Special Features

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 23 – January 23, 2018


Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 23
January 22, 2018

James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. To subscribe, please email warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.




Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo



Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Lake Chad Region — Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon





Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)





Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia






Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine


North & Central America

South America


Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives


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International Center for Transitional Justice: In Focus – Designing Reparations Forms

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ICTJ In Focus
January 2018
In Focus ›
A Practitioners’ Perspective on Forms of Justice in Peru and Colombia
To mark the launch of our new publication, “Forms of Justice: A Guide to Designing Reparations Application Forms and Registration Processes for Victims of Human Rights Violations”, we sat down with Jairo Rivas about his work in designing reparations forms in Peru and Colombia.
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Publications ›
Forms of Justice: A Guide to Designing Reparations Application Forms and Registration Processes for Victims of Human Rights Violations ›
Failure to Reform: A Critique of Police Vetting in Kenya ›
Other News
In the Philippines, Understanding Victims’ Perceptions of Reparations Forms
To mark the launch of our new publication, “Forms of Justice: A Guide to Designing Reparations Application Forms and Registration Processes for Victims of Human Rights Violations”, we sat down with Karl Gaspar to talk about his experience participating in the reparations process as a victim in the Philippines.
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In South Africa, a Ruling in an Apartheid-era Murder Case Opens Paths to Justice
Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol died in South African police custody in 1971, and his family continues to demand justice. While police claimed Timol died by suicide, evidence indicated that he was tortured and murdered. The family’s tenacious efforts led to the reopening of an inquest into Timol’s death this year, with ICTJ senior program advisor Howard Varney representing the family.

The Pretoria High Court ruled in the family’s favor, finding that Timol did not kill himself but was indeed murdered while in police custody. ICTJ’s Sam McCann sat down with Varney to discuss the ruling, what it means to Timol’s family, and its significance for the fight for justice in South Africa.

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Upcoming Events ›
February 10 – 12, 2018
Lemkin Summit to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities 2018 ›
Location: American University, Washington, D.C.
February 10 – 11, 2018
Human Rights Research and Documentation ›
Location: Columbia University International Affairs Building, 420 W. 118 St., New York, NY 10027 Room 802
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Human Rights Watch: World Report 2018

World Report 2018 summarizes key human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide, drawing on events from late 2016 through November 2017.

In his keynote essay, “The Pushback Against the Populist Challenge,” Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the surge of authoritarian populists appears less inevitable than it did a year ago. Then, there seemed no stopping a series of politicians around the globe who claimed to speak for “the people” but built followings by demonizing unpopular minorities, attacking human rights principles, and fueling distrust of democratic institutions. Today, a popular reaction in a broad range of countries, bolstered by some political leaders with the courage to stand up for human rights, has left the fate of many of these populist agendas more uncertain.

Report link: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/world_report_download/201801world_report_web.pdf

The Guardian: CIA rendition flights from rustic North Carolina called to account by citizens

A Gulfstream jet from a quiet airport south-east of Raleigh flew captives to be tortured around the world. The government failed to act but local people have refused to let the issue die

Johnston County Airport terminal for Guantanamo Rendition CIA story

Ayear after he was released from captivity in Guantánamo, Binyam Mohamed received a letter from Christina Cowger, an agricultural researcher from North Carolina. Enclosed was a petition of apology signed by nearly 800 visitors to the North Carolina State Fair.

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.
 Binyam Mohamed. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

It was “a small gesture”, Cowger acknowledged, but her 2010 letter came with a commitment. North Carolina Stop Torture Now, an organization she co-founded, had been conducting protests, petition drives and legislative campaigns seeking an official investigation into an obscure firm operating flights out of her local airport.

The firm, Aero Contractors, was the CIA front company that operated the Gulfstream business jet that delivered Mohamed to a secret prison in Morocco to be tortured.

Though few government officials supported such an investigation, she wrote, the group pledged “to work toward true transparency and accountability in the United States for the crimes against you and other survivors”.

Seven years later, Cowger sat in the front row of a makeshift hearing room in the Raleigh Convention Center as 11 volunteer commissioners of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture “upped the ante”, as she put it, on that pledge.

Over the course of two days, this “citizen-led truth seeking commission” called 20 witnesses to testify on the damage done by Aero’s rendition operations.

