A.        The Armed Forces


257.     The 1999 Constitution included Title VII on “National Security”, which contains two chapters entitled “Principles of National Security” and “General Provisions”, which contain the rules and regulations governing National Security and the National Armed Forces, respectively.[126] In the statement of intent of the Constitution it says that to better accomplish the aims assigned to them under the Constitution, the National Armed Forces were unified into a single military corps composed of the Army, Navy, Air Force and the National Guard, which would function in an integrated manner in the scope of its competence to complete its mission; however, each of the four components that comprise the institution retains its characteristics and particular functions.[127]


258.     Based on its analysis of these new Constitutional rules, the Commission considers that certain provisions and institutions have been included that are questionable when viewed in the light of a democratic conception of the defense and security of the state.


259.     First, with regard to attribution of responsibility and jurisdiction over national security, the Commission notes that the terminology used in the constitutional provisions contains areas of imprecision or ambiguity that could lead to erroneous interpretations regarding the scope of the state’s responsibility in this area, as are reflected also in the recently adopted Organic Law on National Security [Ley Orgánica de Seguridad de la Nación].


260.     Article 322 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela provides that:


National security is an essential purview and responsibility of the State, based on the overall development of the latter, and its defense is the responsibility of all Venezuelans, as well as of all public- and private-law natural and legal persons within the geographical limits of Venezuela.


            261.     For its part, Article 326 provides that:


National security is based on joint responsibility between the State and civil society to implement the principles of independence, democracy, equality, peace, freedom, justice, solidarity, promotion and conservation of the environment and affirmation of human rights, as well as on that of progressively meeting the individual and collective needs of Venezuelans, based on a sustainable and productive development policy providing full coverage for the national community.  The principle of joint responsibility applies to the economic, social, political, cultural, geographical, environmental and military spheres.


262.     From its reading of the above-transcribed provisions, the Commission notes that that first establishes that national security, as distinct from national defense, is essentially the purview of the state and that responsibility for it is attributed to all natural and legal persons within the territory of the country. The second provision, meanwhile, introduces the principle of joint responsibility between the state and society. The Commission believes it necessary to be precise on certain aspects in that regard. It should be mentioned that national security as the function of the defense of the state against foreign aggression is a duty of the state, which has the monopoly on the use of public force and, therefore, this duty cannot be extended to civil society; indeed, it is not even feasible to place the latter on an equal plane with respect to this duty of the state. The state may receive cooperation from civil society on certain security matters, but that is not say that possession and responsibility for such a duty may reside also with institutions alien to the state.


263.     In that connection, the Commission is concerned at the provisions contained in Article 5 of the Organic Law on National Security, which says:


The State and society share responsibility for the security and overall defense of the nation, and the various activities which they undertake in the economic, social, political, cultural, geographic, environmental, and military spheres, shall seek to ensure that the national interests and objectives set down in the Constitution and Laws are met.[128]


264.     The Commission takes the view that the security of a democratic state is founded, inter alia, on values such as peace, liberty, justice, equality, protection of human rights and democratic coexistence; however, the foregoing does not mean that civil society can be placed on the same tier of responsibility as the state, which has the lawful monopoly over the use of public force, and is bound by a system of domestic and international responsibility distinct from that applicable to private persons.


265.     Regarding a second point on this issue, the Commission notes that the Constitution extends the scope of the concept of security beyond purely the military sphere to encompass, inter alia, the cultural, social, economic, and political spheres. In this respect, the IACHR considers it important to mention that in the framework of a democratic society this broad and progressive notion of national security calls for appropriate interpretations that do not extend competencies of the armed forces to other spheres separate from the armed services. The foregoing acquires greater significance when these matters concern security operations and the National Executive, under Article 325 of the Constitution, reserves the right “to classify and control disclosure of matters directly relating to the planning and execution of operations concerning national security”.


