Delegate Name: Haley Berry
Submitted To: SPECPOL
In any given society, sectarianism is an inevitable occurrence as people seek to align with a certain identity or set of beliefs. On the surface, there isn’t any fault to be found in wanting a sense of belonging. Problems arise, however, when these beliefs and identities are used to justify unfair treatment of opposing parties. As a formerly colonized nation, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has become all too familiar with the extreme imposition of a set system of beliefs onto a people. It is thanks to national hero Simón Bolívar that the Venezuelan people enjoy freedoms from the hierarchy, slavery, and segregation of the colonial period. Such valiant efforts have shaped the overall Venezuelan identity with principles of fairness and equality.
Noting this, the nation of Venezuela prides itself on upholding democracy and freedom of speech and expression that every citizen enjoys. In many Latin American nations, sectarian conflict arises in the form of religious disputes, namely between Catholic and non-Catholic organizations, and in some cases disagreements between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. No such enmity is found here in Venezuela, as our society is characterized by a large degree of religious tolerance, and the virtual absence of interreligious conflict. The constitution of Venezuela ensures freedom of religion and worship as long as it does not oppose morality, good customs, and public order. Parents are even given the right to choose their children’s religious education, based on their convictions. Established religious groups are very welcoming to new religious groups, and indigenous religions are broadly respected.
Venezuela feels that its current policies and practices should serve as an example to nations afflicted with sectarian conflicts, whether religious or ideological in origin. The Venezuelan government seeks to always resolve social conflicts through peaceful means, and this value can express itself in a variety of methods, from adequate representation of social and religious groups to legislation providing protections for certain identities. The National Interreligious Council was established in 2020, composed of various Evangelical Christian groups and indigenous religions with the purpose of providing a space for collaboration and discussion on the religious rights of Venezuelan citizens. Policies such as the Law against Hate for Peaceful Coexistence and Tolerance are in place to penalize anyone who promotes or commits hate crimes on radio, television, or social networks. Venezuela feels that when groups and identities feel adequately recognized and un-threatened by the actions of opposition, the potential of sectarian conflicts is drastically reduced.
The nation of Venezuela does, however, believe regulation of groups and identities is needed when such beliefs interfere with government activities and the overall well-being of citizens. The Catholic Episcopal Conference of Venezuela (CEV) in particular has posed such a threat. In addition to antagonizing LGBTQ+ rights, the CEV has been found to promote beliefs that go against the ideology of the revered Bolivarian Revolution, speaking out against social policies established as part of Chavismo principles. To portray social welfare programs in a negative light are considered acts of terrorism by the Venezuelan government and must be dealt with accordingly.
To address this issue, the Venezuelan government has set a standard that religious groups must enroll with the National Office Against Organized Crime and Terrorism Financing (ONCDOFT) registry, which requires groups to make public the donor organizations that contribute to their activities but also the beneficiaries of said activities. Groups that are not recognized receive no subsidies from the Venezuelan government and are not permitted to operate, holding groups accountable to their actions regarding criticism of government policies. The Vice Presidency of Religious Affairs of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was also recently established for the purpose of increasing government oversight over interreligious relations. Venezuela feels that other nations desiring more regulation on various sects within their societies should implement such guidelines, so that social divisions derived from religious groups are effectively eliminated.
Ultimately, controlling and preventing sectarian conflicts, especially religious conflicts, should be considered on the basis of increased government regulation of factional activities, while also providing space for such identities to exist so long as they don’t pose a threat to existing governmental systems and democracy as a whole. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela desires to expand the application of human rights to ensure that all citizens, regardless of social position, ethnicity, nationality, or creed, feel protected and respected in our multifaceted society, and it is expected that fellow nations strive to achieve the same ideals.
“The Reception of the Right to Religious Freedom in Latin America – Talk About: Law and Religion.” Talk About: Law and Religion, 2 October 2022, https://talkabout.iclrs.org/2022/10/02/religious-freedom-in-latin-america/. Accessed 20 November 2023.
Smilde, David. “The Catholic Church and the Venezuela Crisis, 20 Years On.” Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, 15 June 2018, https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/responses/the-catholic-church-and-the-venezuela-crisis-20-years-on. Accessed 20 November 2023.
“Venezuela.” OAS.org, https://www.oas.org/charter/docs/venezuela.htm. Accessed 20 November 2023.
“Venezuela – United States Department of State.” State Department, 2 June 2022, https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-report-on-international-religious-freedom/venezuela/. Accessed 20 November 2023.