On March 22, 2017, police forces and armed civilians reportedly attacked professors and administrative staff during a march organized by the Comando Nacional Interfederativo del Sector Universitario (National Interfederal Command of the University Sector; or CNISU).
CNISU serves as an organizing body for several trade unions connected to higher education in Venezuela, representing faculty, administrators, and other staff. The March 22 march was organized in response to reports that the government had excluded CNISU in its consultations for the third collective convention on labor regulations for education professionals. The organizers planned to deliver a list of demands to the office of Venezuela’s Vice President at the end of the march.
Shortly after the march began, Bolivarian National Guard and Bolivarian National Police officers on the scene attempted to disperse the participants by launching tear gas at them. Armed civilian groups known as colectivos reportedly threw stones and bottles at the demonstrators. Sources indicate that the group was not allowed to reach the Vice President’s office and was quickly dispersed. At least 16 participants were reportedly injured.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about attacks on higher education community members engaged in the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Venezuela is a party. Violent force intended to restrict such conduct undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.