266.     Furthermore, a new national security agency called the National Defense Council was created as the “highest consultative organ for planning and advising Government on matters relating to the overall defense of the Nation”. Article 323 of the Constitution provides that:


The National Defense Council is the highest consultative organ for planning and advising Government on matters relating to the overall defense of the Nation, its sovereignty and the integrity of its geographical area.  To this end, it is also charged with determining the strategic concept of nationhood.  Presided over by the President of the Republic, it also includes the Executive Vice-President, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Justice, the Chairman of the Republican Ethics Council and the Ministers of Defense, Internal Security, Foreign Affairs, and Planning, and any others whose participation may be deemed appropriate.  The pertinent organic law shall determine the organization and powers of the National Defense Council.


267.     A number of misgivings have been brought to the attention of the IACHR regarding this agency, to the effect that it is an agency with insufficiently clearly defined powers in the area of national defense, whose composition includes, by constitutional mandate, branches of government that are independent from the Executive and the President of the Republic - who presides over it, such as the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the President of the Republican Ethics Council [Consejo Moral Republicano].


268.     The Commission notes that at this writing, the law containing the regulations governing this agency had not been enacted, and therefore, it considers it essential for legislators immediately to adopt a law that sets out the competencies and powers of this new organ, as well as the conditions determining the actions of the authorities that comprise it, and that strictly delimits the powers and mechanisms for such actions. Finally, bearing in mind the importance of the competencies assigned, particularly as regards determination of the strategic concept of nationhood for the purposes of national defense, the Commission points out that the regulations governing this new agency should be in strict accord with the principles of the rule of law regarding the independence and separation of powers.


269.     A third aspect that causes particular concern to the IACHR has to do with the constitutional provisions on the competencies and powers with respect to the internal security of the country of the National Guard as a security body that is part of the structure of the Venezuelan armed forces. Indeed, one of the Commission’s preoccupations with respect to citizen security in Venezuela has to do with the participation of the armed forces in activities that should be the exclusive responsibility of the police.


270.     In respect of the foregoing, the IACHR notes with disquiet that the Constitution provides for the participation of parts of the armed forces in internal security matters; indeed, Article 329 of the Venezuelan Constitution provides that:


The Army, Navy and Air Force have as their essential responsibility the planning, execution and control of military operations required to ensure the defense of the Nation.  The National Guard shall cooperate in carrying out these operations, and shall have as its basic responsibility that of conducting operations needed to maintain internal order within the country.  The National Armed Forces may carry out the administrative policing and criminal investigation activities provided for by law.


271.     In similar fashion, Article 20 of the Organic Law on National Security provides the following:


The National Armed Forces constitute one of the fundamental pillars for the overall defense of the Nation, and are organized by the state to lead its military defense in joint responsibility with society. Their component parts, in their respective fields of action, have responsibility for the planning, execution and control of military operations, in order to ensure the independence and sovereignty of the Nation; safeguard the integrity of the territory and other geographical areas of the Republic; and cooperate in the preservation of internal order. The participation of the National Armed Forces in the overall development of the National shall be determined by law.[129]


272.     The Commission points out that in a democratic system it is essential to make a clear and precise distinction between internal security as a function for the police and national defense as a function for the armed forces, since they are two substantively different institutions, insofar as the purposes for which they were created and their training and preparation are concerned. The history of the hemisphere shows that, broadly speaking, the intervention of the armed forces in internal security matters is accompanied by violations of human rights in violent circumstances. Therefore, practice teaches us that it is advisable to avoid the intervention of the armed forces in matters of internal security since it carries a risk of human rights violations.


273.     In this connection, the IACHR has received information about the participation of the National Guard in citizen security matters and even in other areas of government, which is incompatible with democratic requirements in matters of internal security, particularly when in the course of such interventions serious acts of violence are regularly verified in the framework of allegations of excessive use of force by the National Guard.


