Relatives of political prisoners carry signs with pictures of them calling the attention of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, during a protest to demand their freedom in front of El Helicoide prison in Caracas, on November 3, 2021

Facts and figures: Politically motivated detentions in Venezuela

Politically motivated arbitrary detentions

  • Organisations such as Foro Penal and Justicia, Encuentro y Perdón estimate that there are currently between 286 and 319 people who have been deprived of their liberty for political reasons in Venezuela. 
  • Between 2014 and 2023 there have been around 15,700 politically motivated arbitrary arrests in Venezuela, according to Foro Penal

Patterns common to arbitrary detention:  

  • Arrests without warrants with the alleged justification of flagrancy  
  • Short periods of enforced disappearance followed by arrest  
  • Accusations of offences with broad discretion  
  • Limitations on access to the right to defence; use of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment  
  • Undue delays in investigation times and – in the case of releases from prison – subjection to criminal proceedings that make no progress and maintain restrictions on the person’s liberty through alternative measures to pre-trial detention  
  • Retaliation as an aim of detention  
  • The use of special courts having jurisdiction over ‘terrorism’  
  • Accusations of the offence of criminal association with a low standard of evidence  
  • The application of severe penalties up to the highest possible sentence 

Emblematic cases from the report ‘Life detained’: 

  • All these individuals were arrested between 2018 and 2022 and continue to be deprived of their liberty 
  • One trade unionist from public industries; 2 are human rights defenders; 2 are women; 1 is a teacher; 1 is a neurodivergent person (on the autistic spectrum): 
  • Emirlendris Benítez: 42 years old, mother and tradeswoman, arrested in August 2018. 
  • María Auxiliadora Delgado and Juan Carlos Marrufo: 49/52 years old, married professionals, arrested in March 2019 
  • Roland Carreño: journalist and political activist, arrested in October 2020 
  • Guillermo Zárraga: 59, former trade unionist and father, arrested in November 2020 
  • Dario Estrada: 43 years old, engineer and neurodiverse person, arrested in December 2020. 
  • Robert Franco: 54 years old, teacher and trade unionist, arrested in December 2020 
  • Javier Tarazona: 41 years old, human rights defender and prisoner of conscience, arrested in July 2021 
  • Gabriel Blanco: 46 years old, activist and humanitarian worker, arrested in July 2022 

Protests and social unrest

  • The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS) recorded 2,814 protests during the first three months of 2023, equivalent to 31 per day. This figure represents an increase of 47% compared to the same period last year. 
  • The OVCS states that, up to March 2023, 88% of protests nationwide were demanding goods and services such as electricity, access to water and fuel, pensions for the elderly, access to health services, and others. 

The massive outflow of people from the country continues

  • The critical economic and social situation that persists in Venezuela is also reflected in the figure of 7.3 million people who have left the country in search of protection.  
  • These 7.3 million people account for approximately 25% of the total population. In other words, 1 in 4 people have left the country. 
  • This indicates an increase of more than a million in people who left the country between May 2022 and May 2023, which is in turn a demonstration of the ongoing deepening human rights crisis in the country.