Former Guantánamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi.
 Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Photograph: Handout

One of those witnesses was Mohamedou Ould Slahi, whose Guantánamo Diaryopens as he is stripped, made to wear a diaper, and shackled aboard Aero’s Gulfstream in Amman, Jordan, in July 2002.

Appearing by Skype from his home country of Mauritania, Slahi faced questions from a panel that included a former chief prosecutor of the international war crimes tribunal, a multi-tour veteran of the Iraq and Afghan wars, a Baptist minister, and a local social worker.

How, the commissioners asked, can we advance an accountability process our elected officials have shunned?

It is a question that North Carolinians have wrestled with before. In 1979, Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi party members opened fire at an anti-Klan rally in Greensboro, leaving five dead. State and federal trials ended in acquittals, and a civil lawsuit raised more questions than it answered about the actions of city officials and police during the event.

Now the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture aims to find a way forward from one of 21st-century America’s darkest episodes – the global operation to seize, interrogate and torture terrorism suspects that Aero Contractors facilitated from the Johnston County airport, a rustic, single runway airstrip 30 miles south-east of Raleigh.

Allyson Caison, a local realtor, first heard the CIA was running “a secret little operation” out of the airport around a Boy Scout campfire in 1996. The subject came up again in the early 2000s, when a relative who was a recreational pilot landed at the airport and marveled at its state-of-the-art runway.

She didn’t know that the “little operation” a former Air America pilot set up years ago in a nondescript blue hangar tucked into the pines employed more than 120 people, or that the Gulfstream jet she would hear taking off and landing was one of the most prolific spiders in what the Council of Europe has called a “web spun across the world” by the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation operations.

rendition story graphics Aero contractors
 Photograph: North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture

In April 2005, the New York Times ran a story titled “CIA Expanding Terror Battle Under Guise of Charter Flights” that lifted the lid on Aero’s rendition flights. Later that year, 40 peace activists from St Louis joined Christina Cowger and other local residents to protest against the company’s role in the CIA’s torture program.

“It turned out I knew two of the three Aero principals well,” Caison said during a tour around the airport the day before the commission’s hearings convened. “These were prominent, well-respected business people in our community. Their children and mine were schoolmates. I baked their gingerbread houses for Christmas.”

From 2001 to 2004 Aero’s Gulfstream, operated under the tail number N379P, and a second, larger Boeing 737 Aero stationed at Kinston regional jetport in nearby Lenoir County, carried out scores of rendition missions. Together, they accounted for roughly 80% of all the CIA renditions during those years, landing more than 800 times in countries throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Gulfstream was in and out of Guantánamo so often it earned the nickname the Guantánamo Express.

To drive with Caison around the airport is to get a sense of how much nerve this kind of neighbor-to-neighbor activism takes. In the gleaming new Johnston County airport terminal, the young airport manager greeted her with a wary handshake and a gently drawled apology that he could not attend the commission’s hearings.

Down the road, at the recently fortified automatic gate that blocks the access road to Aero’s hangar, there was no pretense of hospitality. It was lunch hour, and a line of cars was filing out the gate. Each slowed at the sight of Caison’s car. One driver, glaring, almost clipped her side view mirror as he inched past.

Allyson Caison.
 Allyson Caison. Photograph: L Siems

Caison said: “I really think we’ve changed some hearts and minds around here. People are quiet about it because of Aero’s long tentacles. But we’ve been persistent. It’s the strength of our little group. We’ve accomplished a lot.”

North Carolina Stop Torture Now has had an impact over the last 10 years. Recently released minutes of a closed 2007 meeting of the airport authority in Kinston, where Aero housed its larger 737 rendition jet, confirmed that Aero sold its hangar at the facility that year. When a member of the airport’s board asked its executive director why the company was leaving, the director “explained that Aero Contractors had not had the aircraft in the hangar for several months due to the negative publicity they were getting from Stop Torture Now”.

The campaign scored successes at state level and in Washington too. In Raleigh, the group pressed the governor and state attorney general to open a criminal investigation into Aero’s rendition operations. Told that the state had no jurisdiction, the group drew on a growing network of support from churches to press for legislation to make participating in CIA kidnappings, enforced disappearances and torture state crimes.

The bill twice stalled in committee, but attracted 12 bipartisan co-sponsors and brought the question of rendition for torture before religious congregations throughout the state.