274.     At the international level, this issue has also brought concern to other international agencies that have questioned the excessive use of force by the National Guard.[130] 


275.     On this issue, the IACHR is concerned that the functions of the different state security services are intertwined in the area of internal security, since there is no delimitation between the competencies of the National Guard and those of the police. This lack of coordination among the different forces in charge of internal public security has been made glaringly apparent, particularly given the events of April 2002, as is described in the following section on the police.

276.     This situation has worsened due to the failure of the Metropolitan Police to patrol the streets of Caracas after they declared themselves on strike, and later also when the Ministry of the Interior ordered their intervention. This difficult situation has led to a noticeably greater military deployment. At the time of this writing, the Metropolitan Police had not been restored all of its powers, although its intervention was ended by a Supreme Court ruling on a petition for annulment and amparo interposed by the Mayor of Caracas.


277.     The Commission has also been informed of a series of reports of disproportionate use of force by the National Guard in the exercise of functions in the area of citizen security. By way of illustration, the Commission can cite the events of January 17, 2003 in the City of Valencia, State of Carabobo. In a procedure directed and carried out by the Core No. 2 of the National Guard to raid the warehouses at two facilities -PANAMCO – Coca Cola and Empresas Polar-, there were allegations that military personnel of the National Guard were responsible for disproportionate use of force when they allegedly misused and injured company employees and opposition demonstrators, who were at the gates of those warehouses. Indeed, violence was used against several women, in particular 47-year-old Ms. Elba de Diamante, coordinator of the association Mujeres por Venezuela [Women for Venezuela] and Ms. Marianela Zafrané, age 70, and Ana Stefanelli, who were also injured. It is also alleged that some employees and attorneys of PANAMCO – Coca Cola and Empresas Polar were subjected to arbitrary arrest and violation of their right to human treatment. The IACHR was informed that among the following, serious harm was caused to Messrs. Wilmer Pérez (audit manager), Adolfo Jarrín (general manager), and José Dionisio Morales (attorney), who work for Empresas Polar and were at the Guacamaya warehouses in the State of Carabobo.[131]


278.     Other examples can also be mentioned of the implications of involving the National Guard in the preservation of internal security. On December 3 and 4, 2002, there were incidents of violence and repression perpetrated by the National Guard in the exercise of their functions to maintain public order at demonstrations held in the environs of La Carlota “Generalísimo Francisco Miranda” Air Force Base. The Commission was told that tear gas, weapons and blunt objects were used, that individuals were seen carrying military weapons, and that there were snipers on buildings adjoining the aforesaid military facility. The IACHR has also been informed that a demonstration in the vicinity of the Commander General of the National Guard was violently broken up. In this respect, the IACHR was told that the Ombudsman and the Attorney General [Ministerio Público] issued statements in which they said that such incidents were evidence of excessive use of force by National Guard personnel in public order functions.


279.     The Commission considers it necessary to mention in connection with the actions of the National Guard in the area of citizen security, that the latter should not only respect human rights, but also be properly trained so as to be able to perform an effective task whenever it engages in functions in cooperation with civilian agencies. Without prejudice to foregoing, the Commission reiterates the need for an amendment of the laws governing the operational structure of the security services, in order to avoid the use of the armed forces in tasks connected with the preservation of internal public order, bearing in mind the requirements of a democratic society and as a necessary precondition to restore their credibility as an institution and to ensure the rights of citizens.


280.     The IACHR received with extreme concern reports of undue influence of the armed forces in the country’s political affairs, as well as excessive involvement by the armed forces in political decision-making. The Commission notes that this issue has a normative dimension, given the deletion from the Constitution of the express provision regarding the “non deliberative” nature of the armed forces, and, furthermore, a de facto dimension as a result of the events that occurred following the break with the constitutional order in April 2002.


