Venezuela’s economic and human rights crisis

NEWS RELEASES – Since 2012, Venezuela has been facing a severe economic crisis, which is expected to result in a 13’000% inflation this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). [1] As anticipated, this critical situation has already started to impact Venezuelans’ human rights. The middle class in particular suffers from this economic meltdown, which is deepened by the current political turmoil caused by President Nicolás Maduro’s alleged authoritarian leadership. [2] 


Protesta - source: Wikimedia Commons

Origins and extent of the crisis

In the 1970s, Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America, and one of the 20 richest countries in the world. Venezuelans enjoyed high wages and advanced social services. [3] Since then, the country’s economy – which relies heavily on its oil - has suffered and gone through periods of intense inflation, driving half the population to live below the poverty line. Nonetheless, under the Hugo Chavez administration, government finances were said to be in “tolerably good shape”. [4]

Since 2012, Venezuela is thus experiencing the worst economic crisis in its history, prompted by the drop in oil prices, rise in imports, and steady social spending, causing debt (of $7.2 billion according to the Central Bank of Venezuela), negative growth rate (minus eight per cent), increasing unemployment (17%) and hyperinflation (of 481% today). [5]

As a result, the bolivar (Venezuelan currency) has immensely lost in value, and the country is now running out of low-value notes. ATMs have low daily limits, banks are running out of bank notes, and there is overall “not enough cash in circulation to keep up with the soaring prices”. [6] The blame is largely bestowed upon President Nicolás Maduro’s leftist government, whose social spending are supposedly at the root of the inflation, and whose economic policies to restore stability have arguably exacerbated the country’s vulnerability. [7]    

Impact on local populations

The impact of this crisis is disastrous on local populations, whose universal human rights seem to be continuously violated in a variety of ways.

To start with, the price hikes and loss of value of the domestic currency brought about an important shortage of food and medicines, thus compromising the right to health and livelihood of citizens. According to research conducted by Venezuela’s top universities, ¾ of Venezuelans have lost weight over the past year, and the average loss is of 9kgs. [8] It appears that nine out of ten homes can’t cover the cost of what they should eat, inciting 10 million people to skip at least one meal a day, in order to save money or feed their children. [9] Furthermore, rates of malnourishment have been rising sharply, especially among children, with more than half affected in some way. [10]  

Withal, President Maduro is accused of leading authoritarian politics, and his name has been on many occasions associated with dictatorship. [11] Indeed, public protests have been banned, and military troops are being mobilized to repress the opposition. This has been conducive to hundreds of civil deaths and unlawful imprisonment, which advocates for social justice denounce as an infringement of rights to peaceful assembly, political participation, security, and fair trials. [12]

On the topic of security concerns, Venezuela has also become subject to violence and rampant crime. Civils engage in rioting - which as we previously established often times culminates in brutal police repression-, but also stealing or killing, as ways to make up for the food shortages that leave them and their families hungry. [13] What’s more, illegal operations have developed since the beginning of the crisis. Prostitution is a notable example. In an article published in August 2017, The Guardian interviewed a woman compelled to work in a brothel in order to feed her family, who reports that the number of women there has doubled since the beginning of the crisis, and the ages have dropped, suggesting many under-aged girls are today forced into prostitution. [14]  

In other words, the economic crisis, whose causes seem to be largely self-inflicted by the Maduro administration, is at the heart of important human rights violations. In fact, Venezuelans are today denied their natural freedom to political participation and peaceful assembly, as well as their right to physical security, health, fair trial, decent work conditions and salary. In light of all this evidence, ending the crisis should be a top priority and international endeavor made possible either by way of financial assistance, humanitarian intervention, or political pressure.

By Manon Fabre – Research Assistant at CIPADH 



[1] International Monetary Fund. República Bolivariana de Venezuela.

[2] The Guardian. The Observer view on the crisis in Venezuela.

[3] Al Jazeera. Venezuela's worst economic crisis: What went wrong?

[4] IBID

[5] IBID

[6] The Guardian. Cash crunch: how Venezuela inadvertently became a cashless economy.

[7] IBID

[8] The Guardian. Hunger eats away at Venezuela’s soul as its people struggle to survive.

[9] IBID

[10] IBID

[11] The Guardian. Nicolás Maduro: will Venezuela’s president drag his people to the edge?

[12] IBID

[13] The Guardian. Hunger eats away at Venezuela’s soul as its people struggle to survive.

[14] IBID