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Unprotected Property Rights in Venezuela 
By Un Estado de Derecho*

The right of every Venezuelan citizen to own private property is guaranteed by the Constitution. It is also defined and protected by several universal and regional human rights instruments ratified by Venezuela. Despite its constitutional and international recognition, in the past 14 years the Venezuelan government, by different means and with the consent of the judiciary, has implemented a systematic policy against property rights.

Among the measures adopted in Venezuela to extinguish property rights are expropriations. Under the Constitution these can only be carried out for reasons of public benefit or social interest, must be approved by a final judgment and must be accompanied by timely and fair compensation. However, none of this happens in practice. Between 2002 and 2012 2,000 expropriations were carried out without complying with the Constitution (and violating Venezuela´s international treaty obligations) and 1,168 foreign and domestic companies were seized arbitrarily.

Based on the Law on Land and Agrarian Development, Venezuelan authorities have also permitted and promoted the illegal occupation and seizure of productive farms. The government refers to this process as the "policy of recovering lands" to imply that all or part of them belong to the state. Instead of considering land title documentation, the National Land Institute force the "occupants" to prove ownership by producing an "unbroken title chain" dating back to the 19th century. According to official data, since 2005 the government had forcibly acquired more than 4 million hectares of agricultural land.

Confiscation has been another mechanism used to gradually eliminate private property, free enterprise, and individual liberty. In Venezuela, confiscation of property is an exceptional measure and a complementary punishment for certain crimes. The Constitution requires that a person be convicted of drug-related offenses or corruption before his property is confiscated. However, the government has been taken confiscatory actions against entrepreneurs and businessmen without convictions and alleging the commission of crimes that have nothing to do with drugs or corruption. Between 2009 and 2010, 20 brokerage firms were intervened and liquidated. The owners and directors were unjustly accused of "illegal currency trading" and deprived of their personal property. Some of them were unlawfully detained.

The Venezuelan government has been carrying out these measures with violence, through military force and with the complicity of local and state authorities. Furthermore, property owners are constantly harassed, threatened, disqualified and stigmatized by the authorities (they are called oppressors, speculators, enemies of the revolution). Thousands of Venezuelans and foreigners have been affected by arbitrary appropriations. Amidst it all, the judiciary remains silent. Courts are subordinated to the Executive branch, thus denying meaningful judicial protection, and laws and other legal structures have been manipulated to limit individual rights and freedoms and consolidate a state-controlled society. Foreigners are fighting their cases in international courts, but Venezuelans have no such recourse.

History provides many examples on the potential disasters that follow from the systematic violation of property rights. Venezuela will be no exception. The country is on the verge of an economic collapse. Economic development relies on the creation, protection and enforcement of property rights and Venezuela is ranked 127 out of 131 nations in the International Property Rights Index 2013 (as low as Libya, Haiti and Burundi). It is also listed at the bottom of the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 2012-2013 (with Bangladesh, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Cameroon).

*Un Estado de Derecho is a Venezuelan NGO that promotes the Rule of Law as a means to freedom, democracy and progress. On October 31st, 2013, the organization presented a report about "The Current Situation of Property Rights in Venezuela" before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights.
The Center for Democracy and Development in the Americas (CDDA) -- a research and educational organization committed to provide a platform for new ideas and leaders to promote sustainable democratic change in the Americas -- launched its Venezuela Initiative in order to encourage discussion on Venezuela´s current socioeconomic and political situation and its impact on the region.

The Venezuela Initiative brings together Venezuelan leaders, members of the Venezuelan Diaspora, foreign policy experts and opinion leaders interested in advancing democracy and promoting development in Venezuela.

Political Issues

Venezuela Temporarily Takes Over Smurfit Plant in Valencia
November 30, 2013 (by Pietro D. Pitts, Bloomberg)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his government had temporarily taken over a packaging plant in Valencia owned by Smurfit Kappa Group Plc for alleged price speculation.
Read More

