From Bachelet to Barbados
The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, led by Michelle Bachelet, on the situation in Venezuela is a document which bears clear political importance for the country. The drafting and publication of the report, based on resolution 39/1 of the UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, of which Venezuela is a member, has been devastating for maduro’s government, which will now have to address the facts in it reflected.
The report was prepared on the basis of the powers entrusted by the UN to the Office of the High Commissioner, in accordance with the international treaties and agreements endorsed by Venezuela, by virtue of which, they may collect evidence and substantiate files regarding human rights violations, which is expressly classified as a crime. In other words, the report has legal effect and is established within the United Nations, which in turns deploys all its mechanisms for the protection of the victims and hold those accountable responsible. Upon its release, the crimes of the madurismo have been documented before the UN, history, and the world.
Following its discussion before the Human Rights Council in Geneva, said instrument will be further discussed in the Third Committee of the General Assembly during the upcoming session, and from there, it will likely be presented for consideration of the Plenary of the UN General Assembly.
If requested by other countries during the Plenary of the UN General Assembly, a debate on the human rights situation in the country will be open for discussion. In this, the violations denounced on the report can be rejected or condemned, and even a resolution can be adopted to condemn the events and request measures to monitor such crimes, in addition to demanding the government to comply with its responsibilities and obligations within the framework of the human rights international law.
This does not, in any way, mean that our country will be invaded by the United Nations, as the spokespeople of the madurismo assure and the Venezuelan extreme right lament. No. The human rights reports or issues are competencies and themes of the General Assembly; therefore, they are not submitted for consideration of the Security Council, the only body with the power to invoke Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charters, which contemplates the use of force against a country. The cases of Iraq and Libya, used by the spokespeople of the madurismo to frighten and blackmail our people, were invasions and interventions carried out by the United States and NATO respectively; these were not a United Nations mandate.
It is equally strange and sad to see the reactions of both intolerant extremes, where both coincide in rejecting the Bachelet Report. The extreme right grumbles that we are not getting invaded, thus, for them, the report is worthless. On the other hand, the madurismo tries to discredit the report and feed the fear of the imminent “invasion” that such document allegedly propitiates to harden internal repression and to evade the serious accusations made by the UN.
The government immediately rejected the report, fact that surprises no one, since it is the typical attitude of authoritarian regimes which violate human rights. It has even gone so far as to discredit the High Commissioner and the United Nations.
The government sent one of its star persecutors to Geneva to represent it, replacing Ambassador Valero (one of the few career diplomats left in the Foreign Ministry). In that forum, he attacked the report, calling it “biased and lacking in scientific accuracy”, among other derogatory terms. As for the spokespeople of the madurismo, both the traditional and the opportunists, in a display of their ignorance about the work of the United Nations, they talk about an imminent invasion of the country while demanding names. They want the names of the victims and those who denounced the violations! They demand this information in a country where everyone knows, even themselves, that those who speak against the government immediately suffer the reprisals or end up imprisoned. Evidently, they ignore the fact that in this kind of reports the names of the victims and those making the denunciation are kept concealed so to avoid any sort of retaliation by the perpetrators.
It is certainly unbelievable that, at the time of writing this text, eight days after his death, the same government that accuses the Bachelet Report of being “biased” has not yet returned the body of Navy Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo to his family.
Whether the government likes it or not, the report and the human rights situation in the country will be debated in the most important organization of global multilateralism. There, the elements of the report will be presented, one by one, and a discussion on the situation will be held. The government will be exposed to the world for what it is, a disaster that has led our country into an abyss, placing in such a vulnerable situation that anything could happen. Venezuela, a country that only six years ago was a referent of hope for the peoples of the world, has now become a hell from which its children flee by the millions.
Maduro’s government has nothing to prove, nothing to offer, no progress, no epic, nothing heroic, nothing but the example of how to lead an entire people, that until recent was proud of the developments, a proud and happy people, to despair and misery, submitted by force to a shameful situation. Ashamed should feel the countries that up to their neck involved in supporting maduro; countries that in the past defended just causes and the hopes of peoples are now degraded to an incomprehensible pragmatism. Long gone are the days of Chávez and Fidel.
The truth is that we all have to thank the work of the Office of the High Commissioner, and especially that of its chief, former President Michelle Bachelet. She knew how to overcome the pressure of the extreme right and the power factors that support it, as well as the manipulations of the government.