Pressure is also credited with helping persuade Senator Richard Burr, then the ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, to join in voting to declassify the executive summary of the Senate’s scathing report on the CIA torture program in 2014.

Although that report only examined the treatment of prisoners inside the CIA’s black sites around the world, its release sparked hopes for greater accountability over the rendition to bring suspects to interrogation.

Burr, now chair of the Senate’s intelligence committee, has made clear there will be no further official reckoning for the agency’s post-9/11 human rights violations, and has sought to recall and destroy all copies of the still-classified Senate report.

For the volunteer commissioners of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, this is where their responsibility begins.

“With no meaningful accountability from government leaders, it’s been left to citizens to keep this issue alive,” commission co-chair Jennifer Daskal, a law professor at American University, explained in a break in the hearings.

“We don’t have the power to prosecute, but we can offer an accounting of what happened, and of the costs, to prevent this from happening again.”

“I believe in accountability. I’ve done accountability,” said David Crane, who served as the founding chief prosecutor of the international tribunal that prosecuted Liberian president Charles Taylor for war crimes and who lives in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains.

“Torture is a clearcut issue: you don’t torture. The American people just need to know the raw facts, and many of those facts are right here in North Carolina.”

The commission invited Aero Contractors to give testimony at the hearings, but received no response. Invitations to the governor, attorney general and several Johnston County officials to attend or send representative to the hearings also went unanswered. Calls to the county manager and county commissioners seeking comment on the hearings and Aero’s operations were not returned.

Christina Cowger
 Christina Cowger: ‘The commission demonstrates by its very being that we are not helpless.’ Photograph: L Siems

The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torturewill collect evidence through the spring, pressing for the release of public records from county and state officials and compiling research and testimony on the lasting harms inflicted by Aero’s rendition flights. It plans to release its final report this summer.

But the commission’s hearings also sharpened their sense of personal responsibility to repair the harm they see caused by Aero’s operations.

As a person of faith, I have to be involved in this,” Caison told the commission near the end of the hearing. “As a mom of two boys, I like to think that if my boys were kidnapped, renditioned and tortured, there would be another mom out there at the other end like me, trying to end an injustice that starts in her neighborhood.”

For Cowger, the priority now is to address the physical and psychological health of those who survived Aero’s rendition flights – a process that involves “acknowledgement, genuine apology, and some form of redress”.

“The commission demonstrates by its very being that we are not helpless,” she said.

Venezuela: A Storm of a Summer and Its Aftermath

By Max Cohen

Impunity Watch Special Features Editor

Edited By Yesim Usluca

Impunity Watch Senior Special Features Editor

It used to be one of the richest countries in South America. Now, citizens are fleeing in droves to any country that will have them. The money isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. And, the government is under the complete control of one man and his political allies. Over the past several months Venezuela has been embroiled by conflict as citizens have marched for change and the government has responded with a violent crackdown, which has only inspired more protests.

The first question on the minds of most is: How did this chaos come to be? Well, it began with an economic crash caused in part due to plummeting oil prices. Oil is Venezuela’s chief export, accounting for over ninety percent of the country’s export revenue, and without the billions that came from the state-owned oil company they could not sustain the social programs and food subsidies that oil money had funded. Because of years of borrowing from other countries, Venezuela has been left with massive debt, dwindling foreign currency, and a drastically drained reserve of funds, which has led imports for things such as medicine to be cut in half. Furthermore, inflation has made it more difficult for citizens to afford food, leading to a growing malnourishment problem. Price controls on goods sold within the country to make them more affordable have only made the problem worse by making them too cheap to justify the costs of production. However, these policies are politically difficult to repeal because they were put into place by the late Hugo Chavez, the still beloved predecessor of current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Then, in 2015, Venezuela’s opposition party won a supermajority in their Congress, the National Assembly.

In January 2016, Venezuela’s Supreme Court suspended the elections of a few opposition party lawmakers for alleged voting irregularities. However, the National Assembly continued to operate regardless of the Court’s order, leading the Court in March 2017 to declare the Assembly in contempt and in the process, effectively giving itself the power to legislate. Protesters took to the streets, and only a few days later the Supreme Court partially reversed its ruling by not taking the legislature’s powers. However, the Court did not address whether the National Assembly was still in contempt. The protests did not end however, as citizens continued to demand a new election to replace Maduro.

