SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: November 03, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):University of Los Andes

Region & Country:Americas | Venezuela

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 3, 2016, Andy Guillen, a student from theUniversity of Los Andes (ULA), was reportedly abducted in apparent connection with an investigation into a recent protest during which a Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) vehicle was burned.

Protests and marches had been organized throughout Venezuela following an announcement on October 20 that Venezuela’s electoral authority suspended a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro from office. GNB officials claimed that, on November 2, a group of protesters stole one of their vehicles and drove it to the ULA campus where they burned it.

On November 3, Mr. Guillen and a classmate walked to ULA to attend one of the referendum marches. After they arrived on campus, unidentified individuals in an unmarked van approached Mr. Guillen, forced him into the van and drove away. He was released ten hours later in El Junco, 20 minutes outside of Caracas. According to one of Mr. Guillen’s classmates, the captors — who never identified themselves — covered his face, pointed a gun at him, and interrogated him about who had burned the GNB van at the November 2 protest. 

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the abduction and interrogation of a student, apparently in connection with his participation in a student protest. While authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order and protecting property, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, minimize the risk of physical injury, and otherwise respect the rights to free expression and due process. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.