The first ones, in a display of their intolerance, demanded that Bachelet went public with an upside down Venezuelan flag and, when she did not do so, they thought she was going to show herself applauding maduro. The second believed that since Bachelet is a progressive woman and champion of socialism in Chile, she would keep the complicit silence that so many who proclaim themselves “leftists” maintain regarding the Venezuelan tragedy.
The fact that the two-time president of Chile, renowned and respected political leader of the region, widely known and knowledgeable of the United Nations system, coordinated the preparation of the aforementioned report is, in itself, a guarantee of objectivity, responsibility, and balance.
But since she is also a socialist political leader, who has suffered firsthand the violence of fascism, it strips the madurismo of the banner of victimization before the left, which does not want to realize that we are facing an authoritarian and criminal government that is in no sense revolutionary.
In addition to the political and human credentials of Bachelet, the report was prepared by a professional work team which strictly adheres to the United Nations methodology and that it also counts on the support of other agencies of the multilateral organization.
In the last two opportunities that I visited the Office of the High Commissioner in Geneva, both to denounce the political persecution and aggression of all kinds of which I am a victim due to my critical positions, as well as to denounce the persecution and kidnapping of PDVSA workers and officers of our Bolivarian National Armed Forces, I provided documents, evidence, videos, photographs, irrefutable notorious and public facts, and long testimonial interviews. In the case of PDVSA workers, I delivered letters from the relatives and lawyers, with phone numbers and emails to be contacted and interviewed by the High Commissioner team. It is neither an easy nor a light task. Everything had to be corroborated.
Therefore, no one can accuse the report of lacking accuracy, depth and details, simply because it does not serve their interests or political priorities. On the contrary, the document has not only been prepared with the methodological thoroughness and expertise within the United Nations system, coordinated by former President Bachelet, an honorable and serious person who is not susceptible to manipulations of any kind. but who has conclusive testimonies and documentation on a situation that, instead of making the political factors act defensively, it should give way to open a national discussion on the political violence, intolerance, and human rights violations in the country as a whole.
That is precisely the discussion we should all worry about, regardless of the decisions of the elite. There is a reality that not only needs to be corrected and eradicated from the country, but those responsible must be held accountable and brought to justice, and the victims must receive reparations for the damages if possible at all. The impunity of the government must end and the legal and constitutional framework of the country, the guarantees, and the full rights of its citizens must be restored.
Nothing justifies the level of degradation of the government and nothing that excuses those responsible for all these crimes and atrocities that make us regress even beyond the sad episodes of State violence from the 60s and 70s.
But although the tactics of distraction and the propaganda machine of the madurismo tend to erase a tragedy by replacing with news or any scandalous event, as it is now the case of the alleged Barbados “agreements”, to which we will refer later, I believe that we need to clarify some aspects of this document of utmost importance not only for the United Nations but also, and especially, for the country. These are elements for the war of ideas and to better acknowledge that we are standing on a nest of snakes.
The Bachelet Report unmasks in a blunt, clear, and precise way the authoritarian, repressive and criminal nature of the government. It documents crimes and human rights violations of Venezuelans, which include offenses without statutory limitations, but it also reveals its obvious rightist orientation. In other words, they are violent and repressive not because they are insane or merely criminals, No! They are violent because they are imposing a rightist package of policies with devastating effects for the poor and hardworking people.
SECOND: ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS
Maybe as important as the previous element, the report denounces violations to the economic and social rights of the people; this means, to work, remuneration, food, health, and life. At the same time, it points out that such violated rights “resulted from the Government’s failure to fulfill its core obligations, which are non-derogable, even for economic reasons”. That is to say, the government cannot use the “economic war” or any kind of blockade as an argument to avoid its responsibilities with the economic and social rights of the people.
The fact that the minimum wage is not even a “subsistence wage”, that it is only enough to buy food for four days; that the “United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization reported 3.7 million people in Venezuela were malnourished”; that families only have enough food to eat twice or sometimes once a day; the fact that 60–100% of essential drugs cannot be found in the four most important cities of the country, including Caracas; and that “between November 2018 and February 2019, 1,557 people died due to lack of supplies in hospitals” as well as the reports that indicate that “40 patients died as a result of the March 2019 power outages”, among other atrocities, is the sole and exclusive responsibility of maduro’s government.