Venezuelans protest in La Castellana, a neighborhood in eastern Caracas. Photo courtesy of IRIN News.

Over the summer, as citizens came to the streets in massive numbers, their attempts at peaceful protests were met with excessive force and false arrests as government security forces attempted to quell the demonstrations. Approximately 120 people have died in the protests, and thousands have been arbitrarily detained as demonstrators have been tried in front of military courts, a process usually reserved for military crimes or terrorism. But, in a military court, Maduro could be assured of an outcome in his favor.

Planting evidence and unwarranted charges against civilians have been used to attempt to stifle dissent. One such incident involves Ana Rosa Cisneros, who was shopping at a pharmacy near a protest when she was arrested by the Venezuelan National Guard, and was detained for sixteen days. Now she must report to court monthly because of the charges levied against her.

Furthermore, conditions in the prisons where demonstrators, and those accused of doing so, are held are nothing short of horrific. In one prison called the Helicoid guards allegedly beat inmates, shocked them, and exposed them to tear gas-like chemicals. Prisoners in Venezuela deal with sexual abuse, and in one strange case were even forced to eat raw pasta with human feces in it. Illegal home raids by security forces are another tactic used by the government to intimidate people, with approximately forty-seven illegal raids occurring across eleven districts during the summer. In these raids, the security forces would break into people’s homes without any justification, legal or otherwise. They would search the houses, destroying property and using violence in the process, threaten the people living there, and leave hours later, sometimes outright stealing things as they left.

Wuilly Arteaga, an opposition activist, plays his violin during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro. Photo courtesy of Shaw Global News.

Brutality towards protesters has also been a common feature of the government’s response to the demonstrations. One famous incident of brutality by security forces involved Wuilly Arteaga, a protestor who was injured during the protests while playing songs on his violin, including Venezuela’s national anthem. Arteaga gained international celebrity after a video went viral of him crying over a violin broken by government security forces. However, there was a bright side as he received numerous violins from several people, including celebrity salsa singer Marc Anthony. Then in August, after being arrested at a demonstration, Mr. Arteaga was detained for over two weeks, during which time he was allegedly beaten and tortured by the guards. Around the same time, the government released a video in which Arteaga said that he was not mistreated in jail and that the government did not break his violin. According to Arteaga however, the video was doctored, and many of his statements in it were coerced. In a more tragic tale, a young man, David José Vallenilla, was killed after being shot three times in the chest at point blank range by a soldier for hurling rocks over a fence at the La Carlota airbase. In an ironic twist of fate, it turned out that Mr. Vallenilla was the son of Maduro’s former boss from when the Venezuelan leader was a bus driver. Even worse, these are only some of many stories just like them among those who have protested in Venezuela.

Despite the deaths, injuries, and unlawful detentions, protests continued and even became more impassioned after Maduro called for the election of a constituent assembly to rewrite the nation’s constitution. Maduro even brought in the military, putting 232,000 soldiers out on the streets, to ensure everything went off without a hitch. But, in the days preceding the vote, millions of people across the country engaged in a two-day strike. Furthermore, even after Maduro declared protests during voting to be a crime punishable by imprisonment of up to ten years, people came to the streets to voice their opposition to Maduro and express their frustration at a vote that many predicted would be fraudulent. Only a few weeks earlier, over seven million citizens had participated in an unofficial vote rejecting the constituent assembly, which was deemed “unlawful” by the government. Venezuela’s opposition party even refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly election before it took place, and thus did not submit any candidates from their party. In a result surprising no one, the pro-government constituent assembly won in an election, where there was no rejection option, that the CEO of the company suppling Venezuela’s voting machines confirmed was fraudulent. Results were reportedly off by at least one million people, and may be off as much as half of the eight million who purportedly voted in the election.

As a result, the Constituent Assembly will govern Venezuela as a legislature until their constitution is rewritten, giving Maduro complete control over the country indefinitely. Among its members are Maduro’s own wife and son, as well as other allies of the embattled president. The United States (U.S.), along with many other countries have stated that they do not recognize the result of this election. The only countries who have recognized the election thus far are allies of the country such as Bolivia and Cuba.

