Photo: Cristian Hernández AFP / CBC retrieved

The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights about the human rights situation in Venezuela, was published a day earlier. This version of the document, with 18 pages, covers the period between January 2018 and May 2019, and it’s based on the analysis of documents that the UNHCHR gathered and examined, pointing out that the access to official data is limited, and that stats are “scarce and non-existent in some areas,” in addition to interviewing the victims, witnesses, lawyers, doctors, journalists, human rights defenders and former soldiers and security officers, all of which allows Michelle Bachelet to properly evaluate the regime and denounce that there are violations against the economic and social rights of citizens in Venezuela. The High Commissioner cautions that she assessed the credibility of her sources and compared the information to confirm its validity, which allows them to say that “the patterns described in the report constitute human rights violations.” It’s an exhaustive report that describes the horror of chavismo and their dictatorship. The importance of Bachelet’s report lies in the complaints on its contents and also in its symbolism. Its detailed picture of the abuses is quite valuable because it confirms and accompanies the accusations made by local NGOs and the press for many years.

About economic and social rights

About these rights, the report describes the decline of purchasing power and says that the causes of the violation of the right to proper living conditions: “The embezzlement of resources, corruption and lack of maintenance in public infrastructure, as well as under-investment.” Regarding food rights, it starts cautioning that the state doesn’t guarantee food for the population, that the CLAP boxes don’t cover elemental nutritional needs and that the regime hasn’t shown interest (or investment) in solving this drama. The lack of access to food, shortages and steep prices explain why millions of people eat only once or twice a day with luck. The report says: “The economic and social policies adopted during the last decade have weakened the systems of food production and distribution, increasing the amount of people who depend on food assistance programs.”

“The situation is severe.”

That’s how the introduction sums up the state of the right to health, explaining the confluence of critical variables: an infrastructure in decline for years, the exodus of doctors and nurses, the shortage of medicines, the reappearance of controlled and eradicated diseases, and the lack of access to all kinds of contraceptives, which derives in three great tragedies: the increase in the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases; the increase in the rate of unwanted and teenage pregnancies (65% more since 2015), which derives in the main cause of school dropout rates among teenagers. Between 2018 and 2019, 1,557 people died for lack of supplies in hospitals, and 40 more died during the blackouts in March alone. The document says: “The violations against the right to health are the result of the government’s disregard for its fundamental obligations, which can’t be waived even for economic reasons.” In other words, not even the alleged “blockade” would justify the neglect of health rights.

Social programs and policies

The report describes the failure of the social programs known as “missions” emphasizing the political discrimination regulating who benefits from them: they’re handled by PSUV, not state institutions; through the carnet de la patria, not the ID card; and they involve constant coercion, because the political activity of beneficiaries is under surveillance. The Office of the High Commissioner collected testimonies of women marked due to their activism, threatened by other community leaders and by colectivos, who were excluded from social programs: “In some case, they chose not to demand their rights, including the right to speak up against the government, for fear of reprisals.” Discrimination for political reasons is a serious violation and it was documented.

The myth of unilateral coercive measures

About the sanctions, the report says: “Most of the sanctions that have been imposed to date by various states (…) are selective and consist of travel bans and freezing their assets,” and adds that even when the regime has blamed sanctions for the economic crisis, “the Venezuelan economy, especially its oil industry and food production systems, were already in crisis before any sectoral sanction was imposed.” This was also confirmed by the figures published by the Central Bank itself on May 28th, 2019. The latest economic sanctions, says the High Commissioner, “are further intensifying the effects of the economic crisis,” but they’re not the reason for that crisis.

Violations of political rights

Regarding the freedom of opinion and expression, the report describes the intensification of the communicational hegemony and the restrictions on independent media outlets; the increase in journalist detentions, and why social networks are currently the main source of information, but they’re also blocked. The document denounces selective repression and political persecution, which includes the application of “laws and policies that have sped up the erosion of the rule of law and the dismantling of democratic institutions,” neutralizing, repressing and criminalizing dissidents and critics, with practices that range from the increased militarization of state institutions to the use of civilians in intelligence tasks with coercive goals.

State violence

After describing the state’s security apparatus, the report says that the National Guard and the National Police have been responsible for the excessive use of force in protests since at least 2014. The Special Actions Forces (FAES) have been responsible for numerous extrajudicial executions, just like the Scientific Police (CICPC). The Secret State Police (SEBIN) and the Military Counterintelligence Directorate (DGCIM) have been responsible for arbitrary detentions, mistreatment and torture of dissidents, while armed paramilitary groups (colectivos) exercise “social control” and support these forms of repression. Bachelet denounces the astonishingly high proportion of alleged extrajudicial executions, but she also says that state institutions responsible for the protection of human rights (Prosecutor’s Office, judges and Ombudsman’s Office) don’t carry out solid investigations, don’t take the culprits to justice nor protect victims and witnesses. The “inaction contributes to impunity and the repetition of the violations,” thus the report’s broad description of arbitrary detentions, tortures and mistreatment, adding that in most cases of political prisoners, detained women and men were subjected “to one or more forms of torture or cruel treatment (…) to extract information and confessions, intimidate and punish deteinees.” Remember, torture can’t be justified with economic sanctions either.

Conclusions

The High Commissioner’s report says that there are reasonable motives to believe that severe violations have been committed against economic and social rights in Venezuela, including that the regime refused to recognize the magnitude of our crisis until recently; that social programs operate through political discrimination and as an instrument for social control, and that the democratic space has been restricted. The regime has committed numerous human rights violations and the state has systematically denied the rights of victims of violations against truth, justice and reparation; impunity being the seal to reproduce the horror. The High Commissioner clearly says she’s “concerned that, if the situation doesn’t improve, the unprecedented exodus of Venezuelan migrants and refugees will continue, and that the conditions of citizens within the country will further deteriorate.”

Recommendations

The report demands that the regime adopt measures to “cease, correct and prevent human rights violations,” particularly torture and extrajudicial executions. It demands effective investigations, the release of all arbitrarily imprisoned citizens, the end and punishment of persecution and repression of political reasons, guarantees of protection for human rights defenders and journalists, and the end of all intimidation and attacks against indigenous peoples, who have been massacred and displaced. It recommends dismantling the FAES and establishing an impartial and independent national mechanism to investigate extrajudicial executions and ensuring that those responsible for them are held accountable and victims receive reparations.

 

This is an exhaustive and solid report, which certifies the complaints that human rights organizations, professional sectors, journalists, deputies and universities have been raising for years. Its value resides in the description of our horror, so any international support for chavismo from now on, will be support for a dictatorship, not because we say so, but because the High Commissioner for Human Rights says so. Additionally, each of the substantiated and documented figures could serve as supplies for the investigations carried out by the International Criminal Court.

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