The Maduro Regime Expels the UN Office That Allowed Accountability on Human Rights

In the same week of Rocío San Miguel’s detention and a crushing report by the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, the government shows the door to thirteen UN officers and increases the country’s isolation and vulnerability

On February 15th, foreign relations minister Yván Gil announced the suspension of activities in Venezuela of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Office for Technical Assistance. All its thirteen officers were ordered to leave the country within 72 hours. The reasons, according to Gil’s communique, were the “colonialist, abusive” attitude that violates the UN Charter, a “clearly biased and partial posture” that “exacerbated its attacks on Venezuela… to falseate facts and prequalify situations.”

There are other reasons to expel the office. The High Commissioner’s office commented on X (formerly Twitter) the detention of human rights activist Rocío San Miguel, which was qualified as “forced disappearance”, opposing the version of attorney general Tarek William Saab, who said that San Miguel disappearing for at least a hundred hours and being incommunicado from her family and her defense team was a “lie.”

Another reason is this week’s statement by the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, who said in seven pages what we all have known for years through the survey on living conditions ENCOVI: that the CLAP kit of subsidized food does not solve hunger or malnutrition in Venezuela, because “almost 82% of people live in income poverty, and 53% are exposed to extreme poverty, with insufficient income to acquire the basic food basket.”

The most important thing is that the UN technical office is being expelled because of the work it did. This office provided technical assistance not only to government officers, but also to human rights organizations and victims and their families, who gained easier access to international mechanisms. Above all, the government’s order to shut down the office is a reprisal against the effort made by that team to report to the High Commissioner Volker Türk the violations on human rights committed in detention centers.

The closure of the office is not the beginning of a new era of Chavista repression. We may say the same about the detention of the union leader Víctor Venegas; the Vente party members Luis Camacaro, Juan Freites and Guillermo López; and Guillermo López, a common citizen who just released a video of Alex Saab in Margarita island. Closing that office actually means that the government is increasing and refining the techniques of the crime of persecution to make even more visible the repression ongoing since at least 2017.

All this is just one more attack against the civic space, as the Fact Finding Mission warned last year.

The consequences are considerable.

The end of the technical assistance office may finish assistance, implementation and follow-up of policies to meet the official commitments to protect human rights in Venezuela. Let’s remember that the regime is under evaluation by the Exam on Human Rights at the UN and that it has to comply with at least three out of fifty recommendations by November 2026. As NGO Defiende Venezuela said, expelling these thirteen UN officers will limit access to the country for UN rapporteurs and experts that could perform an objective evaluation. 

The human rights community fears that this measure against the office installed after Michelle Bachelet’s tenure as High Commissioner will affect the rest of the UN offices in Venezuela, as well as international and local organizations. They are already reducing their operations, while the National Assembly holds the threat of the bill on NGOs. How can we expect, in the current context, that the technical cooperation office of the International Criminal Court could be installed in Caracas?

For human rights lawyer Joel García, the defenders of our basic rights are now defenseless. “We have no Human Rights division at the Public Ministry, no Ombudsman Office we can count on”, he says, “We were disconnected from the Inter American System for Human Rights Protection, and now we are losing access to the Universal System of Protection of Human Rights.”