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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Venezuela

Venezuela's constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 127 reads: “ It is the right and duty of each generation to protect and maintain the environment for its own benefit and that of the world of the future. Everyone has the right, individually and collectively, to enjoy a safe, healthful and ecologically balanced life and environment. The State shall protect the environment, biological and genetic diversity, ecological processes, national parks and natural monuments, and other areas of particular ecological importance. The genome of a living being shall not be patentable, and the field shall be regulated by the law relating to the principles of bioethics. It is a fundamental duty of the State, with the active participation of society, to ensure that the populace develops in a pollution-free environment in which air, water, soil, coasts, climate, the ozone layer and living species receive special protection, in accordance with law”.

Article 128 states “The State shall develop a zoning policy taking into account ecological, geographic, demographic, social, cultural, economic and political realities, in accordance with the premises of sustainable development, including information, consultation and male/female participation by citizens. An organic law shall develop the principles and criteria for this zoning.”

Finally, according to Article 129, “Any activities capable of generating damage to ecosystems must be preceded by environmental and socio-cultural impact studies. The State shall prevent toxic and hazardous waste from entering the country, as well as preventing the manufacture and use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. A special law shall regulate the use, handling, transportation and storage of toxic and hazardous substances. In contracts into which the Republic enters with natural or juridical persons of Venezuelan or foreign nationality, or in any permits granted which involve natural resources, the obligation to preserve the ecological balance, to permit access to, and the transfer of technology on mutually agreed terms and to restore the environment to its natural state if the latter is altered, shall be deemed included even if not expressed, on such terms as may be established by law.”

Featured Legislation

1992: The Environmental Criminal Law was passed. The Law, which consists of 3 titles and 69 articles, aims to classify as crimes those acts that violate the provisions related to the conservation, defense and improvement of the environment, and establishes the corresponding criminal sanctions; Likewise, it determines the precautionary, restitution and reparation measures that may apply.

2001: The Law No. 55 – Law on Hazardous Substances, Materials and Waste was enacted. The purpose of this Law on Hazardous Substances, Materials and Waste is to regulate the generation, use, collection, storage, transportation, treatment and final disposal of hazardous substances, materials and waste, as well as any other operation that involves them for the purpose of to protect health and the environment.

2006: The Organic Law of Environment No 5833 was approved. The purpose of this Organic Law of the Environment is to establish the provisions and guiding principles for the management of the environment, within the framework of sustainable development as a fundamental right and duty of the State and society, to contribute to safety and to the achievement of the maximum well-being of the population and the sustainability of the planet, in the interest of humanity. Likewise, it establishes the norms that develop the constitutional guarantees and rights to a safe, healthy and ecologically balanced environment. For the purposes of this Law, environmental management is understood as the process constituted by a set of actions or measures aimed at diagnosing, inventorying, restoring, restoring, improving, preserving, protecting, controlling, monitoring and taking advantage of ecosystems, diversity biological and other natural resources and elements of the environment, in guarantee of sustainable development.

2008:The Law of comprehensive management of socio-natural and technological risks was created.The purpose of this Law for the Comprehensive Management of Socio-Natural and Technological Risks is to establish the guiding principles and guidelines that guide the national policy towards the harmonic execution of concurrent competencies in terms of comprehensive management of socio-natural and the technological risks.

2008: Decree Law No. 6,070/08 – Law on Forests and Forest Management was inaugurated. The purpose of this Decree with Rank, Value and Force of Laws is to establish the principles and standards for the conservation and sustainable use of forests and other components of the forest heritage, for the benefit of current and future generations, serving the social, environmental and economy of the Nation.

2008: The Biological Diversity Management Law was ratified. The purpose of this Law is to establish the provisions for the management of biological diversity in its various components, including natural or manipulated genomes, genetic material and its derivatives, species, populations, communities and ecosystems present in continental, insular, lacustrine and fluvial, territorial sea, interior maritime areas and the soil, subsoil and air spaces thereof.

2011: The Law on Rational and Efficient Electric Energy Use was signed. The purpose of this Law on the rational and efficient use of electrical energy is to promote and guide the rational and efficient use of energy in the processes of production, generation, transformation, transportation, distribution, marketing, as well as in the final use of energy, in order to preserve natural resources and minimize the environmental and social impact.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Citizens of Venezuela have protested against President Nicolás Maduro’s humanitarian disaster unfolding in the country over the last few years, linking the crime of “ecocide” to this regime. While Maduro touts socialism as “the only way for the preservation of the environment and the salvation of the human species,” the nation’s leader has lost credibility amid political instability and a stagnant economy, driving the largest migration crisis in modern Latin American history. The effects of environmental problems are palpable: illegal mining, deforestation, and heavily polluting oil and gas industries have ravaged the one pristine ecosystem of Venezuela. In 2016, Maduro regime inaugurated the opening of the “Orinoco Mining Arc” by executive decree.  The Orinoco Mining Arc facilitated illicit economies, opening borders to nonstate actors from Colombian guerrilla groups to Lebanese Hezbollah. Through the operation of illegal mines, these unwelcome groups present a growing threat to national security. These clandestine mining stations have also contributed to a resurgence in tropical diseases like malaria, despite being the first nation certified by the World Health Organization to have eradicated malaria in 1961. Rates of deforestation have risen sharply as a result of accelerated lawlessness and state breakdown. The runoff from gold extraction has spread toxic mercury into Venezuela’s river networks, presenting a regional challenge to clean water as well as to many nearby communities that rely on healthy fish stocks for survival. Illegal logging has also expanded as Venezuelans have turned to firewood for cooking in the face of a diminishing national budget to secure access to gas and other public goods.

References and Further Reading


Ministerio del Poder Popular para el Ecosocialismo Caracas, Venezuela: