UN rights chief Bachelet to visit Venezuela

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet will travel to Venezuela next week for talks with the government and the opposition (AFP Photo/CHARLY TRIBALLEAU)
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet will travel to Venezuela next week for talks with the government and the opposition (AFP Photo/CHARLY TRIBALLEAU)

Geneva (AFP) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, will visit Venezuela this month, where she will meet both President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, her office said Friday.

Bachelet, a former president of Chile, had been in talks with Maduro's government about a visit for several months, but insisted that certain conditions were met -- notably unfettered access.

Venezuela is caught in an economic crisis and a political standoff between Maduro's government and Guaido, who has been recognised by the United States and more than 50 other countries as the nation's interim president.

In a statement, the UN rights office confirmed the June 19 to 21 trip would include meetings with Guaido and a range of government and opposition politicians, civil society leaders and "victims of human rights violations and abuses."

The UN rights chief has been critical of Maduro's crackdown on opponents, particularly of the excessive force used by the security services in response to legitimate protests.

In March, she accused Maduro's government over "the shrinking of the democratic space."

But Bachelet has also criticised US sanctions against Maduro's government, cautioning that they were exacerbating the crisis and possibly hurting "people's basic rights and wellbeing."

More than 3.3 million people have fled devastating conditions in Venezuela since the start of 2016.

Amid the standoff between Maduro and Guaido, the country is suffering from shortages of basic goods ranging from food to medicine.