Venezuelan opposition coalition member assassinated
November 27, 2013 (Agence France-Presse)
Attackers on a motorcycle shot dead a member of the Venezuelan opposition coalition who was a candidate in upcoming municipal elections. Jose Chirinos was killed as he was leaving a radio interview ahead of the December 8 vote.
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The Inter American Commission of Human Rights expressed its concern over the assassination of José Chirinos and the arbitrary detention of Alejandro Silva.
November 30, 2013
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Desperate measures in Venezuela
November 27, 2013 (by Ben Cohen, Commentary) 
“[T]he uncharismatic, foul-tempered Maduro has, during the seven months that he’s been in power, exposed the totalitarian tendencies implicit in the ideology of chavismo, with the result that he’s fast losing support among those segments of Venezuelan society . . . . ”
Read More

Capriles dares Venezuela’s President to jail him, calls supporters into the streets
November 23, 2013 (Latin American Herald Tribune) 
Capriles said that cowards “attack from the sides and from the back” and that one of his advisors was arrested and beaten by military intelligence officers.
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Alejandro Silva was released on Saturday, November 23. His detention was arbitrary and lacked any legal basis or justification.
Venezuela opposition holds mass demonstrations ahead of election
November 23, 2013 (Reuters)
The demonstration came ahead of the December 8 municipal elections, which will be the first big test of President Nicolas Maduro's political strength after he narrowly defeated his opposition rival in April elections.
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Venezuela's Congress approves decree powers for Maduro
November 19, 2013 (by Andrew Cawthorne and Brian Ellsworth, Reuters) 
Venezuelan lawmakers granted President Nicolas Maduro yearlong decree powers that he says are essential to regulate the economy and fight corruption. 
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Venezuela leader gains new powers
November 19, 2013 (by Ezequiel Minaya, The Wall Street Journal)
“The Venezuelan leader said on Tuesday that he planned to use his newfound power to pass two laws in the coming days. One, he previously signaled, would create a new state body to oversee Venezuela's currency controls in an effort to boost imports and alleviate shortages of basic goods. The other would limit corporate profit margins to between 15% and 30% to protect consumers from what Mr. Maduro called price gouging."
Chávez’s successor sees a trilogy of evil
November 13, 2013 (by Boris Munoz, The New Yorker) 
On October 30, residents of Caracas woke to find walls in the City Center and other neighborhoods plastered with posters bearing the words “Trilogy of Evil” and pictures of three politicians, blaming them for the country’s current crisis. By describing the three opposition figures as thieves and terrorists, the government has crossed the line that separates political confrontation from the criminalization of dissidence and opposition.
Maduro has opened the hunting season against democratic leaders
November 10, 2013 (by Carlos Blanco, El Universal)
“Maduro and those in his miserable court have decided that María Corina Machado, Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo López are "the Evil Trilogy." They are three of the opposition leaders that have embodied the struggles of these times against Chávez's wild authoritarianism, now prolonged in a more ridiculous and perhaps more brutal manner by Maduro, as a result of his incompetence and illegitimacy. When Maduro describes the trio as the enemy, he has opened the year-end's hunting season against democratic leaders”.

Venezuela declares December 8 as Hugo Chavez Day
November 6, 2013 (by Reuters)
Nicolas Maduro declared December 8 the official day of “Loyalty and Love” for late President Hugo Chavez (December 8 of 2012 was the day that Chavez urged Venezuelans to elect Maduro if his health prevented him from governing). This date coincides with the municipal elections in Venezuela.
The complete text of the decree published in the Official Gazette is available here.
Read More

Venezuelans are upset, and Maduro knows it
November 5, 2013 (by Juan Nagel, Transitions @Foreign Policy) 
Both the government and the opposition have increased the stakes by transforming municipal elections into a virtual referendum on the fragile government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Read More

Venezuela unveils Orwellian Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness
October 31, 2013 (by Mac Margolis, The Daily Beast) 
“Consider the latest from the gatekeeper of the late Hugo Chávez's experiment in "21st-Century Socialism": the Deputy Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness . . . . Nicolas Maduro unveiled this new government subdivision, which he said will oversee and troubleshoot some 30 separate social programs, known collectively in Venezuela as “missions" . . . . The announcement came on the heels of another recent Orwellian flourish, “Loyalty and Love to Hugo Chavez Day," a new entry to the Bolivarian calendar, meant to rally loyal Chavistas ahead of the December 8 municipal elections.”
Read More
Related News and Articles:
In Venezuela, a much-questioned pursuit of happiness 
November 5, 2013 (by Robert Valencia, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs) 
Venezuela is listed as one of the top 20 countries in the UN World Happiness Report and ranked ninth in the top ten nations in the Happy Planet Index. 
Though these outcomes paint an optimistic outlook for Venezuela, there are tangible socioeconomic deficiencies in the country that raise questions about the accuracy of these indices. A prevailing "supreme happiness" remains out of reach within Venezuela due to economic adversities. Other obstacles to "supreme happiness" include the Venezuelan government's corruption, its consolidated power structure, and its poor protection of civil liberties. 
Venezuela creates Social Happiness Ministry
October 26, 2013 (by The Telegraph)
No Joke: Venezuela President creates a new cabinet post called 'Ministry of Supreme Happiness’
October 25, 2013 (by Fox News Latino)
Read More

Venezuela is living a tragicomedy with Nicolas Maduro
November 24, 2013 (by AFP, Liberation Monde)
Heinz Dieterich, who is considered the father of the XXI century socialism, considers that Maduro is incapable of preserving Chavez's legacy and dealing with the serious problems of the country.
Read More
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Dieterich urges "PSUV honest people" to speak up
November 12, 2013 (El Universal) 
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Only a radical change in the economic model will save the Government
October 14, 2013 (by Heinz Dieterich, Aporrea)
Read More
Diplomacy & Foreign Affairs

Venezuela losing clout in region
November 30, 2013 (by Andres Oppenheimer, Miami Herald)

According to Oppenheimer, Venezuela’s influence in Latin America seems to be diminishing as rapidly as the country’s dwindling foreign reserves.
Read More

Venezuela rejects US Department of State's remarks on enabling law
November 21, 2013 (El Universal)
Venezuela's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday issued a statement rejecting the remarks made by US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who said that Washington was "concerned" about the special powers granted to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro this week.
Read More

US "concerned" about passage of enabling law in Venezuela
November 20, 2013 (El Universal)  
According to State Department spokeswoman, the US government believes it is "important for the institutions of democratic governance to serve their appropriate and assigned roles, and of course we believe the separation of powers and the presence of independent branches of government are essential elements of democracy.
Read More

Rubio: OAS should investigate Venezuela’s detainment of Miami Herald journalist as chilling effort against press freedom
November 10, 2013 
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) condemned the Venezuelan government for its recent detainment of Miami Herald reporter Jim Wyss, and called on the Organization of American States to investigate the incident as part of Venezuela’s continued violations of press freedom.
Read More

Capriles seeks papal mediation in Venezuela politics
November 6, 2013 (by Andrew Cawthorne, Reuters)
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles held a private meeting in Rome with Pope Francis and sought his mediation in Venezuela's tumultuous internal politics.
Read More
Economic and Social Issues
Venezuela's Maduro to decree car price regulations
December 2, 2013 (AFP)
Nicolas Maduro is to decree new regulations on car prices, as part of the special powers conferred on him to fight so-called "economic war" and corruption.
Read More

Latest measures seek to bring illegal forex to an end
November 30, 2013 (by Victor Salmeron, El Universal) 
Nicolás Maduro passed a decree to create the National Center for Foreign Trade and the Foreign Trade Corporation, which will allocate dollars for both the public and private sector and oversee the Currency Administration Commission (CADIVI), the Ancillary Foreign Currency Administration System (SICAD), the Foreign Trade Bank (BANCOEX) and all State-owned financial institutions. Also, the National Foreign Trade Corporation will choose companies from both the private and public sector to coordinate all aspects connected with import and export activities.
Read More

Economic tsunami
November 30, 2013 (by Francisco Olivares, El Universal) 
The course taken by President Maduro heads towards radicalism and further state controls over the economy, on the pretext of an "economic war." In the meantime, indicators keep showing a crisis that seems unstoppable.
Read More

Venezuela caps prices for commercial leases
November 29, 2013 (by Associated Press, The Washington Post)
“Maduro on Friday said he signed a decree preventing commercial leases from exceeding 250 bolivars per square meter a month, or about $40 at the official exchange rate. Disputes between property owners and their tenants must also now be resolved by a government agency instead of private arbiters.”
Read More

Venezuela's Maduro announces new economic measures
November 28, 2013 (Agence France-Presse) 
Nicolas Maduro announced he will unveil a second package of economic measures under an emergency decree to counter what he calls an economic war by the business sector. The measures to be announced Friday, November 29, will regulate imports, on which Venezuela is highly dependent for basic goods.
Read More

