Venezuelan People


Yon Goicoechea

23 years old and in his last year of law school, Yon Goicoechea Lara, alongside a group of student leaders from numerous universities in Venezuela, has emerged as representative and spokesperson of a dissident movement that defends the democratic values in his country.

The Student Movement has called for national reconciliation and constantly used the language and tactics of non-violence and peaceful resistance. Yon Goicoechea and his classmates have chosen to publicly oppose what they see as the violations of human rights by the Venezuelan government. Since May 27, 2007—prompted by the shutdown of Radio Caracas Television after their broadcasting license was not renewed (see—there has been a constant student presence on the streets and outside the headquarters of public offices.

The Student Movement has presented documents to the different branches of the Venezuelan government, including the People’s Ombudsman, the National Legislature, the Supreme Tribunal, the Attorney General’s Office, and the National Electoral Council, as well as on an international level to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C. These documents demand that the government guarantee the students the right to demonstrate peacefully; the right to participate in public affairs regardless of their political affiliations; and the rights to life, liberty and physical integrity. These documents were all presented in accordance with Venezuelan laws and regulations, in response to police repression and the more than 200 student demonstrators detained by state security officials during the exercise of their right to protest.

The support garnered by the Student Movement—not only from students but from civil society in general—has received the attention of government authorities: the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez; the President of the Legislative Assembly, Cilia Flores; parliamentarians such as Luis Tascón and Iris Valera; the Minister of Interior and Justice Pedro Carreño; and the Leader of the Government Party, Lina Ron. These officials, among others, have publicly attacked dissenting students, labeling them as “fascists,” “enemies of the fatherland,” “far-right collaborationists,” and “puppets of the empire” among other characterizations.

All of this has generated an environment of growing violence in which government loyalists have verbally and physically assaulted Yon Goicoechea and other student leaders. During a recent roundtable to discuss the consequences of the Constitutional Reform proposed by President Chávez, Yon Goicoechea could not present his views because he was severely beaten by a hostile group of students, seriously injuring his face and head.
Goicoechea and his family are subjected to constant intimidation. This situation became particularly serious when the threats were directed to Yon’s father, who has been in state custody awaiting trial for more than three years. Anonymous calls threatened to worsen his father’s conditions in jail. Yon has recently had to intensify his security precautions (which include constantly changing the place were he sleeps and changing his telephones regularly) due to increased threats and physical attacks.

Yon and other Student Movement leaders and participants are victims of political persecution and aggression from followers of President Hugo Chávez simply because of their public exposure and the open and clear manner in which they have denounced what they consider to be serious human rights violations in Venezuela.

Goicoechea has expressed to us his concern for his and his family’s physical integrity and his fear of being falsely accused by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (one of the government’s most common tactics used to intimidate and silence dissidents).

The Human Rights foundation has taken Yon Goicoechea’s case as the second case in its Caracas Nine Campaign. Yon is a leader of the dissident student community and the Venezuelan Government is legally bound to guarantee his right to peaceful demonstration without coercion, abuses, or excessive force from the state security officials. The state must guarantee to the student community the rights to life, physical integrity, freedom of conscience, freedom of movement, due process, and protection against torture and inhumane or degrading treatment. Furthermore, these rights must apply to all persons regardless of political affiliation or opinions. HRF stands for the rights of Yon Goicoechea and the student dissident community. Anything less than fully guaranteeing and protecting the abovementioned rights is a violation of the Venezuelan Constitution and the international treaties that Venezuela has signed and ratified.

Dissident Student Leader Persecuted for Peaceful Protest Organization. Caracas Nine.





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