Venezuela: FIDH and Provea denounce serious violations to the right to food

Sergio González © Provea

Caracas, Geneva, 15 March 2022. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisation in Venezuela, the Venezuelan Program for Education and Action on Human Rights (Provea), are releasing a report today denouncing serious violations to the human right to food in Venezuela. The new report, titled “Food is Not a Game: Serious Violations to the Human Right to Food in Venezuela”, demonstrates how the institutional and democratic deterioration of the Venezuelan State, as well as the State’s public policies, have resulted in serious violations to the right to food since 2016.

The 70-page report—fruit of a fact-finding mission conducted in 2021 by a multidisciplinary team—denounces the lack of access to basic food items for the vast majority of the Venezuelan population. It is released in the context of President Nicolas Maduro’s announcement last week that negotiations with the opposition would be resumed.

The report, available in English and Spanish, emphasises the Venezuelan government’s obligation to adopt measures to alleviate hunger, having ratified in 1978 the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognizes the right to food. After many years of silence, the government headed by Maduro has begun to acknowledge the seriousness of the crisis. The implementation in 2019 of an informal dollarisation and targeted liberalisation has reduced food shortages to an extent, yet, many food products remain unaffordable for most of the population, whose income is earned in bolivars, not dollars.

Poverty has increased drastically in the country, reaching 94.5% of the population in 2021. Over the last six years, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Venezuela has contracted by more than 80%—one of the most violent economic contractions the hemisphere has ever seen outside the context of an armed conflict. Hyperinflation, which has lasted more than three years, has further aggravated food insecurity.

These economic factors have resulted in a complex humanitarian emergency, characterised not only by overwhelming poverty but also by food insecurity, child malnutrition, and an exodus of almost six million people from the country. As of 2020, an estimated 30% of children suffered from some form of malnutrition, more than half of whom suffered acute or severe malnourishment. Further, the report reveals how lack of access to food has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups, such as incarcerated individuals, the elderly, and women.
Lack of access to other resources such as land, water, and certain basic services also influences food insecurity in Venezuela. The treatment and distribution capacity of drinking water today is only 40% of the capacity that the country had in 1998. In addition, electricity generation has fallen by 74%: during 2021, 174,000 blackouts were recorded, affecting 74.2% of the population. Finally, by 2021, the shortage of gas cylinders for cooking forced 5.4 million people to cook with firewood.

The report also shows how food is one of the areas most affected by the extremely high levels of corruption in Venezuela, with rampant capture of food production and distribution by corrupted networks. This has severely affected the Venezuelan population’s right to adequate food. According to international law, the State of Venezuela has an obligation to protect against the diversion of public funds.

In light of Maduro’s announcement last week that negotiations with the opposition and “all actors” would be resumed, FIDH and Provea call for the urgent prioritisation of the discussions on access to food within the so-called “social roundtable” that had been agreed upon in the negotiation process initiated in Mexico and then suspended. It is essential that the Venezuelan state work together with the private sector and civil society to promote dialogue and revitalise the food system, including by adopting policies that improve food production and distribution, boost the purchasing power of the population, and improve access to adequate food for all.

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