Venezuela after Chavez: An economy on the verge
November 26, 2013 (by Anna Andrianova, CNBC)
“Less than a year after the death of former dictator Hugo Chavez, Venezuela is on the verge of an economic breakdown. Inflation is soaring; the currency, the bolivar, is drastically losing value on the black market; and foreign currency reserves are dwindling. Even Venezuela's once vaunted energy sector, crippled by lack of investment, is failing to generate enough revenue to subsidize domestic giveaways.”
Read More

BCV calls 10th auction sale for USD 100 million
November 26, 2013 (El Universal)  
USD 90 million will be auctioned to businesses. Participants may bid for at least USD 5,000 and "no more than 0.5% of the auction's total amount. Bids ought to be made in multiples of USD 1,000". Another USD 10 million will be auctioned to individuals. Bids must range between USD 500-2,500.
Read More

Declining gold price hits Venezuela's international reserves
November 21, 2013 (by Victor Salmeron, El Universal) 
The decline in Venezuela's international reserves stands at 29% so far this year, plummeting from USD 29.8 billion to USD 21.1 billion. The drop in gold prices takes place amid a rise in the country's imports and debt service, sale of oil at preferential prices to allied countries, and the fact that state-run oil company PDVSA only allocates half of its petrodollars to the central bank.
Read More

Venezuelans muse on economic woes that make milk scarce but fridges a steal
November 15, 2013 (by Virginia López, The Guardian)
"Living here is like a cartoon," a Venezuelan citizen says. "Most of us can't find milk to drink, let alone to produce, and the president's best plan is to lower the prices of TVs."
Read More

Venezuela tightens control of foreign exchange
November 6, 2013 (AP)
President Nicolas Maduro is tightening control of Venezuela's foreign exchange system and intensifying the pursuit of currency speculators that the government accuses of waging an "economic war" against his rule.
Read More

Nicolas, shortages and corruption are defeating you!
October 16, 2013 (by Edgar Perdomo Arzola, Aporrea) 
Venezuela's worst nightmares are the current economic crisis and the Government's ineptitude to deal with it.
Read More

Venezuela’s Store Owners to the Firing Squad. Maduro’s Counterproductive Scapegoating Reveals His Vulnerability
November 26, 2013 (by Trino Márquez, PanAm Post)
After demonizing store managers, Maduro unilaterally and illegally ordered a confiscatory 50-70 percent reduction on the prices of goods. That mandate was coupled with another one, equally threatening: “Leave nothing on the shelves.”
Read More
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Venezuela’s Maduro resorts to state-sponsored looting
November 21, 2013 (by Editorial Board, The Washington Post)
"This month, Mr. Maduro, a former bus driver whose ignorance of economics is shockingly obvious, ordered the national guard to invade electronics stores and drastically lower the prices of goods. Mobs soon besieged the outlets, carrying away televisions and other appliances, sometimes without paying; even some of the soldiers helped themselves. More than 100 shop owners and other small businessmen were rounded up and jailed". 
Read More
Everything must go…
November 16, 2013 (The Economist)
“With support for the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) crumbling ahead of local elections due next month, Mr Maduro decreed on November 8th that as part of an “economic war” with unscrupulous businessmen, prices of electrical appliances were to be cut to their level of a month earlier.”
Read More
Venezuela’s president jails 100 businessmen in ‘economic war’
November 15, 2013 (by Andres Schipani, Financial Times) 
“I broke the spine of the economic war and the economic coup they were planning,” Mr Maduro said. “We have more than 100 of the bourgeoisie behind bars at the moment.”
Read More
Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro fights “economic war” by occupying electronics stores, censoring websites
November 11, 2013 (by Patricia Rey Mallén, International Business Times)
In the latest show of force, the Venezuelan government ordered a well-known electronics chain to change prices to government-approved rates. Maduro also targeted several Internet websites that monitor the exchange rates of the currency black market.
Read More

Dollars for tourists spawn a fourth exchange rate in Venezuela
November 9, 2013 (by Victor Salmeron, El Universal) 
Never before during previous currency controls in 1940 and the 1960-1964, 1983-1989 and 1994-1996 terms did the gap between the official and parallel exchange rates exceed 600% like it does now.
Read More

