Venezuela Must Ensure the Right to Vote of Venezuelans Who Live Outside the Country Whatever their Migration Status, IACHR Says

June 18, 2024

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about the hurdles faced by Venezuelans who live outside their country when trying to register to vote, based on their migration status. These hurdles entail violations of their political rights, have a negative impact on the integrity of the presidential election scheduled for July 28, and evidence the lack of independence of electoral authorities.

Venezuela's Constitution says that all Venezuelan citizens who are 18 or older and have not been disenfranchised may register to vote. However, following orders from the National Electoral Council (CNE), Venezuelan consulates are demanding resident visas as the only valid proof to register to vote from abroad. This requirement disregards the fact that millions of Venezuelans who live outside the country do not have resident visas, either because they have not regularized their migration status or because they have some other migration document, like Colombia's Temporary Protection Permit, Peru's Temporary Stay Permit, Ecuador's Exceptional Temporary Residence Visa for Venezuelan Citizens, or Chile's Temporary Residence Document.

Given the serious human rights crisis in Venezuela, at least 7.7 million of its citizens have been forced to leave their country since 2015. While the exact number of those individuals who are currently 18 or older remains unknown, various civil society organizations have estimated that at least 5.5 million Venezuelans who live outside their country would be eligible to vote. This implies that a significant number of potential voters could have their right to political participation violated by not being allowed to register.

Article 23 of the American Convention, Article XX of the American Declaration, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter all state that citizen participation in decision-making concerning their own development is a right, a responsibility, and a necessary condition for the full, effective exercise of democracy. Demanding resident visas to allow millions of people outside the country to register to vote and therefore to cast their ballots is an arbitrary measure that negatively affects the integrity of the upcoming presidential election. Further, disenfranchising individuals without residence visas is a way of criminalizing migration, since it in practice makes the situation of individuals who have left the country equivalent to that of individuals who have been convicted of crimes.

The State must urgently take all necessary measures to ensure that Venezuelans who meet the relevant constitutional requirements may register and vote just like other Venezuelan citizens. The IACHR stresses that genuine commitment to democracy requires that the State immediately restore the separation and independence of the different branches of government.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.  

No. 141/24

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