UN Human Rights Council Confronts Venezuela

Article appeared in Human Rights WatchAt the UN Human Rights Council session that ended last week, member states, including from Latin America, spoke up clearly and forcefully about the profound human rights and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, placing the issue on the council’s agenda in unprecedented ways. But the real work still lies ahead – the challenge now is to keep up the multilateral pressure on the Venezuelan government.

Governments subjected Venezuela to a barrage of criticism at the September council session for its increasingly brutal crackdown on dissent. Meanwhile, there are signs even allies are wavering in support.

Before the session, 115 NGOs, including 81 from Venezuela, called on the council to address the country’s human rights situation. Human Rights Watch and the other groups highlighted a range of issues, including the brutal crackdown on massive anti-government protests since early April by security forces and armed pro-government groups called “colectivos,” the prosecution of hundreds of opponents in military courts, the frighteningly broad powers of the government’s Constituent Assembly, and ongoing severe shortages of medicine and food. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.