In a startlingly forthright Open Letter to Pope Francis that refuses to softball the gravity of the situation, HRW’s José Miguel Vivanco walks the Vatican through how to avoid the next fiasco:

…the starting point of any meaningful dialogue should be an explicit recognition of the government’s responsibility by everyone sitting at the table. Specifically, the Maduro administration should commit itself to implementing the following measures immediately:

  1.  Stop arresting political opponents and critics, and abusing detainees
  2.  Releasing every Venezuelan arrested for political reasons who is subject to baseless prosecutions;
  3.  Allowing the National Assembly to exercise its legislative powers;
  4.  Allowing the recall referendum process to proceed without further political interference or undue delay; and
  5.  Acknowledging it is facing a profound humanitarian crisis, and seeking international humanitarian aid to address it.

…this new dialogue risks serving only to allow the Maduro government to make disingenuous promises that do not solve the problems that Venezuela is facing…

The government of Venezuela has demonstrated no interest in committing itself to adopting any of these measures, much less in the short term. Therefore, without strong international pressure to do so, this new dialogue risks serving only to allow the Maduro government to make disingenuous promises that do not solve the problems that Venezuela is facing, as previous dialogue initiatives have done. To ensure that this is not the case, we respectfully urge you to take to the table an objective assessment of the situation and concrete results that should be obtained, including, but not limited to, those outlined above. Based on Human Rights Watch’s frequent visits to Venezuela, I can assure you that the situation in the country is critical, and there is no more time to waste.

Any questions?

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