Today's meeting of members of the UN Security Council meeting on the Venezuela crisis provides a unique opportunity to focus attention on the widespread abuses the government of President Nicolás Maduro is committing. Without strong, multilateral pressure, the human rights and humanitarian crisis will only get worse. Here are the issues the council should focus on:
The regime’s descent into authoritarian rule. There are no independent institutions left to act as a check on executive power in Venezuela. The Maduro government has used an obedient Supreme Court to take over legislative functions from the opposition-led National Assembly and has arbitrarily prosecuted opposition members. It created a Constituent Assembly with overly broad powers that have been used to harass opponents. The National Electoral Council has failed to carry out free and fair elections.
The brutal crackdown. Between April and June, authorities responded to massive demonstrations with widespread brutal force, as documented in a forthcoming joint report by Human Rights Watch and the Penal Forum to be released on November 29. While it was not the first crackdown under Maduro, the scope and severity reached levels unseen in recent times. Security forces and armed pro-government groups systematically abused protesters and detainees. More than 700 civilians were prosecuted without due process by military courts in military installations for crimes including “rebellion” and “treason.” While in detention, detainees were subject to severe beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation, and other abuses.
The humanitarian crisis. Severe shortages of food, medicines, and medical supplies are making it increasingly difficult for many Venezuelans feed their families or access basic medical care. According to official statistics, in 2016, maternal mortality increased 65 percent, infant mortality increased 30 percent, and malaria cases rose 76 percent.
Venezuelan emigration. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have left or fled the country, escaping political persecution, hunger, or lack of health care. This is having an impact on neighboring and other countries that are struggling to cope with the influx of Venezuelan exiles.
Security Council members meeting under the “Arria formula” should voice strong support for the work of the Organization of American States under Luis Almagro to help Venezuelans restore democratic institutions and basic rights. Council members should send a clear message that abusers will be held accountable abroad if Venezuela proves unable or unwilling to do so at home; and offer international humanitarian aid to ease the suffering of the Venezuelan people.