Former Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Throughout the troubles in Venezuela, the only government official in Maduro’s administration willing to stand up to Maduro was the former Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, speaking out against her government on the issue of human rights. Her public dissent began when she condemned the Venezuelan Supreme Court for attempting to take away the National Assembly’s powers. Furthermore, after reports of the fraud committed in electing the Constituent Assembly, she vowed to investigate, only to be fired by the Constituent Assembly a few days later, something which had also been attempted by Venezuela’s Supreme Court earlier in the summer. Both times that she was fired, Diaz attempted to continue with her job. The first time she was successful in returning to work and even charged the former head of Venezuela’s National Guard with human rights abuses. But, after being fired by the Constituent Assembly she was prevented by security forces from even entering her building. The Constituent Assembly’s new Attorney General, Tarek Saab, is considered an ally of Maduro and has allegedly turned a blind eye to human rights abuses. Diaz’s change of position towards Maduro’s administration came about because of a multitude of factors including the state of the country, the kidnapping of her children, and the persecution that she felt coming towards her from other parts of the government. Previously she had also been banned from leaving the country and her assets had been frozen by the government. But since being fired, she has fled the country and is now in hiding. Recently she has supplied the U.S. with evidence compromising top officials in Maduro’s government concerning various forms of corruption, including evidence of graft linked to food imports. As recently as November 16th, she accused Maduro, before the International Criminal Court, of being responsible for crimes against humanity amounting to over 8,000 murders since 2015.

Opposition leaders have also been continually outspoken against the abuses of Maduro’s government, only to be met with retaliation. In April, the government had told opposition leader Henrique Caprilles that he was banned from doing any political work for fifteen years. Then in May, he was banned from leaving the country just as he was about to attend a meeting with the United Nation’s (U.N.), Human Rights Council to discuss the turmoil embroiling his country. Two opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, were taken from their homes in August and jailed on suspicion that they were planning to leave the country and had violated the terms of their agreements by making political statements. Both men were under house arrest at the time, and have since been released back into house arrest. Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, was also banned from leaving the country after 200 million bolivars, the equivalent of $11,000, were found in her car. Tintori claims that the cash was from personal funds to help pay for her grandmother’s medical care. All of this came right before Tintori was scheduled to go to Europe to attend meetings to convince European leaders to institute sanctions against Venezuela and the Maduro government.

Opposition members have not been the only victims of the government’s authoritarian acts. In October 2017, three journalists, two of them from Europe, were arrested as they prepared a report on the conditions in a Venezuelan prison. Furthermore, in June, an American citizen was imprisoned for alleged weapons charges. However, many believe it was due to the U.S.’s stance on the Venezuelan government’s authoritarian acts.

In late July, the opposition had also attempted to replace the Venezuelan Supreme Court with appointees of their own, an action that the current pro-government Court declared invalid and inferred that such an action could be treason. One appointee was detained by the government and others were allegedly threatened by government forces. A few of the justices appointed to an alternative Supreme Court created by the National Assembly, were later forced to take refuge in the Chilean Embassy.

The U.N. has also been a steady force standing against Venezuela to the extent that it can. It has denounced the government’s moves from the retaliation against figures like Luisa Ortega Diaz, to denouncing the government’s abysmal handling of human rights. The U.N. has also issued a report documenting the various human rights abuses by the Venezuelan government referring it to the U.N. Human Rights Council for action. However, Venezuela is still currently a sitting member of the council and would be involved in any decision by the body.

Now only one other question remains; what happens next? Two governments currently exist in Venezuela. The official Constituent Assembly, which has all the power, and the National Assembly, which, although it still meets, has done little since August other than to publicly protest Maduro’s government’s actions. The National Assembly though, is that in name only, with no resources, and few lawmakers willing to show up to conduct “business.”

In mid-October, there was another round of voting in the nation’s gubernatorial elections, in which those aligned with Maduro won handily. The opposition has alleged fraud, but none of the evidence thus far pans out those claims. However, even though Maduro’s allies won by a sizable margin without inflating the vote count, Venezuela’s most recent elections were far from fair. Just hours before the vote, the government-aligned National Electoral Council moved many pro-opposition polling places leaving half a million people with no idea where to vote. When they attempted to find out by texting a special number, the government would text them back reminding them who the Socialist candidate for their region is. The government told people that its electoral system enabled them to know who had voted, and public-sector employees were brought to the polls by their employers and threatened with firing if they did not vote. The few wins received by the opposition party were rendered almost pointless by Maduro’s demand that, to take office, any elected candidate had to take an oath before the Constituent Assembly and “subordinate” themselves to it.