The madurismo insists on blaming others for such disaster, but it cannot avoid its obligations, they are State obligations. Let us consider the case of Cuba, a country severely abused and blocked for over 40 years, however, despite the poverty rates, it guarantees health, food, work, and life of its inhabitants. It is a problem of political orientation, of work capability.
The government tends to use the excuse of US sanctions against the country as the responsible for the economic situation, and, it does not deny that their impact is, above all, the consequence of Quevedo’s inability to lead PDVSA. The report stresses that the“figures published by the Central Bank of Venezuela on 28 May 2019 show that key economic indicators began to decline dramatically well before August 2017”.
So, as I have insisted since 2014, PDVSA’s intervention and the deliberate goal of the madurismo of controlling the industry by persecuting and imprisoning workers, with the subsequent loss of productive capacity, as well as the erratic behavior of the economy in the hands of maduro, led to this crisis of tragic proportions well before the US sanctions against the country.
The report unveils the deeply antipopular nature and fascist behavior of the armed groups created by maduro to subdue the people and achieve social control.
The revelation with figures provided by the government itself which indicates that in the raids carried out by FAES in poor neighborhoods, between 2018 and 2019, there have been 6,856 deaths due to “resistance to authority”, according to the official version, gives an idea of the terror imposed among the poor.
FAES “modus operandi” described by witness and relatives of the victims is outrageous: “Families of the victims described FAES breaking into their houses, taking their belongings, and exercising gender-based violence against women and girls, including forced nudity. They would separate young men from other family members before shooting them. According to their relatives, almost all of the victims had one or more shots in the chest.”
These criminal groups, masked and armed to the teeth, that hide behind their masks to attack poor neighborhoods are the work of maduro and his inner circle, his trust group. Cruel, violent, who despise life, who have decreed a de facto death penalty, administered by the police chiefs, keeping neighborhoods «at bay» with crime and violence. This is his doing, his inspiration, his criminal work.
FOURTH: SELECTIVE REPRESSION AND PERSECUTION OF CHAVISTA LEADERS AND WORKERS FOR POLITICAL REASONS
The report, for the very first time, draws attention to the situation of repression and persecution against Chavistas, including State workers and trade union leaders, who are against maduro.
The report points out that “The authorities have particularly targeted certain individuals and groups, including members of the political opposition and those perceived as threats to the Government due to their capacity to articulate critical positions and to mobilize others.” “Attacks have also targeted supporters of former President Hugo Chávez and military dissidents as well as civil servants and employees of State companies perceived as opponents.” “In 2018–2019, various trade union leaders and many workers were fired or detained after protesting for decent salaries and working conditions.”
FIFTH: ARBITRARY DETENTIONS AND TORTURE.
The report mentions that “the Government has used arbitrary detentions as one of the principal means to intimidate and repress the political opposition and any real or perceived expression of dissent since at least 2014.”
“In most cases, people were detained for exercising their fundamental rights, particularly freedom of opinion, expression, association and peaceful assembly. The detentions often had no legal basis. OHCHR also identified serious and repeated violations of the right to a fair trial in each of these cases.”
It also makes reference to the retaliation against the victim by arbitrarily detaining his or her relatives as a way of pressing anyone requested or a political persecuted, and even, as a form of additional punishment for those kidnapped or imprisoned.
Torture has taken over the country as an extended practice of police and security forces of the State. The report claims that “In most cases, women and men were subjected to one or more forms of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including electric shocks, suffocation with plastic bags, waterboarding, beatings, sexual violence, water and food deprivation, stress positions and exposure to extreme temperatures. Security forces and intelligence services, particularly SEBIN and DGCIM, routinely resort to such practices to extract information and confessions, intimidate, and punish the detainees. The authorities have failed to conduct prompt, effective, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigations into credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment, including sexual and gender-based violence.”
Torture is a deplorable and unjustifiable act under any circumstance.
SIXTH: SOCIAL CONTROL, VIOLENCE, AND MANIPULATION BY HUNGER
Social control exercised by the government, particularly in popular areas, is a combination of direct violence and the manipulation of the misery they created themselves.
