Venezuelan human-rights abuses raise concerns at the United Nations

ARiana Cubillos/AP
·4 min read

Venezuela’s government tried to defend itself Tuesday at a United Nations human rights session, saying international sanctions are to blame for its social problems, but the argument was buried under the repeated concerns voiced by member countries about the claims of torture, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings taking place in the South American country.

Talking via video before the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez assured members that her country has made progress in protecting the rights and freedoms of its population, before accusing the United States and other nations sanctioning the Nicolás Maduro regime of accentuating the suffering and social ills plaguing the oil-rich nation.

“We are going to continue reviewing these recommendations [to improve the human rights situation] and we are grateful to those countries that in good faith have expressed their recommendations to Venezuela, always with an understanding of what it has meant for a people ... to overcome a blockade of the dimension that Venezuela has known,” Rodríguez said.

But “the voice of all should concentrate on lifting the unilateral coercive measures on all those countries that are victims of these illicit and illegal sanctions that constitute a true, a potential and greedy weapon of mass destruction against the entire human rights system,” she said during the session held to carry out the nation’s third periodic U.N. review of its human rights conditions.

Rodríguez, one of Maduro’s closest collaborators within the Caracas socialist regime, said the sanctions imposed by the U.S., Europe and other countries allied to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó have cut off Venezuela’s access to 99% of its foreign currency.

While talking about the exodus of more than six million Venezuelans who have left the country to escape what has been described as the worst humanitarian crisis in Latin American history, Rodríguez downplayed the phenomenon, saying that the figure is “an arithmetical error” caused by a “very dangerous hidden agenda.”

Rodríguez’s statements, however, seem to have done little to convince the delegations participating in the hearing, the vast majority of which expressed strong criticism, accusing Caracas of ignoring the numerous human rights violations complaints collected by the U.N.

With the clear exception of allied countries, including Russia, China, Cuba and Nicaragua, most of the delegates used their brief time to ask the regime to comply with the recommendations already made by the U.N., including the release of political prisoners, the preservation of courts’ independence and the end of the use of torture, extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances.

Some of the demands even came from countries normally seen as friendly to the regime, such as Argentina, which asked Caracas to comply fully with the recommendations presented by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, whose report on human rights violations caught the attention of the international community.

“Argentina recommends ... that prompt, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigations be conducted on the allegations of human rights violations, that the perpetrators be brought to justice, and that adequate reparation be guaranteed to the victims,” Argentina’s representative, Cristian Machuca, said.

The office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has already submitted several reports on the situation in Venezuela that highlight the crimes perpetrated by the regime’s security forces.

These reports, based on interviews with victims, independent observers and human rights organizations, include the recurrent use of extrajudicial executions, torture, forced disappearances, persecution of dissidents and arbitrary arrests.

The reports also denounce that the regime uses the country’s courts to give a facade of legality to the arbitrary arrests of dissidents, who are later tortured and imprisoned by the police forces.

The United Kingdom’s delegation touched on that last point in its presentation and requested that the regime stop using the judicial system to dismantle Venezuelan democracy, before going on to ask that the government respect the independence of the different branches of government and that it end forced labor and sexual exploitation.

South Korea also expressed concerns about the lack of independence of Venezuelan courts, telling the regime to allow them to operate “under the principle of due process,” and asking the government to end the persecution of journalists and human rights activists and to stop using excessive force to stop public protests.

The numerous statements from member countries, which generally lasted between one and two minutes, extended the session for more than two and a half hours.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting