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UN points finger at Maduro for Venezuela’s crisis

Human rights chief issues blistering report on conditions

  • The Peterborough Examiner
  • 9 Jul 2019
  • THOMAS WALKOM Thomas Walkom is a Toronto-based columnist covering politics. Follow him on Twitter: @tomwalkom

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has had his share of troubles.

Many nations, including Canada, consider the socialist strongman’s 2018 election illegitimate and have called on the country’s armed forces to mount a coup against him.

The Americans have imposed draconian sanctions against Venezuela in an effort to oust him from office.

From time to time, an opposition politician named Juan Guaido pops up claiming to be Venezuela’s real president.

Add into this the fact that the Venezuelan economy is such a mess that millions have fled the country. It’s hard to imagine how matters could get worse for Maduro.

But they have. On Friday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a blistering report on conditions in Venezuela.

Inflation is so bad, it says, that wages can’t keep pace no matter what the government does. Basic public services have collapsed due to a “misallocation of resources, corruption, and lack of maintenance.”Food is so scarce that the government is able to use its rationing system as a means of social control, rewarding its political supporters and punishing its enemies. Health care is in such a crisis that between November 2018 and February 2019, 1,557 people died in hospital because of a lack of basic medical supplies.

While the report notes that U.S. economic sanctions have made things demonstrably worse, it puts most of the blame for Venezuela’s shattered economy on the Maduro government.

It points out that the economy’s key sectors were in crisis before the sanctions were applied.

On the civil rights front, the report is even more damning. It notes that the government has shut down opposition radio and television stations. Torture has been used against political prisoners, the report says, as well as sexual violence.

Using the government’s own figures, the report says that in 2018 security forces killed 5,287 people engaged in “resistance to authority.” Between January and May 2019, they killed 1,569 more.

“Many of these killings may constitute extrajudicial executions, “the report says.

It calls on Maduro to disband one particularly dodgy security service known as the Special Action Forces, or FAES.

While the allegations themselves are not new, the source is. Bachelet is a Chilean socialist who knows all about imperialism. She suffered torture in the 1970s at the hands of a U.S.-backed military government before going on, decades later, to serve two terms as president of her country. As Chile’s president, she was one of a handful of Latin American leaders who were not openly critical of Maduro.

Clearly, Maduro hoped her report would provide a counterweight to the dominant storyline surrounding Venezuela — a storyline that paints him as a villainous dictator. To that end, as the report notes, the regime welcomed her UN investigators and willingly provided them with information. Bachelet herself flew to Caracas last month to meet Maduro and other top figures in the regime.

But if the regime was looking for a sympathetic ear, it didn’t get one. Bachelet and her investigators ignored the current political crisis gripping Venezuela. The report makes no reference to Guaido or his presidential ambitions. It barely mentions the U.S. and its sanctions against Venezuela. It certainly doesn’t mention the demand from most of South and Central America that Maduro step down.

Instead, it pays Maduro the compliment of recognizing that for better or worse, he’s in charge of Venezuela. And it is telling him he must do better. Much, much better.

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