We welcome the High Commissioner’s oral update on the situation in Venezuela, the first of its kind, and look forward to the report to be presented in June. In this vein, we’d like to highlight some areas where the UN High Commissioner’s upcoming report could play an important role to curb abuses in Venezuela. Among other areas, the upcoming report on Venezuela’s crisis should cover the ongoing crackdown on dissent, the devastating food and medicine shortages, and the resulting refugee crisis.
In a recent report by Human Rights Watch and Foro Penal, we analyzed cases in which intelligence agents were detaining and torturing members of the military who are suspected of fomenting rebellion. In some cases, they also went after their families or other civilians when they couldn’t find the suspects; in most cases, intelligence agents carried out the arrests. Recently, security agents and armed pro-government groups have again used excessive force against demonstrators, leaving dozens of people killed and many more injured.
Mr. President, these are not isolated acts by rogue agents. They are part of a systematic pattern of abuse by Venezuelan security forces that we have been documenting since 2014.
Another particular area of concern is the Venezuelan health system, which is in utter collapse. Venezuela is now experiencing outbreaks of diseases that are preventable through vaccination and that had once been eliminated in the country, such as measles or diphtheria. The reported cases of malaria and tuberculosis have also risen dramatically. All of this, while studies indicate that most Venezuelan households are food insecure and levels of child malnutrition are alarmingly high. More than 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled their country. Many are struggling to rebuild their lives abroad, often in the face of rising xenophobia.
The upcoming OHCHR report should contain an independent, credible assessment that will help expose these abuses, push for accountability for the victims, and press for sufficient humanitarian aid to enter the country. To do so, the High Commissioner should press Venezuelan authorities to allow her team full access to all detention facilities, including intelligence services headquarters, and to all the hospitals they choose to visit, as well as the possibility to interview detainees without interference from authorities or security agents. Venezuelans are looking to this Council. We should not fail them.