VENEZUELA — In the heart of Venezuela, where Venezuela’s economy is struggling to recover from a severe recession and where some people are living in the streets to escape economic hardship, social distances have long been a common practice.
But the practice has grown increasingly controversial as the Venezuelan government’s policies have become increasingly authoritarian.
Since President Nicolas Maduro took office in late 2015, the Venezuelan state has launched a massive social distance campaign, ordering people to walk with their arms and legs outstretched across a wide swath of the country to avoid the eyes of government-controlled police and to avoid a crackdown on social media.
The social distancers have been criticized by rights groups, the United Nations and even the United States for their lack of respect for human rights.
Many Venezuelans say they have been subjected to excessive force by the government.
“We have been ordered to walk in the middle of the street and in front of government buildings,” said 23-year-old Ana Gomez, who works at a restaurant.
“We have had our legs and arms torn off.
We have been put in the back of a police car, where we were beaten.”
Social distancing has become one of the key concerns of the opposition, which is seeking to change the Venezuelan system to allow for free speech, but Maduro has vowed to prevent it from happening.
Venezuela’s government, which has ruled the country for more than four decades, has often defended its social distancer policy, arguing that its implementation has been effective in deterring social unrest and the spread of violence.
In 2016, for example, the government banned the public from wearing scarves and hats, and restricted public gatherings to only those who had passed a physical examination.
The government has also said that social distancings help fight the spread and spread of terrorism, saying that such measures help to combat the spread to the country of violent ideologies such as Marxism-Leninism.
Opposition leaders have argued that the social distaing program is ineffective because it only serves to deter social unrest, rather than instill it.
During a meeting on social distraction at a public university in Caracas on Wednesday, opposition leaders said the social censoring program was an example of the Venezuelan dictatorship’s “totalitarian” policy.
Critics of Venezuela’s government say the social censorship campaign is an example and a model of what is happening in Venezuela.
Chavez has often claimed that social censors have stopped the spread among the country’s young people of violent extremism.
More than 80 people have died in the country in 2016 due to the anti-government protests, according to opposition estimates.
And opposition leaders have said that the government is increasingly trying to use social distancies as a pretext for political repression.
The opposition has also warned that the crackdown could affect other sectors of society, including health care and education.
Although the government has accused opposition leaders of plotting against it, Maduro has defended the measures as necessary to curb the spread — or at least, to keep the violence in check — of violent and extremist ideologies.
Maduro has been criticized for the crackdown, and his critics have said the government’s response to the protests has been excessively repressive.