281.     With respect to the constitutional dimension, the IACHR observes that the new Constitution omits a precept traditionally included in the Constitutions of Venezuela, which provided that the armed forces were an “apolitical and non deliberative” body. In this connection, it is worth citing Article 132 of the 1961 Constitution:


The National Armed Forces comprise an apolitical and non deliberative institution organized by the state to safeguard national defense, the stability of democratic institutions, and respect for the Constitution and laws, abidance with which shall always be above any other duty. The National Armed Forces shall be at the service of the Republic, and in no case at the service of any person or a political partisanship.


282.     The new constitutional text replaces it as follows:


The National Armed Forces constitute an essentially professional institution, with no political orientation, organized by the State to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the Nation and ensure the integrity of its geographical area, through military defense, cooperation for the purpose of maintaining internal order and active participation in national development, in accordance with this Constitution and the law.  In performing their functions, they are at the exclusive service of the Nation, and in no case at the service of any person or political partisanship.  The pillars on which they are founded are discipline, obedience and subordination.  The National Armed Forces consist of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the National Guard, which function in an integrated manner within the scope of their competence to fulfill their mission, with their own overall Social Security system, as established under the pertinent organic law.


283.     Accordingly, the reference to their non deliberative nature “has been completely” omitted. The Commission considers that such an omission signifies a negative setback for democratic institutions because, when considered in the light of the military’s newly granted right to vote, its sends an implicit or tacit message that encourages the armed forces to choose sides in the political arena and to intervene in favor of the government or the opposition, creating situations of insubordination that are unacceptable in a democratic context.


284.     As regards the de facto dimension of this issue, of particular concern to the Commission is the fact that the aforementioned participation of the armed forces in the political affairs of Venezuela has included a series of acts that are alien to the normal activities of institutions under the rule of law. Indeed, the Commission notes that both the Government and some sectors of society rely on the National Armed Forces or on groups of officers to take their side; this even led to the break with the constitutional order, as seen, concretely, in the measures adopted following April 11, 2002, by a dissident sector of the Armed Forces, which was involved in the planning and execution of the coup d’état. The politicization and division of the military was made clear on that occasion by the fact that events showed that military personnel planned the coup, and that the President Chávez was also restored to the presidency with military backing.


285.     Without prejudice to the foregoing, despite the rebellious conduct of some officers, it should be mentioned that, overall, the armed services defended the constitutional order. It should also be recognized that the Armed Forces refused to carry out repressive plans against the civilian population during the events of April, particularly April 11.  This contrasts favorably with the tragic examples in the history of region. 


286.     The Commission notes that the abortive coup highlighted a split in the armed forces. Indeed this division was exteriorized when, on October 22, a group of 14 military chiefs declared themselves in “legitimate disobedience” of the Government and called on other members of the armed forces to join them. The generals said that they considered the Plaza Francia, the place where they read out their declaration of disobedience, to be “liberated territory”. The Commission has received information to the effect that, to date, those military officers remain in the aforesaid plaza in a state of disobedience.


287.     The IACHR emphatically underscores that, pursuant to Article 4 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the constitutional subordination of all state institutions to the civilian authority is essential to democracy.


288.     For that reason, the Commission points out that the armed forces cannot engage in political decision making. The Commission considers it essential for the Venezuelan state urgently to implement the measures necessary to ensure that the armed forces do not engage in political decision making and to prevent the participation of these institutions in the political affairs of the country. In that connection, it is necessary to punish any involvement in political decision making by the armed forces, in order to avoid further acts of insubordination of sectors of the armed forces against the democratically elected civilian authority. Finally, to restore the credibility of the armed forces and protect the rights of citizens, it is essential to ensure that the armed forces and the security services refrain from involvement in political decision making, are subordinate to civilian authority, and act with impartiality. In that regard it is also essential to avoid their use for tasks connected with preservation of public order.


289.     Furthermore, it is essential to take resolute steps to enforce military and criminal codes that punish such conduct, in order to avert acts of insubordination by sectors of the armed forces against the democratically elected civilian authority. As mentioned, the reality in the region shows is that the involvement of the armed forces in political decision-making tends to precede departures from the constitution, which almost always lead to serious violations of human rights. It is the responsibility of all sectors, but particularly that of the Government, to ensure that the armed forces play exclusively the roles of defending the national sovereignty for which they have been established and trained.


290.     In this context, the IACHR expresses its profound concern at the murder in the small hours of February 16, 2003 of three dissident soldiers: Darwin Arguello, Corporal 2nd class (Army); Ángel Salas, Leading Seaman 2nd class (Navy); Félix Pinto, Corporal 2nd class (Air Force); and of an adolescent girl, Gabriela Peroza. The corpses were found on an area of waste ground in the Parque Caiza sector, near the road to Guarenas (on the outskirts of Caracas). The Commission has been informed of significant progress in the investigation in that respect. Indeed, a minor girl of 14 survived the incident when the shot she received that night only grazed her head and she was apparently left for dead by the attackers. She recognized two men who allegedly fired the shots that killed the aforementioned victims. The surviving minor remained in Domingo Luciani Hospital until she recovered and then taken on April 15, 2003 to the Palace of Justice to make her statement. The Commission reiterates to the state its duty to continue to investigate seriously and to punish those responsible for the incident.


291.     Finally, another aspect of concern to the Commission is the establishment of a procedural privilege in favor of generals and admirals of the armed forces, given that, under the Constitution, in order to impeach them, the Supreme Court of Justice must first rule whether or not there are grounds to do so. Article 266 (3) of the new Constitution expressly provides:


The powers of the Supreme Court of Justice are to:




3. To rule whether or not there are grounds to impeach the Vice President of the Republic; members of the National Assembly or the Supreme Court of Justice itself, Ministers; the Attorney General; Prosecutor General; Comptroller General of the Republic; the Ombudsman; Governors; general officers and navy admirals of the National Armed Forces; or the heads of Venezuelan diplomatic missions; and, if so, to refer the record to the Prosecutor General of the Republic or whomever is acting in his capacity, as appropriate, and if the offense charged is a common crime, the Supreme Court of Justice shall retain jurisdiction over the matter until a final judgment is rendered.



292.     In respect of the foregoing, the Commission considers that this prerequisite is not compatible with the requirements of the rule of law in relation to proper administration of justice, in the sense that it can constitute a privilege that affords impunity to members of the armed forces. A case in point is the preliminary hearing on merits held at the request of the Prosecutor General of the Republic, Mr. Julián Isaías Rodríguez Días, to determine if there was probable cause to assume that four officers, Rear Admirals Héctor Ramírez Pérez and Daniel Comisso Urdaneta, and Generals Efraín Velasco and Pedro Antonio Pereira, bore responsibility in connection with the events of April, 11, 12 and 13, 2002.


293.     In a judgment of August 14, 2002, the Supreme Court of Justice acquitted the aforementioned officers, finding insufficient grounds to prosecute them on the charge of military insurrection. The proposed decision of Justice Franklin Arriachi, which rejects the existence of grounds to impeach the officers for “military insurrection”, was approved by Venezuela’s topmost judicial organ by 11 votes in favor and eight against.[132]


B.         The Police


294.     The police force is a fundamental institution to uphold the rule of law and to guarantee the security of the population. Given its nationwide coverage and the variety of its functions, it is one of the State institutions that most often has relations with the public.


295.     The new Venezuelan Constitution provides at Article 332 that:


The National Executive, in accordance to law, shall, to maintain and restore public order; protect citizens, homes and families; support the decisions of the competent authorities, and ensure the peaceful enjoyment of constitutional guarantees and rights, organize:


1.      A uniformed national police force.


2.      A scientific, criminal, and criminalistic investigations force.


3.      A civilian fire department and emergency management corps.


The citizen security organs are civilian in nature and shall respect the dignity of the person and human rights, without discrimination of any kind.


The functions of the citizen security organs constitute a concurrent jurisdiction with those of the States and Municipalities under the terms prescribed in this Constitution and the law.


