US Foreign Policy
Data Tool
CSPA Implementation Tracker

Country Profiles

Monitoring U.S. government efforts to leverage arms sales and military assistance to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers
Part of the Child Soldiers Project

Venezuela

Country Profile
Years Listed

Each shaded box corresponds to a year the country appeared on the CSPA list and what types of waivers it received, if any.

Venezuela first appeared on the CSPA list in 2021. The U.S. president did not waive CSPA prohibitions against the provision of U.S. arms sales and military assistance to Venezuela in 2021. However, the country was not eligible to receive arms sales or military assistance subject to the CSPA during FY2022. As a result, Venezuela was not denied any U.S. arms sales or military assistance due to the CSPA.

According to the U.S. State Department, Venezuelan authorities have provided support and a permissive environment to non-state armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers, including Colombian illegal armed groups that operate in Venezuela. Non-state armed groups, including the National Liberation Army (ELN) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents, are alleged to have forcibly recruited children and used child soldiers in combat to grow their operations and strengthen their influence in Venezuela as well as in neighboring countries with limited governance. In 2019, high-ranking officials linked to former president Nicolás Maduro, members of Venezuela’s security forces, and local authorities reportedly colluded with, tolerated, and allowed these groups to operate in the country with impunity. That same year, Venezuela’s armed forces allegedly ordered Army, National Guard and militia members in states bordering Colombia to avoid engaging unspecified allied groups in Venezuelan territory, some of which may exploit children as soldiers, and encouraged the armed forces to aid and support their operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the recruitment of child soldiers in Venezuela. During the pandemic, school drop-out rates reached up to 82 percent in the country’s border regions, and an estimated 75 percent of children unable to attend school in these regions were recruited by non-state armed groups. School closures and lack of access to school lunches and supplies were exploited by non-state armed groups which lured children in for recruitment with promises of school supplies, basic sustenance, and gifts. FARC dissidents and the ELN reportedly registered over 20,000 students to receive school supplies as part of their recruitment process in Venezuela. Armed groups are also reported to have used brochures and lectures to indoctrinate, recruit, and engage children.

Venezuelan authorities did not make sufficient efforts to combat the forced recruitment of children by non-state armed groups in 2019. The Maduro regime failed to report on whether a new 2020-2025 national action plan addressed the issue of child soldiers or on any actions carried out under the plan. The special prosecutor’s office tasked with developing anti-trafficking policies did not provide any updates on its activities and its mandate did not include trafficking crimes against children.

For more information, see the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report and Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

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