On November 2, 2015, Venezuelan police and members of the country’s national guard reportedly broke up a non-violent student protest outside the gates of the Vice President’s Office in Caracas, beating and injuring ten protesters in the process.
The students had gathered to deliver a document to the Vice President, demanding a resolution to a budget crisis that they argue has paralyzed public universities for more than two months. Professors throughout Venezuela went on strike in September 2015, demanding that the government increase the budget for public universities, insisting that the current budget fails to provide them with a living wage, and deprives universities of the resources they need to operate properly. As of this report, some 18 public universities in Venezuela remain shuttered as a result of the strike.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent use of disproportionate force against students engaged in the non-violent exercise of protected human rights, including freedom of speech and association. While state authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order and protecting property, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation and that respect peaceful expression and minimize the risk of physical injury. Use of excessive force in response to peaceful expressive activity creates unnecessary risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.