296.     In this respect, the Commission notes a substantial shortcoming in the scope of police activity: the National Assembly has not passed the National Police Force Law pursuant to the fourth transitory provision and in accordance with Article 332 of the Constitution. According to the information supplied by the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, there are currently 95 police forces in existence in the country, 71 of which are municipal police forces and 24 are state police forces. In addition there are the Scientific, Criminal, and Criminalistic Investigations Force (CICPC) and the DISIP (political police), which function at the national level.[133] The States of Amazonas, Apure, Falcón and Portuguesa are the only ones without municipal police forces; only the state police forces operate in those States.


297.     In effect, citizen security in the country deteriorated in proportion to the scale of violence that erupted with the events of April. Thus, in the current climate citizen security in Venezuela is particularly compromised. First, there was an obvious failure to design and implement a public policy on citizen security. Second, the increasing independence of the police forces, their open participation in day-to-day political affairs, the recurrent use of force to contain crime and violence, and their connection with criminal acts, impair the ability of this institution to carry out its functions.


298.     Indeed, the Commission notes the existence of a problem in the conduct of the various police forces as evinced by a series of events, the most important ones being: the strike of the Metropolitan Police starting in October 2002; police strikes in several states around the country; proliferation in various states of death squads [grupos de exterminio] with ties to police organizations, a situation that infringes the rule of law and, in particular, that violates the right to life; disproportionate use of force in certain circumstances, the murders that were attributed to the Metropolitan Police at the time of the break with the constitutional order and the political struggle between the National Executive and Caracas City Hall to control that institution.


299.     The Commission finds from its analysis of the current state of the rule of law, the most significant events, given their impact on institutions, are: the activities of death squads that would appear to operated with the acquiescence of state police forces, as will be examined in connection with violations of the right to life; the measures used by the police in events of April; and the intervention of the Metropolitan Police, which has been widely rejected in society because it is regarded as a manifestation of political polarization in Venezuela, to the extent that the Metropolitan Mayor is connected with the opposition sectors.


300.     With respect to the actions of police forces, the events that occurred from April 11 to 14, 2002, in first place conspicuously highlighted the lack of security policies. In that connection, the events of those days, which resulted in serious injuries and many deaths, show that the Venezuelan state continues to have serious difficulties in controlling confrontational mass public demonstrations of the citizenry in the framework of the Constitution, and that the operations planned by the various security forces either were not carried out or failed, which, furthermore, drew attention to the lack of effective internal control mechanisms.


301.     In second place, the events of April 11 plainly revealed the politicization of this police body.  Indeed, there are accusations and counter-accusations regarding the actions of the police forces on April 11, 2002.  Some sectors accuse the National Guard of protecting pro-government groups, and say that for that reason they deal violently with opposition groups; likewise, the former say that the Metropolitan Police accompany opposition groups on demonstrations and, therefore, shoot at pro-government demonstrators.  In this connection, the Commission emphatically points out that the lawful function of the security forces is to protect peaceful demonstrators and to ensure public security, acting with complete impartiality towards all the Venezuelan citizens, regardless of their political affiliation or the content of their demonstrations. 


302.     In this case, the Commission considers from its review of the situation that it is necessary separate the behavior of the political activists on both sides from that of the police forces.  Under international law and the Venezuelan Constitution, the actions of the security forces in democratic systems should exclusively serve the interests of society at large, not given political factions.  In other words, in exercising their public functions, the police should not side with political parties or movements, however large they may be, against other similar groups that confront or threaten them.  The Commission notes that one of the causes of the crisis of public order was the neglect by the police forces of their fundamental mission to protect the free exercise of rights by citizens, instead of which they became directly embroiled in the political clash, with highly negative consequences for the current situation in Venezuela. 


303.     As to the intervention of the Metropolitan Police, it was brought to the attention of the IACHR that the Ministry of the Interior and Justice ordered that intervention on November 16, 2002.  Accordingly, personnel of the National Guard, the Army, and the DISIP (political police) proceeded to seize control of the majority of Metropolitan Police stations, while Army armored vehicles stationed themselves at the entrances to the seized police stations.  According to the information supplied, the police dispute that triggered this measure was a symptom of the polarization of the political situation in Venezuela.  Indeed, the Commission was informed that on October 1 a group of 80 pro-government agents took over the communications center at the Metropolitan Police headquarters to demand the back pay owed to them.  Subsequently, on November 12th, those same officers, armed with weapons, forced their way into City Hall where for five hours they held captive the Metropolitan Mayor, who publicly supports the opposition groups.  This incident led to the violent confrontation between police sympathetic to the different political groups.  This confrontation brought about the death of two people and the injury of 20 others, as a result of which the President ordered the intervention of the Metropolitan Police.  The aforementioned events lead the Commission to presume that the circumstances underlying the order to intervene the Metropolitan Police were political in nature. 


304.     By Resolutions 567, 568, and 569 of November 16, 2002, published two days later in Official Gazette No. 37. 572, the Ministry of the Interior and Justice proceeded to remove from office the High Command of the Metropolitan and appointed a new Director, who, in turn, would appoint a new Executive Board.  This decision had a major impact internally. Indeed, different sectors of civil society rejected the decision of the National Executive to intervene the Metropolitan Police because they considered the measure unconstitutional.[134]


305.     According to publicly available information, the Office of the Mayor went to the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic and the Supreme Court of Justice on 25 November, 2002 to present a complaint against the military takeover of the Metropolitan Police and to lodge with the Supreme Court a petition for annulment and amparo against the administrative measure ordered by the Ministry of the Interior and Justice.


306.     As a result of those measures, on December 19, 2002, the Supreme Court of Justice issued its decision on the petition for annulment and amparo interposed by the Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas. The Court ordered the annulment of the aforementioned Resolution N° 569 of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice which appointed Mr. González Sánchez Delgado as the Director General in Charge of the Metropolitan Police of Caracas. The Court ruled that the officials appointed by the Mayor to the leadership of the Police should resume their regular activities in the framework of their powers and of the guidelines and plans determined by the Citizen Security Council.[135] The powers of the Metropolitan Police were thus restored in the above-described manner. The Court also ordered the Armed Forces to leave all police stations within 15 working days, unless the Security Council were to decide otherwise; during that period the Armed Forces and the Police would be required to coexist.[136]


307.     On January 8, 2003 the Security Council decided “to extend the temporary special situation provided in Decree N° 567 (appointment of a temporary Director of the Metropolitan Police) and also the presence of military units in police stations, until responsibility for the acts of violence attributed to the Metropolitan Police has been clearly determined and the demands of the Citizen Security Council are met”.


308.     Following the aforementioned judgment of the Constitutional Chamber, the Government, for its part, proceeded to retain possession of the arms and communications equipment of the Metropolitan Police.  Finally, the Commission was informed that on October 9, 2003, the intervention of the Metropolitan Police was lifted, thus finalizing its removal from military control.  That measure was the result of a resolution issued by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, which ordered the enforcement of the judgment ordering the intervention to be lifted.


309.     Based on the foregoing, the Commission notes that the police forces are plagued by a series of problems.  First, the IACHR reiterates its concern at the politicization of the security forces, and also at the current predicament of the Metropolitan Police.  It further notes that the judgment of the Supreme Court has not yet led to the full normalization of its lawful powers and functions, in particular, since at the time of this writing it had not recovered its arms and certain operational equipment.  As a result, this police force is weaponless and for that reason has operational problems.  In this respect, the Commission considers it especially important to mention that it is highly dangerous for the powers of the forces of public order, in this case the Metropolitan Police, to be politicized, either by government sectors that regard it as an enemy police force, or by opposition groups that consider the Metropolitan Police to be there force.  In that connection, the Commission notes that the aforementioned intervention ordered by the government gave the impression, while the measure remained in effect, that it was prompted by partisan motives and was not by a desire to provide a better security service.