Russia, a longtime ally of Venezuela since the Soviet Era, has since agreed to restructure Venezuela’s debt payments just as it appears the country is headed for default. A default would mean an even greater disaster in terms of severe shortages of food and medicine. It would endanger not only Venezuela’s economy, but potentially the world economy at large. Additionally, default would result in an immense amount of litigation, and possible seizures of the government’s overseas assets, particularly Citgo which is the American subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. China, another major lender to Venezuela, has shown no interest in lending more money to them, some theorized at the time due to concerns over Maduro’s longevity in his position.

The U.S. has reacted to the Venezuelan crisis much differently, instituting sanctions on the country’s political leaders as well as inclusion of the country in the latest version of President Donald Trump’s now infamous travel ban. Other financial and economic sanctions have also been a part of the U.S.’s action, such as barring any new financial deals with either the government or the state-run oil company PDVSA, which as a result will make it difficult for PDVSA to refinance its debt. However, the U.S. has not yet issued a ban on Venezuela’s main industry, crude oil trading. As the U.S. is Venezuela’s biggest customer of oil, a sanction on the product, if instituted, would do incredible damage to the country’s economy. The European Union has also banned arms sales to the country, and instituted a system to freeze assets and put in place travel restrictions on Venezuelan officials. The U.S.’s involvement in attempting to get Maduro to step down however, has not gone unnoticed and Maduro has made the country the proverbial “boogeyman,” blaming it for the current political and economic instability.

In late November 2017, Maduro replaced the head of the state-run oil company with a general and former housing minister, Manuel Quevedo, with little experience in the industry. Around fifty officials at the company have been arrested in what the government claims is an attempt to clear the organization of corruption. In addition to continuing to clear corruption, Quevedo will also oversee the difficult process of restructuring the company’s debt. Quevedo is also accused of committing human rights violations during the anti-Maduro protests. However, some speculate that Maduro’s true motive may be to clear the field of powerful potential political rivals and tighten control over the country’s only major source of money.

Approximately 27,000 Venezuelans in 2016 and 52,000 thus far in 2017 have applied for asylum. That is only a fraction of those fleeing the country during its most recent economic and political crisis. In the neighboring state of Columbia alone, the estimates range from 300,000 to 1.2 million Venezuelans living there. Also, in Argentina, the number of Venezuelans starting new lives there has jumped from 1,911 in 2012 to 12,859 in 2016. With 8,333 in the first quarter of 2017 alone, it does not appear to be on track to decrease any time soon. Furthermore, Chile too has seen a massive increase, with the average number of visas issued to Venezuelans rising from 758 to 8,381. The mass exodus becomes even more serious as one reflects on that fact that a majority of those leaving are the kind of well educated professionals that Venezuela needs to hang onto if it is going to climb out of its current economic hole.

Countries around the world have slapped Venezuela with sanctions, and will probably continue to do so as the situation there worsens. Protests have dwindled in size out of fear from the government’s now unchecked power. People will continue to flee the country’s dire political and economic conditions for other countries. And, as the morally crushed opposition sinks, Maduro’s grip on the country will grow stronger and eventually stabilize his hold on power. With the stabilization of Maduro’s hold on power, Venezuela’s allies, as Russia did in early November 2017, will be more willing to help the country economically, but even they cannot save it now. The economy will continue to fester and rot as the government keeps the policies preventing growth in place, and may even worsen as oil as a fuel source declines in usage due to energy saving technologies and global action on climate change.

For any lasting change to occur, it will have to come from the people. Standing up to Maduro’s regime will be an enormous risk, but it is one that citizens will need to take if they want to realize the greater rewards that come with true freedom. Waiting and hoping for things to get better is not an option because things are primed to only get worse. It is only through action that things will truly get better.