The report states that “FAES has allegedly been responsible for numerous extrajudicial executions in security operations, as well as the CICPC” (6,856 deaths by resisting authority). It also points out that “Intelligence services (SEBIN and DGCIM) have been responsible for arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment, and torture of political opponents and their relatives. Armed “colectivos” contribute to this system by exercising social control in local communities, and supporting security forces in repressing demonstrations and dissent.”
The report indicates, based on interviews made in popular areas that “As the economic crisis deepened, the authorities began using social programmes (CLAP boxes and “carnet de la Patria) in a discriminatory manner, based on political grounds, and as an instrument of social control”.
This, of course, goes without mentioning the mechanisms of control and surveillance exercised over workers and employees of the public administration and State-run companies, military, and the Armed Forces, in which support and praise are demanded for the “builder of victories” under penalty of dismissal or imprisonment.
SEVENTH: GROUPS AT RISK: INDIGENOUS, WOMEN, MIGRANTS
The report mentions and documents the human rights violations to our indigenous people, a sector that was previously protected with special care by President Chávez and to which an entire chapter of our Constitution was dedicated for the very first time. They are now victims of misery, hunger, and violence, particularly in the states surrounding the Mining Arc, where they have suffered displacement from their ancestral lands, both by military personnel and by paramilitary groups dedicated to the extraction of gold and other minerals. The crimes against the Pemones and Warao peoples are mentioned in different chapters, as well as the issue of trafficking in persons, including the prostitution of women and girls in mining areas.
The report makes special reference to the vulnerability of women and girls who are victims of sexual abuses and humiliations of all kind during the operations and raids of FAES in indigenous areas, or in the mechanisms for assigning “Clap” boxes, in which they are subjected to arbitrary detentions for being related to a politically persecuted person, and even the abuses suffered by migrant women in the harsh journey to their destination or host country. This is an infuriating and painful situation, despite the tweet posted by a “magistrate” of the madurismo, in which she affirmed that if a woman, for any reason, engages in prostitution is because “she is a whore”.
The report also refers to the situation of vulnerability of most of the four million Venezuelans who have fled the country, that despite the madurismo’s stupid and obtuse insistence of denying such figure, it has been provided by United Nations agencies, among which UNHCR, in its last report on Venezuela.
Moreover, the report stresses that “Vulnerable situations generated in Venezuela are compounded by challenges that migrants face in transit and destination countries, such as lack of regular migration status, inadequate living conditions, labor exploitation, discrimination, and xenophobia. These factors of vulnerability, combined with hyper-sexualized stereotypes, increase migrants’ exposure to trafficking, sexual exploitation, and gender-based violence, particularly of women and girls, throughout their journey and in their final destination.”
Additionally, it touches upon a practice established by the government of extorting those who want to migrate legally, by charging them in dollars to guarantee all procedures to obtain and legalize documents, opening space for the extortion and corruption so well extended in this government. The report reads “Venezuelans face obstacles to obtain or legalize documentation, which infringe their right to leave their country and the right to an identity”.
EIGHT: REPRESSION AS STATE POLICY; THE ROLE OF THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE
Usually in cases of human rights violations, it is a question of identifying whether they respond to isolated events, whose perpetrators are brought to justice, or if, on the other hand, such in the case of Venezuela, it is part of a State policy with the participation of the Executive, the Judiciary, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
In this regard, the report stresses that “institutions responsible for the protection of human rights, such as the Attorney General’s Office, the courts and the Ombudsperson, usually do not conduct prompt, effective, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigations into human rights violations and other crimes committed by State actors, bring perpetrators to justice, and protect victims and witnesses. Such inaction contributes to impunity and the recurrence of violations.”
In addition, it indicates that “judicial authorities have often reversed the burden of proof”, which means that it is up to the victim to demonstrate his or her innocence, which in turns is a violation of the principle of presumption of innocence, it means that the victim is innocent until proven guilty.
At the same time, it highlights what it has become a cancer for the administration of justice: “The lack of independence of, and corruption within, the judiciary are also major obstacles faced by victims in their search for justice and reparation.”
The report underscores the deplorable role of the attorney general and the ombudsperson: “The Attorney-General’s Office has regularly failed to comply with its obligation to investigate and prosecute perpetrators, and the Ombudsperson has remained silent vis-à-vis human rights violations. Neither of these institutions nor the Government or the police provides protection to victims and witnesses of human rights violations.”
