GENEVA - The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, warns political divisions in Venezuela are worsening an already critical human rights and humanitarian situation in the country. In a report presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Bachelet urged the dissenting factions to resolve their political differences.
Bachelet said escalating human rights violations are also leading to a further deterioration of the economic and social dynamics. She said it also is serving to destabilize conditions in the region. She noted more than 3 million people have fled to neighboring countries in search of food, health care, work and protection.
Bachelet said peaceful protests and dissent are criminalized. She reports her office has documented numerous rights violations and abuses, including killings by security forces and pro-government armed groups. She says during nationwide anti-government protests earlier this year, people were threatened and intimidated, arbitrarily arrested, and subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention.
Bachelet said her office continues to investigate reports of hundreds of possible extrajudicial executions by the security forces known as FAES.
“It appears that some of these killings have followed a similar pattern. They take place during illegal house raids carried out by the FAES, which subsequently reports the death as resulting from an armed confrontation — although witnesses report the victims were unarmed. Most of the victims live in poor neighborhoods and participated in anti-government protests, and I am particularly concerned about reports that indicate that this type of operation is used as a form of reprisal and intimidation,” she said.
Bachelet said the volatile political situation is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. She said people are going hungry and that lack of health care is increasing maternal and infant mortality. She said more than one million children are not going to school. This is because their parents cannot feed them breakfast and school feeding programs have stopped.
The U.N. rights chief said she fears the recent sanctions imposed by the United States on financial transfers related to the sale of Venezuelan oil may worsen the economic crisis.
Venezuela’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Jorge Valero, accused the international media of distorting his country’s human rights record. He said Venezuela is a free and democratic country where peaceful protests are allowed. Valero blamed part of the opposition for instigating the violence, which he said is whipped up by foreign funding.
Valero also accused the United States of pillaging Venezuela’s economic resources and denying his country the possibility of acquiring the food and medicine it needs for its people.