310.     Finally, with respect to the police in general, no national police force has yet been set up, nor has a plan of action been coordinated among the police forces of different states, which hampers effective policing and creates conflicts of jurisdiction.


C.         Recommendations


311.     In keeping with its previous recommendations the Inter-American Commission recommend that the State of Venezuela:


1.         Amend the provisions contained in Article 326 of the Constitution and Article 5 of the Organic Law on National Security with respect to making national security a matter of joint responsibility for the State and Civil Society, so that, in keeping with the aforementioned, they are fully compatible with democratic requirements as regards duties and responsibilities in the area of State security.


2.         Create immediately the regulations of the National Security Council. These regulations should set out the powers and competencies of the Council and the conditions governing the actions of the branches of government that comprise it, as well as the necessary guarantees to ensure their impartiality and independence.


3.         Adopt the measures necessary to avoid the intervention of the Armed Forces in non-exceptional public security operations and to curb the disproportionate use of public force.


4.         Enact public security policies designed to ensure effective coordination among the various forces charged with maintaining public security, and to coordinate security measures with the Mayor of the Metropolitan Area as head of the Metropolitan Police.


5.        Intensify training efforts in the area of human rights for members of the State security bodies and implement mechanisms for punishment and removal of members involved in human rights violations in the performance of their duties.


6.        Take resolute steps to enforce military criminal codes that punish insubordination by members of the armed forces against the democratically elected civilian authority.


7.          Adopt, as ordered by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the measures necessary to restore the Metropolitan Police of Caracas to its regular duties and to ensure that the Armed Forces do not exceed their jurisdiction and functions. The IACHR also reminds the State of its duty to investigate in order to determine the responsibilities of members of the State security bodies with respect to the events of April.


8.          Accord priority to the adoption of a professional policy on citizen security that meets the requirements of the Convention and of the rule of law.


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[126] See Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Title VII, Chapters II and III.

[127] See statement of intent of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Title VII.

[128] Organic Law on National Security, published in Official Gazette N° 37594 of December 18, 2002.

[129] Ibidem.

[130]  Amnesty International has been denouncing excessive use of force by the National Guard, as it did in “Venezuela: A Human Rights Agenda for the Current Crisis”, January 21, 2003. Human Rights Watch expressed itself in a similar vein in its 2003 annual report on Venezuela.

[131] IPS, Inter Press Service, Latin America, Venezuela, Humberto Márquez.

[132] Supreme Court of Justice, Full Interim Chamber, Judgment of August 14, 2002, Venezuela.

[133] The State of Miranda is the federal entity with the largest number of municipal police forces (17). It is followed by the State de Anzoátegui (10), while in third and fourth place are Carabobo and Zulia, with seven and five municipal police forces, respectively. Despite the high number of police forces in these states (55% of the total), 47% of all recorded crime occurred there in 2001, as well as 51% of all known homicides.

[134] COFAVIC, Public Communiqué, COFAVIC Rechaza Uso Desproporcional de la Fuerza Pública [COFAVIC Rejects Disproportionate Use of Public Force], December 4, 2002.

[135] The Citizen Security Council was created by Law N° 1453 of September 20, 2001, and published in the Official Gazette of November 6 of that year. Article 18 provides, The purpose of the Citizen Security Council is to study, formulate and evaluate national policies on citizen security”. With respect to its composition, Article 19 provides, “The Citizen Security Council shall be composed of the Minister of the Interior and Justice, who presides over it; the Vice Minister of Citizen Security of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice; a representative of the State Governors; a representative of the Mayors; the National Coordinator of the Police; the National Coordinator of the Scientific, Criminal, and Criminalistic Investigations Force; the National Coordinator of the Fire Department; and the National Coordinator of the Civil Defense and Disaster Management Organization”.

[136] Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela, Constitutional Chamber, Judgment of December 19, 2002.