It clearly points out the leading role of the attorney general in the cases of human rights violations “the Attorney General has contributed to public rhetoric stigmatizing and discrediting the opposition and those critical of the Government, in violation of the principle of presumption of innocence.”
NINTH: WE WARNED ABOUT THIS AND NO ONE LISTENED.
For more than five years, I have been warning and denouncing in all the spaces and instances the «abrupt turn» of the madurismo towards the right. This has cost me persecution, all kinds of aggressions, ostracism, and exile. The Bachelet Report corroborates, with the help of the United Nations, what with so much personal sacrifice I have denounced for the country’s awareness.
The violence denounced here brings us back to the worst practices of the Fourth Republic, since it is the expression of a right-wing government. The madurismo’s dismantling of the work and legacy of President Chávez in economic, political, and social fields has serious consequences for the people, thus they have only been imposed using violence and hunger.
The madurismo, and particularly maduro, have become the gravediggers of the Chavismo and the Bolivarian Revolution. A sad reality that has only been made possible through the violence and repression instituted as State policy; a bourgeois, outdated, incompetent State that, led by the madurismo, is developed with its worst concepts and practices, violently imposing itself over the remains of the Bolivarian State.
This harsh report, which reveals the true nature of this government, while being sad because it reveals the pain of the victims of imprisonment, is an appeal to the conscience of all the people, of the society as a whole. The revelations in it included are a slap in the face of indifference, a complaint to our Bolivarian Armed Forces, to PSUV, to the progressive and popular forces that still support maduro. How much longer will all the violence and repression last? Why? What are they defending?
Nothing justifies the current situation in the country. Commander Chávez did not sacrifice his life and immolated himself for this. This is not a revolution. The report demonstrates the birth of a fascist behavior that will destroy the entire country and it will lead us to an even greater tragedy.
The news and speculation regarding the negotiations in Barbados seek to distract and hide the pain of the victims, of the Captain murdered under torture, of the young man who was blinded by a shot to the face, of the Bachelet Report.
Whatever is taking place in Oslo, Washington, Barbados, or anywhere outside the country, is nothing but a negotiation among the elites, behind the backs of the country.
No one knows what it is being negotiated, what it is on the line, what they are giving in exchange. The political dialogue is the right instrument as long as the people are allowed to partake. Why are voluntad popular and the madurismo going to decide the future of the country? Who are they representing? Why does it have to be a secret negotiation if we have a Constitution and laws? Why are there no calls for exercising popular sovereignty?
They are not going to do so, they continue to make decisions for all of us, even worse, the countries whose interests they represent, are the true rulers of the situation. How many people are maduro and voluntad popular representing?
There cannot be any dialogue behind the backs of the country. The people need to decide their own future.
Elections are offered as the solution. The country is in no conditions to go to elections. Elections are necessary, but first, the institutions must change. Elections with mikel moreno and its judiciary that bars and imprisons? Elections with tarek williams saab who persecutes, accuses and condemns? Elections with maduro and his Sebin, Dgcim, Faes? Elections with a CNE in which jorge rodríguez and Diosdado are free to enter the room where votes are being counted and tell people what the result should be?
And how the four million people that have fled the country will cast their votes if the government does not even recognize their existence? And while the elections are being organized, what does it happen with the hunger, the medicine, the violence? Who steers this boat adrift? maduro? guaidó? Who holds legitimacy?
And if the elections are tomorrow, are the results going to be recognized? How can rule in this disaster? How do you achieve governance?
I have said it, a Patriotic Government Junta holds far more legitimacy than any secret pact between the elites, behind the backs of the people. We can convene it through the referendum requested by some sectors; the Civic-Military Union can take over and consult the people, in order to restore the Constitution, the sovereignty of the nation; this would be a transitional government to reestablish the institutionalism, the rights of all Venezuelans, and only then, in a period no longer than the period necessary for a recall referendum, call for elections, dissolve the Patriotic Junta, and legitimize all powers. Then, and only then, we can restart the reconstruction of the country. This is the moment of politics with capital “P”.
Let each one of us review our role in history. I have assumed mine. I can see the eyes of Commander Chávez in any face of a humble person, at the time of being held accountable by history. I have sworn to do anything in my power to end this tragedy, to overcome this disaster and join the people in their fight for rescuing justice, life, and peace.