Message to Rapporteur Alena Douhan: Do not confuse perpetrators with victims

Even though the Government of Nicolás Maduro committed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, during her visit in June 2019, to invite at least ten thematic mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council, composed of rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups, only the visit of Belarusian Alena Douhan has taken place, scheduled for February 1 to 12, 2021.

The reason? The visitor is the rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures and Human Rights, and her mission will be:

“To examine, in the spirit of co-operation and dialogue, whether and to what extent the adoption, maintenance or implementation of sanctions [by other governments against Venezuelan officials and institutions] hinders the full realization of the human rights of individuals”

In a statement, Douhan advanced: “I will focus in particular on any negative impact that sanctions may have on the enjoyment of all human rights in Venezuela.” She also announced that she would make recommendations to public officials on how they could mitigate or eliminate the alleged impact on the population.

The rapporteur plans to meet with senior government officials, deputies of the National Assembly, members of the Judiciary, representatives of civil society, the opposition, victims and their families.

The cause of all evil

The Venezuelan authorities attribute the terrifying economic and social crisis that the country is going through to the sanctions that governments, mainly the United States, have imposed on it after they ignored the Parliament elected in 2015 and sought to replace it with the questioned Constituent Assembly in 2017.

“Venezuela is prevented from accessing its funds abroad to pay for the medicines that the people need, the primary sources of medicines, equipment, medical supplies, and the purchase of fuel,” Maduro complained last December.

However, data from national and international organizations contradict the official version and warn that the current crisis has not been caused by sanctions, most of which are directed against officials accused of human rights violations, attacking democracy or being involved in acts of corruption.

Thus, for example, the former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, described in August 2016 the country’s situation as a humanitarian crisis due to political instability, stating that basic needs, such as food, water, health and clothing, could not be covered.

The ACAPS (Assessment Capacities Project) incorporated Venezuela for the first time into the global crisis landscape, indicating that the worsening economic crisis risks deepening the humanitarian, political, social and humanitarian crisis. For its part, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) declared that “the number of people suffering hunger [in Venezuela] more than doubled, from 2.9 million in 2013-2015 to 6.8 million in 2016-2018”.

The accountable is at home

Although some organizations such as the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA) consider that the sanctions have aggravated the humanitarian crisis that the country is going through and that they should be reviewed, a recent report makes it clear that the cause of the dramatic reduction of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since 2013 has two causes: the reduction in oil production and the policy of controls and nationalization promoted by Chavismo.

“If we take a picture of the economic situation in Venezuela for August 2017, we find an economy in full recession and dangerously rising inflation,” reads the report, in which it is recalled that the recession began in 2014, “fourteen quarters before the first major sanctions.”

Likewise, the investigation indicates that oil production under Chavismo has only fallen, from 3.5 million barrels a day in 1998 to 2.7 million in 2014 and 2.1 million at the time the first financial sanction was announced.

For its part, the Venezuelan Program for Education-Action on Human Rights (Provea), in another report on the issue of sanctions, assures that the crisis affecting Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) is not the result of the measures from Washington (the Citgo embargo and the prohibition of borrowing or restructuring debt) but the mismanagement of the country’s resources during the Chavez regime; As an example, the report cites the fuel subsidy, which cost the nation 183 billion dollars between 2014 and 2019.

The Provea report further states:

“With only 10% of this astronomical sum, it would have been possible to build 244 top-of-the-line hospitals with 1,000 intensive care beds (especially urgent to treat people with COVID-19, in its most critical phase) and 2000 regular beds”.

The mismanagement of PDVSA, as well as the imposition of a failed economic model, are a direct consequence of the control that the prevailing political regime has exercised since the period in which Chávez ruled over all the powers of the State, especially the Judicial and the Citizen powers, responsible, among other things, for fighting corruption.

For its part, the definitive breakdown of the principle of separation of powers and the constitution of a de facto state in Venezuela, after the victory of the opposition in the 2015 parliamentary elections, has not only scared away potential investments, but is also the reason for the sanctions, which have hit even more the already battered economy and, therefore, hurt citizens.

Finally, it should be noted that the Maduro government, in contradiction of its own discourse as a victim of sanctions, has opted to criminalize and persecute humanitarian organizations instead of facilitating the work of those who provide humanitarian aid to the neediest in the country, as is currently happening with the members of the NGO Azul Positivo.

Selective cooperation

Returning to the visit of rapporteur Alena Douhan, Acceso a la Justicia welcomes the initiative but would also like to see the visit of other United Nations mechanisms that have expressed interest in coming to the country to verify the situation of human rights.

Also, we consider it important that organizations such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which due to its geographical proximity has a more in-depth knowledge of the Venezuelan reality, be allowed to enter the territory. Maduro’s government officials prevented this instance from visiting last year.

How does it affect Venezuelans?

Cooperation with international human rights organizations must be open, transparent and complete because otherwise, it will not yield any positive results for citizens, the most affected by the serious crisis facing the country. The issue of international sanctions and their impact on the current humanitarian crisis must be debated, but also the causes of this situation.

Problems such as inflation, food and medicine shortages, and public services failures began long before the governments of the United States, Canada, or the European Union even thought of imposing sanctions on Venezuelan public officials and institutions. As they used to deny the existence of a humanitarian crisis in the country, the authorities refuse to acknowledge this, and now they are closing on humanitarian spaces even more, as evidenced by the criminalization and arbitrary detention of five members of the NGO Azul Positivo.

Translated by José Rafael Medina, Hearts On Venezuela

Fuente: Message to Rapporteur Alena Douhan: Do not confuse perpetrators with victims