United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet presented an update on the report on the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
During her speech at the Human Rights Council, she said there is 35% chronic malnutrition in children under 5 in the poorest areas of 18 states.
She also expressed concern about the purchasing power of citizens, whose minimum salary only reaches USD 2.00. “A family needs to receive the equivalent of 41 monthly minimum wages in order to cover the basic food basket.”
Regarding security, alleged extrajudicial executions have continued to be recorded in Venezuela and denounced that instead of complying with their recommendation to dissolve FAES, they have received support from Maduro.
In addition, she explained that her office has documented cases of torture and ill-treatment against people arbitrarily detained in Venezuela.
“My Office documented cases of torture and ill-treatment, both physical and psychological, of persons arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, in particular of the military. Detention conditions do not meet basic international standards and detainees do not have access to adequate medical care”, she added.
Bachellet informed that since the presentation of her report, parliamentary immunity has been removed to four deputies of the AN, raising the total number to 25 parliamentarians deprived of immunity, including the president.
The human rights delegation in Venezuela expects to visit the first vice president of the AN Edgar Zambrano and the deputy Juan Requesens, both kidnapped by the dictatorship.
Since the presentation of my report to this Council on July 5, the human rights situation continues to affect millions of people in Venezuela and with clear destabilizing impacts in the region. That is why I maintain my commitment to continue cooperating with the authorities to achieve substantial changes and to end the human rights violations documented in my report.
We have been able to restore the Office of the team in Caracas and the Government has confirmed its willingness to move forward on the basis of human rights commitments made during my visit to the country in June.
On the situations of the prisons and detainees there have been recent advances. On September 6, a member of my team was authorized to visit the Ramo Verde Military Processes Center (sixth visit to prisons since March). Progress is being made in a protocol and a calendar of visits in the coming months. In accordance with the commitments made to my Office, the Government has complied with the release of 83 people, including those whose detention had been considered arbitrary by the Arbitrary Detention Working Group and who were still in detention, as well as other cases designated by the Office. The full release of Judge Afiuni and the journalist Braulio Jatar, who obtained partial measures, remains pending.
The Government has also committed establish a mechanism to handle individual cases, and my Office has already submitted 7 priority cases that we hope will be resolved soon. The authorities have also informed us of the measures recently taken to alleviate the medical situation of some detainees. In addition, the Government is making progress with respect to its invitation to the country to ten Special Procedures in the next two years.
On the other hand, the economic and social situation continues to deteriorate rapidly, restricting the exercise of the economic and social rights of millions of people. The economy is going through what could be the most acute hyper-inflationary episode the region has ever experienced, affecting the ability to buy basic foods, medicines and other essential goods.
As of today, the minimum wage equals $ 2 per month, compared to $ 7 in June. Thus, a family needs to receive the equivalent of 41 monthly minimum wages in order to cover the basic food basket. De facto dollarization in various sectors of the economy is exacerbating inequalities. Public services have continued to present serious and recurring failures, with special intensity in the state of Zulia. The shortage of fuel outside Caracas has aggravated the situation.
Furthermore, on August 8, I expressed concern about the potentially severe impact on human rights of the new set of sanctions imposed by the Government of the United States of America. Despite the exceptions contemplated in the latest sanctions in the area of humanitarian assistance, strict scrutiny (over-compliance) of the financial sector, the reduction of public revenues and the fall in oil production is already having a strong impact on the social programs and in the general population. All this contributes to aggravate the humanitarian situation and the exodus of Venezuelan people.
Serious obstacles persist in the availability and economic accessibility of food. For example, Caritas recorded 35 percent of chronic malnutrition in children under 5 years of age treated in June 2019 in the poorest areas of 18 states.
In relation to the right to health, I am particularly concerned about the insufficient access to medicines and treatment of more than 400,000 people suffering from chronic diseases. Death of patients with renal insufficiency has been recorded due to a shortage of medications and supplies to undergo dialysis since 2017. Due to the shortage of supplies, the only two centers in the country where bone marrow transplants can be practiced face serious operational problems. Additionally, due to financial problems at least 39 people, including children, in Venezuela are waiting to travel abroad to be transplanted under state programs. In the last months, at least 4 children have died during the wait. A positive step is that according to the Pan American Health Organization, vaccination coverage against polio, measles and diphtheria has been expanded.
My Office has continued to document cases of possible extrajudicial executions committed by members of the Special Action Forces of the National Police – known as FAES – in some neighborhoods of the country. In the past month of July alone, the non-governmental organization Victims Monitor identified 57 new cases of alleged executions committed by FAES members in Caracas. The documented cases show the same pattern identified in my June report and reveal the absence of effective mechanisms to protect the witnesses and relatives of the victims, who are mostly women. My Office has not received information on measures to implement the recommendation of the report on the dissolution of FAES and prevent the possible commission of extrajudicial executions. On the contrary, FAES have received support at the highest level of Government.