Venezuela's health system verges on collapse as hospitals run short on supplies
November 6, 2013 (by Matthew Mientka, Medical Daily) 
In a country of nearly 30 million people, the medical shortages continue to harm many cancer patients. In an estimate from the president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation, radiotherapy machine shortages may cut cancer treatment for 5,000 of the current 19,000 cancer patients requiring care.
Social Actions

Venezuela opposition protests at Maduro special powers
November 24, 2013 (by Irene Caselli, BBC)
Thousands of opposition supporters held a nationwide day of protests in Venezuela to express outrage over the country's deepening economic crisis. The protest was called by opposition leader, Henrique Capriles Radonski. 
Related News:
Venezuelans protest President's decree powers, economic woes 
November 23, 2013 (by Ezequiel Minaya and Kejal Vyas, The Wall Street Journal)
Read More

Leopoldo Lopez: ”I see no way out without mobilizing street protesters”
November 16, 2013 (by Roberto Giusti, El Universal) 
"We have to vote, but it is clear that this is not enough. Along with the vote, protest and dissatisfaction must be expressed effectively enough to bring about change".
Read More
Protests in Venezuela heat up amid lack of state's responsiveness 
November 2, 2013 (El Universal) 
Social psychologist Yorelis Acosta alerted that the number of protests in Venezuela climbed from of 900 in 1999 to 4,500 in 2012. She added that demonstrations are not quite organized "but if all protests are put together and they are organized, there will be huge distress"
Read More

Human Rights

NGO Foro Penal requests to stop arbitrary detentions against dissenters
November 29, 2013 (by Thabata Molina, El Universal)
Members of NGO Foro Penal Venezolano and other NGOs advocating for human rights demanded the State's security bodies to put an end to arbitrary detentions against Venezuelan dissenters. The NGO called for a press conference to alert the Venezuelan society against multiple incidents occurred over the last days; particularly, the detention of Alejandro Silva and the disappearance of dissenting General Ramón Lozada (who was detained on November 26 in Caracas by two men carrying large weapons).
Read More

"What really bothered him was that I never bowed my head"
November 29, 2013 (by Marianela Rodriguez, El Universal)
Luis Guillermo Carvajal, journalist and Secretary of Professional and Union Affairs in the Carabobo state chapter of the National Association of Journalists was "kidnapped" for over two hours in a patrol wagon of the Bolivarian National Guard, where he was hit in the head, assaulted, and spit by a lieutenant.
Read More

Aguiar: Power is exercised despotically under military control in Venezuela
November 26, 2013 (El Universal) 
Constitutionalist lawyer Asdrubal Aguiar said that Venezuela is "taking steps into the despotic exercise of power under military control." Reference was made to the detention last weekend of opposition leader Henrique Capriles' tour coordinator Alejandro Silva. Additionally, former president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Pedro Nikken forecast further repression in Venezuela, in light of the latest moves made by Maduro's government.
Read More

"Subtle executioners have tortured me and my family”
November 25, 2013 (by Alicia de la Rosa, El Universal)
Everybody can "feel sun rays." However, for Iván Simonovis, the former secretary of Citizen Security, Caracas Mayoralty, that is not an ordinary desire, but his longing for freedom after nine years behind bars. Simonovis is serving the 30-year sentence in prison meted out for the events of April 2002. He is isolated in the Center of Military Defendants. The marks of "refined executioners" have reached his family, who suffers from Simonovis' physical and emotional deterioration.
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Who really runs Venezuela?
November 20, 2013 (by Leopoldo Martínez, Fox News Latino) 
At the end of September, Maduro announced the creation of a new intelligence agency. Known in Venezuela by the  acronym CESPPA, the agency's formal name is the "Strategic Center for Security and Protection of the Homeland". It's head is a feared former army general and intelligence chief. CESPPA reports not to Maduro's office, but to another body (the "Political-Military Directorate of the Bolivarian Revolution”) which is not mentioned in the Venezuelan constitution.Venezuelan human rights advocates compare CESPPA with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s infamous DINA (National Intelligence Directorate).
Read More

Journalists in the crosshairs
November 16, 2013 (by Francisco Olivares, El Universal)
Physical attacks, threats and intimidation perpetrated by authorities have increased from January to October of the current year. Just in such categories, a number of 89 cases have been recorded.
Read More

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