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Statement on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Update on the Situation in Venezuela
December 18, 2019

Today in Geneva, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet provided an oral update on the human rights situation in Venezuela.  She documented the ongoing use of extrajudicial executions, torture, forced disappearances, and arbitrary detention of political opponents.  Elected members of the National Assembly, representatives of the legitimate government of Venezuela led by interim President Juan Guaidó, and the independent media continue to face sustained attacks at the hands of the Maduro regime.

The regime’s actions demonstrate it will use any means necessary to retain power – even brutality against its own people, often at the hands of SEBIN, DGCIM, or the Presidential death squads known as “FAES,” an organization High Commissioner Bachelet has called to disband since her initial report on July 5, 2019.  Not only has Maduro not disbanded the FAES, but he proposed incorporating the illegal armed bands known as colectivos into the armed forces, which the update notes with concern.  Among other specific acts of repression recorded since the most recent report, High Commissioner Bachelet raised concern over continued high levels of violence in Bolivar State, including the presence of irregular armed groups involved in illegal exploitation of natural resources.

We appreciate the High Commissioner’s focus on the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and the resulting humanitarian crisis, which has led 4.8 million people to flee the country.  The Maduro regime’s corruption and economic incompetence started the humanitarian crisis and continues to exacerbate it by politicizing and stealing humanitarian assistance.  The United States urges the international community to increase support for a principled, needs-based response in Venezuela and across the region.  We will continue to provide assistance on top of the more than $654 million we already delivered to the United Nations and international partners throughout the region.

The Maduro regime also continues to hinder free and unfettered access to the Caracas-based team of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  The regime must allow a robust OHCHR team to operate in the country; permit access to all detention facilities and prisons, including those run by the intelligence services; and allow them to travel to all parts of Venezuela, including the mining regions.  The United States expresses its full support for the recently established Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Venezuela and condemns the Maduro regime’s refusal to recognize its authority.  The regime’s reaction to the FFM is all the more unacceptable following its election to the Human Rights Council (HRC) and sets a worrisome precedent for how the regime will comport itself as a member of the HRC.

The regime continues to attempt to hide its abhorrent actions, but the world is watching.  The international community must continue to condemn the systematic violation of the human rights of the Venezuelan people and must implement measures that impose costs for these regime abuses.  Together, we must continue to support interim President Guaidó’s efforts to hold free, fair, transparent, and credible elections, allowing the people of Venezuela to enjoy a government that holds all human rights violators accountable.  We must stand with the Venezuelan people in their fight for freedom and democracy.