According to information recently received by the Public Ministry (Attorney General), from August 2017 to May 2019, 104 members of security forces were sentenced on human rights violations. My office expects detailed information on the type of human rights violations, the institutional affiliation of officials, and the profile of the victims.
In July, the Supreme Court of Justice ratified the conviction against a member of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Services (SEBIN) for the murder of Bassil Dacosta, who was shot in the head in anti-government protests 2014. In addition, one of those allegedly responsible for the death of Orlando Figuera was captured in Spain, who was set on fire during the demonstrations called by the opposition in 2017. I call on the justice authorities to expedite the investigations and criminal proceedings of the other cases of deaths in the context of protests.
I am concerned about the increase in the presence of military personnel in the territory of the Pemon indigenous people, as well as recent cases of violence against indigenous people, such as the deaths of two young Warao in July allegedly by elements of FAES, the deaths of an indigenous Warao pregnant woman Warao, and a 6-year-old girl, as well as the death of an indigenous Curripaco leader in the Amazon, allegedly committed by members of the Bolivarian National Guard.
I am also concerned about the impact that the extraction of gold, diamonds, coltan and other metals in the Orinoco Mining Arc is having on the way of life of indigenous peoples, as well as the environmental impact on their territories. Although the Government considers that consultations were conducted with indigenous peoples before the establishment of the Mining Arc, indigenous authorities and NGOs maintain that there were no consultations, nor adequate environmental impact studies.
Since the presentation of my report, the National Constituent Assembly, at the request of the Supreme Court, has lifted parliamentary immunity to four other deputies of the National Assembly, raising the total number to a female parliamentarian and 24 male parliamentarians deprived of immunity, including its President. Two parliamentarians remain in pretrial detention awaiting trial. I hope my office can visit them soon.
I wish to express my rejection of the conviction of the union leader Rubén González to 5 years and 9 months in prison by a military tribunal on August 13 for events that occurred in the exercise of his union activism. His family has also been subjected to various forms of harassment. The application of military justice to judge civilians constitutes a violation of the right to a fair trial, including the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal.
I am concerned about recent actions to pass a law that criminalizes the activities of national human rights organizations that receive funds from abroad. That law, if passed and applied, will further reduce the democratic space. I also regret the recent attacks by the Government against university autonomy.
My Office documented cases of torture and ill-treatment, both physical and psychological, of persons arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, in particular of the military. Detention conditions do not meet basic international standards and detainees do not have access to adequate medical care. I ask the authorities to take action to correct these practices, allow medical access and investigate human rights violations.
The autopsy of Captain Acosta Arévalo, who died in custody on June 29, revealed that he had suffered multiple blows, bruises, excoriations and burns to various parts of the body. He suffered fractures in 16 ribs, the nasal septum and the right foot. Authorities reported that two DGCIM officers had been arrested and charged with pre-intentional homicide, but not for having committed acts of torture. I encourage the authorities to investigate allegations of torture, punish those responsible, repair the victims and take measures to prevent their recurrence.
According to the latest United Nations figures there are more than 4.3 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the world. I welcome the efforts made regarding reception, documentation and access to rights in the host countries. I agree with the words of Eduardo Stein, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, on the need to adopt measures to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration, they should not impose obstacles to access to the territory that may increase the irregular migration, and exacerbate the risks of being victims of various forms of violence and exploitation. The reports of xenophobia outbreaks in countries of the region are worrying and I redouble my request to the authorities of the host countries to mitigate and prevent them while preserving the rights of migrants and refugees.
My Office has continued to document cases of migrant victims of trafficking, particularly women, girls and boys, for the purpose of sexual exploitation, labor and recruitment for illegal activities by organized crime and other armed groups. Victims rarely report abuses for fear of reprisals or deportation, as well as due to corruption, impunity and lack of adequate care services. Likewise, the disappearance of dozens of migrants whose boats were shipwrecked or disappeared on the Caribbean coast, apparently related to trafficking networks and human trafficking to the Caribbean islands, was documented.
I am concerned about the information received by my Office according to which some civil society organizations and their representatives who collaborated in the preparation of my last report to this Council were victims of public disqualifications and threats by senior officials following their publication. Retaliation for cooperating with the United Nations is unacceptable and I urge the authorities to take preventive measures.
I remain certain that the recommendations in my report can serve as a guide to overcome the current situation. My Office will continue to provide technical assistance and support.