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U.S. condemns human rights violations in Venezuela

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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet.

By Guido Lanfranchi.

After the release of the UN updated report on the human rights situation Venezuela, officials of the United States administration harshly condemned Maduro government for conducting abuses against the Venezuelan people. In the meanwhile, in early September the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela travelled to Brussels to hold discussions with his EU counterparts.

In early September, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, released new information on the human rights situation in Venezuela – updating a previous report presented to the UN Human Rights council on July 5th, 2019. In the wake of the update’s publication, the United States administration seized on this opportunity to voice its condemnation of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.

“Nicolas Maduro and his cronies are committing egregious human rights violations against the Venezuelan people” – Mr. Scott Busby, Senior Official at the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, declared in a press briefing. Mr. Busby firmly condemned the use of torture and extrajudicial killings by the “former Maduro regime” – using an expression that stresses how the U.S. does not recognize anymore Mr. Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president. 

His words were echoed by those of Ms. Carrie Filippetti, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, who claimed that abuses against the Venezuelan opposition have increased recently “because the Maduro regime is desperate”. These abuses are the main reasons for the suspensions of the Norwegian-brokered negotiations efforts – DAS Filippetti continued, blaming the government for trying to “manipulate the negotiation process” to its own favor. 

Questioned about the potential negative effects of U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan people, Ms. Filippetti firmly denied the validity of these claims.

To back up her argument, she noted that the beginning of Venezuela’s economic trouble coincided with Mr. Maduro’s ascent to power, and that U.S. sanctions have been focusing mostly on individuals stealing resources from the Venezuelan people. 

The beginning of September also saw a new trip of U.S. Special Representative Elliot Abrams to Brussels, a trip aimed at discussing the U.S. and the European Union’s policies towards Venezuela. In this regard, Mr. Abrams praised the alignment between the U.S. and the EU, claiming that the both actors share the same goal: “the restoration of democracy and prosperity” in the country.

Speaking to the press from Brussels, Mr. Abrams also voiced the administration’s concern about the presence of Colombian rebel fighters in Venezuela, as well as about the recent military drills performed by the Venezuelan army near the Colombian border. In case of any attack to Colombia – Mr. Abrams stressed – the U.S. would firmly stand behind Bogota. Yet, the Special Representative tried to downplay rumors of a potential U.S. military intervention: while all options remain on the table, “our policy now is economic, financial, diplomatic, political pressure on the regime”. 

Mr. Abrams used his talks with EU official to gather more support for U.S. actions aimed at pressuring Mr. Maduro to relinquish power. Answering to questions about a potential amnesty for Mr. Maduro, DAS Filippetti did not rule out such possibility. “Our goal is not to penalize Maduro; our goal is to bring free and fair democracy back to Venezuela. And so we are willing to consider a number of different options that would enable that to be the case”. 

About the author:

Guido Lanfranchi is a student and young professional in the field of international affairs. He has pursued his studies both at Leiden University and Sciences Po Paris, where he is currently enrolled. In parallel, he has been gaining professional experience through internships (first at the Council of the European Union, and currently at Clingendael Institute), as well as by working as reporter and associate editor for Diplomat Magazine The Netherlands. His research and work focus on the Middle East and Africa, and especially on conflict situations in these regions.

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