Twelve years since having been for the first time overwhelmingly elected by the Venezuelan people to transform the country, President Hugo Chavez’s government continues expanding political, economic and social rights for all Venezuelans.
The September 2010 legislative elections highlighted particularly the consolidation of democracy and political and civil rights in the country. This election saw the participation of 186 political parties and a turnout of 66 percent, a historic high for the country. In those elections, opposition parties chose to rejoin the democratic game and won 65 seats in the National Assembly.
Since 1998 there have been 16 internationally monitored national elections, including a historic recall referendum in 2004.
According to the 2010 regional Latinobarometro report, 84 percent of Venezuelans said they support democracy, the highest number in the region.
Despite claims of attacks on freedom of expression, more than 86 percent of the media on public airwaves is privately owned and operated, and most is controlled by the government’s political opposition. Additionally, more than 184 channels broadcast freely through cable networks. The vibrant debate in the several Venezuelan newspapers just ratifies the vivacity of freedom of expression and press in the country.
Moreover, since 1998 the government has dramatically expanded community-based television and radio stations, encouraged independent producers and grown access to Internet for all Venezuelans. Currently, over 33 percent of the Venezuelan people have access to the Internet, a huge jump from the only three percent that did in 1998.
Venezuela has also made dramatic progress in fighting poverty, inequality and social exclusion. Since 1998, poverty has been cut in half and extreme poverty has decreased by two-thirds. Around 5 millions Venezuelans have escaped poverty and indigence.
Traditionally excluded groups such as women, indigenous group and Afro-descendents also have been granted new rights under the 1999 Constitution, increasing their role in the process of change taking place in Venezuela. Through the end of 2010, four of the five branches of government were run by women. Indigenous groups have three seats guaranteed in the National Assembly.
The Constitution of 1999 explicitly expanded many political and civil rights, allowing Venezuelans to become participants in their democratic process, instead of just a passive audience.
The parallel improvements in political rights and economic, social and cultural rights is an important marker in Venezuela’s transition from a limited representative democracy prior to 1998 to a full participatory democracy of citizens today.
Find more about Human Rights in Venezuela, in our Fact Sheet.
Press office –Venezuelan Embassy to the U.S./ April 8, 2011