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Damning UN report released on human rights in Venezuela

A UN report published last week outlines “grave violations” of economic, social and civil rights in Venezuela, calling on the Venezuelan government to take “immediate measures”.

The report follows a three-day visit in June by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, during which she met individuals and organisations from various sectors, including businesses, NGOs and universities. Bachelet also met victims and families targeted by the government, as well as both government and opposition members, including opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights equally conducted interviews with Venezuelan refugees in eight countries including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Spain.

The report reveals that since the beginning of 2018 thousands have been killed in confrontations with state forces, noting that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that many of these killings constitute extrajudicial executions committed by the security forces”.

Notably, the report stresses several instances of “social control” by the Maduro regime, stating concern that the authorities may be using security forces for such control, as well as turning social programmes related to issues such as health, food and housing into instruments for “discrimination based on political grounds”. 

The immediate dissolution of the Special Action Force is recommended, along with the disarmament of gangs loyal to Maduro, known as “colectivos”, both said to “instil fear in the population” and contribute to the exercise of social control over local communities.

Intelligence services are accused of "arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture of political opponents and their relatives”. Various forms of torture and inhumane treatment such as suffocation, electric shocks, sexual violence, beatings and starvation are highlighted.

Also underlining a deteriorating economic crisis, violation of the right to food and a “dire” healthcare situation, the report concludes that “if the situation does not improve, the unprecedented outflow of Venezuelan migrants and refugees will continue, and the conditions for those remaining will worsen”.

In a press release, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said “I sincerely hope the authorities will take a close look at the information included in this report and will follow its recommendations”, adding that “we should all be able to agree that all Venezuelans deserve a better life, free from fear and with access to adequate food, water, healthcare, housing and all other basic human needs”.

However, the official statement released by the Venezuelan government in response to the report does not appear promising for following its recommendations, which refers to a “selective and openly biased” view of the situation, and suggests that, although the report does recognise the negative impact of US sanctions on the country, it does not fully take into account the consequences of these measures.

Several rounds of US sanctions on Venezuela have affected the oil industry, reduced imports and limited access to financial markets.

Nevertheless, recent events in Venezuela have painted a picture of political crisis marked by violent clashes and killings of citizens. The situation has been drastically intensifying in recent months after the failed uprising led by Juan Guadio, causing the Maduro regime to double down on the opposition.

Just last week, the death of navy captain Rafael Acosta, detained by intelligence services over an alleged plot to kill President Maduro, caused outrage. Several lawyers have blamed his death on instances of torture, with High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet urging an immediate investigation.

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