In September last year, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro kindly invited the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet, to come and visit the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. This visit concluded a few days ago and opened a channel of communication between the Venezuelan State and the Office of the High Commissioner.
While in Venezuela, she met President Maduro and the highest authorities of the branches of government, as well as institutional, social and political activists. Bachelet’s team visited hospitals, markets, universities and prison facilities. She spoke to the people and listened to their opinions and had absolutely free access to information.
She received abundant information about the implementation of public policies and the model of social protection that has been in place in Venezuela since 1999.
She received claims from various groups of victims, was able to verify existing problems, while also learning about efforts by the State to solve them.
Therefore, the content of the report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights is incomprehensible, since it is basically dominated by a selective and biased vision: the report lacks scientific rigor, contains grave methodological errors, and it looks like a carbon copy of previous reports.
The report ignores, almost entirely, information provided by the Venezuelan State. It only takes into account the information obtained from opposition spokespeople and the press. Suffice to mention that, out of 558 interviews, 460 were conducted outside of Venezuela, which amounts to the fact that 82 per cent of the opinions contained in the report are from abroad.
The report totally fails to mention any of the significant human rights achievements in Venezuela, while it ignores the severe impact of the illegal, criminal and immoral economic blockade on the daily life of Venezuelans.
Venezuela does not deny its problems. However, any serious effort to deal with them must consider their structural causes. For the past 20 years, Venezuela has been the victim of a multifaceted aggression perpetrated by the US Government, aiming at ‘regime change’.
These have included a coup d’état in 2002; an attempt to assassinate President Maduro in August 2018; various sabotages against the oil industry and public utilities; paramilitary and political violence; diplomatic siege and, since 2015, a severe blockade to our financial and commercial activities.
There is no “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela. Just like many other countries, we are currently facing economic problems [related] to diverse factors, such as a drop of oil prices and the economic blockade. Income earnings from oil exports since 2015 went from US$40 billion to just US$5 billion.
In spite of this, the Venezuelan Government has maintained the country in peace, while guaranteeing democracy and implementing policies of social justice. Healthcare and education are free. Venezuelan social programs benefit all Venezuelans regardless of political affiliation. A total of 2.6 million social houses have been built in the last eight years. Such a program has benefitted more than 12 million citizens.
It is true: important social indicators have been severely impacted as a consequence of the economic blockade. As of today, Venezuelan PDVSA assets in the US, worth US$30 billion, have been confiscated by the US, while 40 commercial banks are withholding US$5.4 billion, thus preventing Venezuela from purchasing food and medicines abroad.
Venezuela is unable to refinance its debt, and Venezuelan oil tankers are sanctioned, as are the companies that are commercially engaged with Venezuela.
Nevertheless, since 2015, the Venezuelan Government devotes 60 per cent of its revenues to importing food. The Venezuelan Government is taking care of six million families through a very successful program of food support called CLAP. Also, the Venezuelan Government has in place a bonus system to support workers’ salaries, and 100 per cent of people of pensionable age receive a pension.
Venezuela categorically rejects the criminalization of law enforcement agencies and the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, accused generically in the report of massive violations of human rights.
In spite of weaknesses in the justice system and specific deviations in police institutions, it seems that what is sought is for the Venezuelan state to be defenceless, when there are serious threats to national security, coup plots aimed at causing a bloodbath among the civilian population, and even foreign military intervention, with which President Trump has threatened Venezuela.
Political violence by the opposition resulted in the death of 43 people in 2014, and 120 people in 2017. The High Commissioner met the relatives of those who were burned alive in 2017 for appearing to be Chavista or because of the dark colour of their skin. We find truly lamentable that the report has ignored those testimonies.
Venezuela values the recognition that sanctions do indeed aggravate the economic situation and affect human rights. It is in this context that, in accordance with the UN Resolutions related to coercive and unilateral measures, we request the High Commissioner to demand the immediate lifting of the blockade against Venezuela.
Distinguished High Commissioner: Venezuela is absolutely convinced that you are aware that the report does not reflect the reality of what you saw during your stay in Venezuela. We demand the corrections of its contents, and we call upon a more considerate and respectful action from your office.
On behalf of our people, we urge you to reach a more balanced view. As President Maduro said, Venezuela will take the constructive recommendations by the High Commissioner, with a view to strengthening human rights and underpinning the social state and the rule of law in Venezuela.
Thus, today as before, following the example of our Liberators and holding the arms of truth and reason, Venezuela will continue defending its independence and sovereignty.
Mr William Castillo is the Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister for International Communication, and this article was mainly taken from his speech, delivered on Friday, 5th July 2019, during the 41st Session of the Council of Human Rights, held in Geneva, in response to the report on Venezuelan Human Rights by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet.