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‘There is No Political Will’: Maduro Ignored Bachelet’s 2019 Human Rights Recommendations

‘There is No Political Will’: Maduro Ignored Bachelet’s 2019 Human Rights Recommendations

By Gustavo Ocando Alex/Voice of America (VOA)/Edited by Diálogo Staff
August 20, 2020

The Nicolás Maduro regime has partially addressed only two of the 23 recommendations that United Nations (U.N.) High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made in 2019 to revert and prevent human rights violations in Venezuela.

Institutions that advocate for human rights, such as the Venezuelan Education-Action Program on Human Rights (PROVEA, in Spanish), came to this conclusion after analyzing the critical report the U.N. delegate submitted in July 2019, which was updated at least four times.

On July 4, 2019, following six months of complaints against Nicolás Maduro for his alleged usurpation of power, Bachelet submitted a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council that was highly critical of the Venezuelan state for “grave violations of economic, social, civil, political, and cultural rights” that the office documented.

The High Commissioner condemned an official strategy “aimed at neutralizing, repressing, and criminalizing political opponents and people critical of the government.” The report also concluded that the profound economic crisis has left the Venezuelan people without the means to fulfill their fundamental rights to food and health care.

She also noted the militarization of state institutions and a reduction of space for independent media, among other human rights violations in Venezuela.

Based on interviews with 558 victims and witnesses of such violations, the document included 23 recommendations urging the Maduro regime to guarantee availability and access to food, water, medicine, and health care services.

Other requests included ending extrajudicial torture and executions and liberating all detainees being arbitrarily deprived of their liberty. The petition also sought to end and condemn selective persecution and repression for political reasons and to dissolve the National Police’s Special Actions Forces (FAES, in Spanish).

Calixto Ávila, a human rights consultant and PROVEA representative in Europe, told Voice of America that his organization, one of the oldest in Venezuela, noted that Maduro has ignored 21 of the proposals that Bachelet submitted to improve the human rights situation in the country.

“There have only been positive steps in two of the 23 recommendations. The first has to do with the presence of officials [from Bachelet]; and the second relates to increasing the capacity of vaccination programs,” information that UNICEF has made public, but the regime has not, Ávila said.

The presence of the Office of the High Commissioner is an “important step” for human rights in Venezuela, says the PROVEA representative, but Bachelet’s officers were unable to enter detention centers controlled by the military and intelligence agencies, where many political prisoners are held and deprived of their liberty, he added.

Propaganda rather than respect

The High Commissioner for Human Rights has updated her report four times: in September and December 2019; in March, before the pandemic was declared; and in late June, when she specified that her office has continued to document restrictions in the country’s civil and democratic spaces.

During her last presentation before the Human Rights Council, Bachelet stated that the Supreme Court of Justice’s latest decisions on the new electoral power and the main opposition parties “reduce the possibility to create the conditions for credible and democratic electoral processes.”

In her opinion, “people in Venezuela continue to suffer grave violations of economic and social rights due to low salaries, high food prices, persisting deficiencies in public services such as electricity, water, and fuel shortages, as well as precarious access to health care.”

Liliana Ortega, a lawyer and founder of the Relatives of Victims Committee (COFAVIC, in Spanish), one of Venezuela’s most experienced human rights nongovernmental organizations, highlights that the updates to the High Commissioner’s report reveal “poor cooperation” from the Maduro regime.

“They reveal the state’s failure to comply with and cooperate in the most fundamental aspects, as well as the worsening of the situation that she pointed out in July 2019, when she visited the country,” she told Voice of America.

The Venezuelan state must comply with every recommendation that the U.N. representative has made, Ortega said.

From Belgium, the PROVEA adviser said that for 21 of Bachelet’s recommendations, there is no progress, no way to evaluate them, or there are setbacks.

Among the neglected recommendations, PROVEA urges guaranteeing access to humanitarian assistance, under the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and operational independence.

The organization also prioritizes health care and access to water for the population during the pandemic. The dissolution of FAES, which Ávila calls a “death squad,” and the liberation of all political prisoners are other imperatives.