in the negotiation spaces of both Venezuela and Colombia.

Taking into account the levels of penetration of many of these groups in Venezuelan territory, it would be illusory to propose dialogue or negotiation processes for the recovery of democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela without considering the presence and role of these actors. On the other hand, in the context of the “Paz Total” (Total Peace) policy proposed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro, it is essential to make information visible about the effects of the presence of irregular Colombian armed groups in Venezuelan territory on the rights of the population, understanding that the existence of binational irregular armed groups demands binational responses.

Ligia Bolívar is an associate researcher at the Center for Human Rights at the Andrés Bello Catholic University of Caracas, she is the founder of the Venezuelan Program for Education-Action on Human Rights and co-founder of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL, Washington DC) and the International Council on Human Rights Policy (London – Geneva). In 1992, she was honored with the Leonidas Proaño Human Rights Award, by the Latin American Association for Human Rights. In 1996, she received an award from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First) and in 2019, received Amnesty International’s Flame of Hope. In 2019, she founded AlertaVenezuela, an International human rights analysis and advocacy team dedicated to producing information on human rights, humanitarian emergency, organized crime and institutional crisis in Venezuela.


Discussant: Mark Ungar, Brooklyn College, CUNY

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