All you need to know about Maduro’s speech at the UNHRC

Ana Zárraga watched Maduro’s speech at the UN Human Rights Council so you don’t have to.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends the United Nations Human Rights Council during a special session in Geneva, Switzerland November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The UN Human Rights Council session is packed and I wonder why. Is it because everyone in the room was expecting to pick up some crumbs on the news that Maduro’s Godson and nephew were caught by the DEA yesterday conspiring to smuggle 800kg of cocaine through Haiti? is it because the Worker’s President has a many groupies in the UN? Or is it because -as my UN colleague says- peeps in Geneva get overly excited whenever a President is in town?  – We will never know.

Maduro was 45 minutes late for his own meeting and the live-updates on his whereabouts suggested that his plane from Saudi Arabia was delayed, and not, ehm, that he had any kind of “personal business” to deal with.

From early on this morning, human rights groups had been gathering around the building in protest, and the NGO UN Watch held a press conference imploring delegates to boycott Maduros’ session.

These special meetings in the UN are uncommon and dull, as normally only the person that requests the meeting gets to speak. Yes, it means that Nicolas had free rein to whitewash any human rights abuses in the country without having to answer questions or comments from others. Like an En Contacto weekly radio show, but broadcast though international media.

It didn’t go quite like that.

In an uncommon move, the UN HRC High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, took the floor, introduced Nicolas and welcomed Venezuela as a UNHRC re-elected member.

But this time around this speech wasn’t un saludo a la bandera.

The High Commissioner went ahead and said how dreadful the situation of human rights is in Maduro-land. He mentioned Leopoldo López, mentioned la Judge Afiuni, the Colombian border crisis, the attacks against human rights defenders, the lack of independence of our judiciary, and closed by saying how Venezuela has failed – blasphemy alert! – to fight poverty in the country. 

Nicolás, on the other hand, was a joke. He failed to address the concerns of the Commissioner, used the floor to spout non-sense about every topic under the sun, to the point of angering some delegates: the “indigenous Holocaust”, the April coup d’État, the constituyente, the plight of Palestinian people and the refugee crisis in Europe.

The cherry on top? He smeared the work of the Human Rights Council en su propia casa. Bueno, we sort of agree on that one.