For more information, please see:

Aljazeera – Venezuela’s crisis explained from the beginning – 14 December 2017

Aljazeera – Venezuela: UN warns of possible crimes against humanity – 11 September 2017

Amnesty International – Venezuela: Repression taken into people’s living rooms as home raids surge – 30 October 2017

Bloomberg – Venezuela’s Empty Elections – 19 October 2017

Business Insider – ‘The tipping point’: More and more Venezuelans are uprooting their lives to escape their country’s crises – 2 December 2016

CBS – Voting machine firm: Venezuela vote rigged “without any doubt” – 2 August 2017

CNN – Controversial Venezuela vote to be investigated, attorney general says – 3 August 2017

CNN – Deadly election day in Venezuela as protesters clash with troops – 30 July 2017

CNN – Putin extends lifeline to cash-strapped Venezuela – 15 November 2017

CNN – Trump administration announces new travel restrictions – 25 September 2017

CNN – U.S. hits 10 more Venezuelan leaders with sanctions – 9 November 2017

CNN – UN: Venezuelan protesters endure excessive force, other rights violations – 8 August 2017

CNN – Venezuela’s high court dissolves National Assembly – 30 March 2017

CNN – Venezuela: How paradise got lost – 27 July 2017

CNN – Venezuelans launch 2-day strike against Maduro as US slaps sanctions – 27 July 2017

CNN – Venezuela’s Leopoldo Lopez returns to house arrest – 6 August 2017

CNN – Venezuelan protester shot dead at point-blank range by soldier – 23 June 2017

Fox – EU adopts sanctions against Venezuela – 13 November 2017

The Guardian – ‘At home, we couldn’t get by’: more Venezuelans flee as crisis deepens – 17 July 2017

The Guardian – I gave US ‘compromising’ evidence on Venezuela officials – ex-chief prosecutor – 13 October 2017

The Guardian – ‘I will be back’: Violin-playing face of Venezuela’s protests injured in clashes – 22 July 2017

The Guardian – Trump’s latest travel ban: what’s new, who’s covered, and why now? – 25 September 2017

Human Rights Watch – Questionable Elections in Venezuela – 23 October 2017

Independent – Venezuela’s president accused of crimes against humanity – 16 November 2017

LA Times – Driven by unrest and violence, Venezuelans are fleeing their country by the thousands – 19 October 2017

The Local – Journalists including Italian, Swiss arrested over Venezuela prison report – 8 October 2017

Miami Herald – Venezuela’s opposition leader barred from leaving the country – 18 May 2017

NBC – Venezuela’s New Constitutional Assembly Ousts Anti-Maduro Prosecutor Luisa Ortega – 5 August 2017

New York Times – How Venezuela Fell Into Crisis and What Could Happen Next – 27 May 2016

New York Times – Venezuela’s New Leaders Begin Their March Toward Total Control – 4 August 2017

New York Times – Venezuelan Court Revises Ruling That Nullified Legislature – 1 April 2017

New York Times – Venezuelan Opposition Denounces Latest Vote as Ruling Party Makes Gains – 16 October 2017

New York Times – Venezuela Tries Protestors in Military Court ‘Like We Are in a War’ – 12 May 2017

New York Times – Venezuela Votes for Governors in a ‘Deficient Democracy’ – 14 October 2017

PBS – Venezuelan opposition wins supermajority in National Assembly – 9 December 2015

Reuters – Activist Tintori says she is barred from leaving Venezuela – 2 September 2017

Reuters – Maduro taps major general to lead Venezuela’s deteriorating oil industry – 26 November 2017

Reuters – Slain Venezuelan protester’s father appeals to ‘friend’ Maduro – 23 June 2017

Reuters – Trump slaps sanctions on Venezuela; Maduro sees effort to force default – 25 August 2017

Reuters – Venezuela jails opposition leaders in new crackdown on opponents – 1 August 2017

teleSUR – Supreme Court Declares Opposition’s Naming of Judges Invalid – 21 July 2017

U.N. News Centre – Human rights violations indicate repressive policy of Venezuelan authorities – UN report – 30 August 2017

U.N. News Centre – Venezuela bans Attorney General from leaving country; UN rights office voices concern – 30 June 2017

U.N. News Centre – Venezuela: UN human rights chief regrets opposition leader being blocked to travel – 19 May 2017

Washington Post – In Venezuela, prisoners say abuse is so bad they are forced to eat pasta mixed with excrement – 24 June 2017

Washington Post – Report: More than 500 people were killed in two years in Venezuelan government’s anti-crime campaign – 5 October 2017

Washington Post – Venezuela’s democracy is fake, but the government’s latest election win was real – 17 October 2017

Washington Post – A young Venezuelan made his violin an instrument of resistance. The government hit back – 28 August 2017