Human rights defender
Since 2014, David has been the director of the NGO Aula Abierta and coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of the University of Zulia (Venezuela), working on initiatives that promote and defend human rights in the university contexts, especially academic freedom, university autonomy and the right to quality education. Since 2002 he has developed an international background on human rights research (with NGOs and Universities) and he represents Venezuelan and Latin American civil society before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights System and some Universal Human Rights System bodies.
Human rights violations in Venezuela
In May 2018, Venezuela held its presidential elections in which President Maduro was re-elected for another 6 year term amid allegations of vote-rigging and a boycott by the opposition. Moreover, the result was heavily contested by the international community, with the US mission to the United Nations condemning this “insult to democracy”. Maduro’s ‘re-election’ has brought with it a hardening of the regime’s policies and, consequently, a new wave of repression, aimed at opponents and independent media organizations and journalists. New cases of disappearances and detention of individuals for expressing views on social media have resurfaced. The recent exodus of migration has seen over 550,000 Venezuelan citizens leave for Colombia at the end of 2017.
Threats and challenges
Human rights NGOs in Venezuela face a climate of reprisals and retaliations from the government. The vulnerability of human rights defenders has also increased after different international advocacy actions before international human rights bodies of the United Nations (UN) and Inter-American System. David Gómez, on behalf of Aula Abierta, has participated in several public hearings between 2017 and 2019. In this context Aula Abierta has been targeted, allegedly by the government.
In addition, since 2016 in Venezuela there is a general situation of shortage, and irregular provision of electricity, water and other basic public services. Aula Abierta has denounced the situation in Zulia state as the most concerning in the country, due to the blackouts from around 16 hours per day until December 2019, cuts in access to drinking water for weeks, lack of public transportation, among other problems. As a result of the threatening environment and stigmatisation of human rights defenders as well as the challenging humanitarian situation in Maracaibo (Zulia state), David is personally under pressure.