Three One Young World Ambassadors on the crisis in their country with a call to action.
What is happening?
On 12 February, the Day of the Youth in Venezuela, tens of thousands of protesters (mostly students) took to the streets in more than 100 cities. Protesters were committed to non-violence, but the Venezuelan police, National Guard, and pro-government civilian armed groups dissolved gatherings using tear-gas, rubber bullets, injuring 25 students and shooting three dead.
Massive protests have followed and the Venezuelan government has swiftly responded taking off air the international news channel NTN24 (one of the main sources of news for Venezuelans), censoring websites, blocking images on Twitter, jailing and torturing protesters, and issuing an arrest warrant for Leopoldo Lopez, one of the most popular opposition leaders. The senseless violence has been condemned by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, among others, but a unified international demand for the protection of fundamental human rights, such as freedom of assembly and freedom expression, is still absent.
Why is it happening?
Venezuelans have many reasons to take to the streets. The authoritarian regime has accelerated reforms towards centralisation of power, censoring media, jailing and torturing activists, restricting spending abroad, promoting polarisation and violence, and submerging Venezuela in a severe economic crisis. At 56%, inflation in 2013 is the highest in the region, and many of the most basic items like milk, sugar, and toilet paper are extremely difficult to find. Venezuelans feel that unless they act now, the situation will get out of hand and become irreversible leading the nation into complete totalitarianism and a thorough disregard for human rights.
How is it developing?
Our country has been going through a lot in the last two weeks, but it has got even worse in the last couple of days.
Thousands have taken the streets to protest about many things - it started being just about the economic and social crisis (Caracas is one of the most dangerous cities in the world), but since the 12 February protests, we also have to add to the list the liberation of the more than 100 detained students and the three people shot dead that day.
Not only are the students, and many others, out on the streets risking their lives and being brutally repressed by the police, National Guard and pro-government armed groups, but also we have no media to cover these riots. Some Venezuelans are not even aware anything is happening. How can they know if the private TV channels and radio stations are threatened by the government and the newspapers are weeks away from shutting down because the government doesn't authorise the dollars to buy the paper and all the public news outlets do what Maduro wants. Our only way of spreading and getting information is through social media, but we don't know how long that's going to last.
How can people help?
The world needs to know about the critical situation of Venezuela and to understand that the regime is taking every possible measure to oppress its people and cover the truth.
If the only resource Venezuela has available to inform the world about what is happening is social media, then let's use it strategically to cause the greatest impact internationally. How? By making sure that posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email and other outlets reach entities outside of Venezuela so they shed light on what is happening.
We are asking you, yes YOU, to please help us. Whatever you see on social media about our country please share it, it doesn't take a lot of your time, let the world know what's happening here. Don't leave us alone! Let's make the international community take action!
Petition to US congress: http://www.change.org/petitions/united-states-congress-sos-venezuela
Send an email with proof of human rights breaches to the United Nations:
Send an email with proof of human rights breaches to the InterAmerican Human Rights Court: email@example.com
Send an email with proof of human rights breaches to the International Criminal Court: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you live in the US, write to your congressperson or senator: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml
Fill out this survey; the answers will be used to write a formal letter to journalists, heads of states, youth leaders and HR org: http://bit.ly/1iTMabb
If you want to get involved, here is a list of resources you can use to raise awareness:
Hashtags trending on Venezuela
Sources of information on the ground
Journalists & Media Outlets
Venezuela Blog: WOLA
Online TV channels Venezuela: Ahoravision.com
Sources to disseminate information to
CNN iReport: ireport.cnn.com
Amnesty International: @Amnistia
Human Rights Watch: @HRW
United Nations Human Rights: @UNRightswire
Freedom House: @FHEspanol, @FreedomHouseDC
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: @IACHRPress
Un Mundo Sin Mordaza: @Sin_Mordaza
Human Rights State: @State_DRL