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Venezuela does not have specific legislation protecting environmental defenders and has not entered into the 2018 Escazú Agreement, which provides protections for environmental defenders.[1] Regarding domestic law, general protections are granted in the Venezuelan Constitution,[2] such as the right to life, freedom, access to justice, protection of human rights, and compensation for victims of human rights violations, but none of the environmental laws in force, such as the Criminal Law of the Environment[3] or the Organic Law of the Environment,[4] specifically protect environmental activists or defenders. 

Although Venezuela does not have the highest number of deaths in the Americas, the nongovernmental organization Global Witness reported three murders of environmental defenders and a number of threats and acts of intimidation towards indigenous environmental leaders in 2018 on indigenous lands where illegal mining activities are occurring.[5]

Under the Organic Law of Indigenous Peoples and Communities, indigenous communities have been granted extensive protective rights to their land as well as the right to participate in decision-making processes affecting their land and its environment, including through the creation of an indigenous justice system.[6] However, Global Witness has reported that indigenous leaders who are environmental defenders not only have not received protection from the government, but have been subject to criminal prosecution for their activism.[7]

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Prepared by Graciela Rodriguez-Ferrand
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
November 2019


[1] Lorena Meléndez G., No Hay Quien Proteja a los Defensores Ambientales en Venezuela, Mongabay (Oct. 28, 2019), https://perma.cc/5JHM-ZYED.

[2] Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela tit. III, ch. 1, Gaceta Oficial [G.O.], Feb. 19, 2009, https://perma.cc/UCX5-CN5N.

[3] Ley Penal del Ambiente, G.O., May 2, 2012, https://perma.cc/6NTN-UW5W.

[4] Ley Orgánica del Ambiente, G.O., Dec. 22, 2006, https://perma.cc/P28Y-ET2F.

[5] Global Witness, Enemies of the State: How Governments and Businesses Silence Land and Environmental Defenders 8, 11 (July 30, 2019), https://perma.cc/8SZH-6SQH; Meléndez G.,  supra note 1.

[6] Ley Orgánica de Pueblos y Comunidades Indígenas arts. 11-17, 19, 68, 132-136, G.O. Dec. 27, 2005, https://perma.cc/7K5T-WSAF.

[7] Global Witness, supra note 5, at 11. 

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020