Venezuela Weekly: Bachelet to Visit this Week

The former President of Chile and current U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, will visit Venezuela for three days this week (June 19-21). Bachelet will have high-level meetings with actors from the opposition, the government, economic leaders, members of civil society, as well as with victims of human rights violations and their relatives.

The much anticipated visit holds significant potential for altering Venezuela’s political stalemate as Bachelet was personally invited by Maduro, and as a two-term president of Chile, was part of the regional “pink tide” of leftist governments. Her political profile has generated all sorts of opposition conspiracy theories regarding her bias as well as painfully heteronormative calls for her to avoid being “seduced” by Maduro. But all indications are that she will pull no punches.

According to some extra-official sources, the government of Nicolas Maduro has agreed to release some political prisoners during Bachelet visit, and also the possibility of opening a permanent human rights office in Caracas. The visit comes just weeks before the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Right makes public a report about the status of human rights in Venezuela.

More Human Rights

  • While the Boston Group (an informal dialogue space between the Maduro government and the opposition coordinated by a network of Venezuela and and U.S. figures) has taken a secondary role during 2019 as the International Contact Group and Norwegian negotiation efforts have come to the fore, this week it demonstrated its continuing relevance and one source of strength: its reach into the Maduro government.
    • Due to the efforts of the Boston Group, Gilber Caro, a substitute deputy of the Voluntad Popular for the National Assembly was set free. Caro was arrested on the 26th of April and information about his detention was scarce, generating reaction of local and international organisations.
    • The Boston Group also brokered a prison visit by Edgar Zambrano’s wife. Zambrano is vice-president of the National Assembly, and was incarcerated after Juan Guaidó’s failed political uprising on April 30. Zambrano had been incommunicado for over a month. After the visit, his wife confirmed that he is in good health and has not suffered any torture.
  • UNICEF has expressed significant concerns about the critical situation of the children in the country, after Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director of Communication, finished a three-day trip to Venezuela.

Violence

  • Neighbors of the José Félix Ribas sector of the Eastern Caracas barrio of Petare demonstrated against the violent actions carried out by the special forces of the Bolivarian National Police (FAES) in their community. According to the demonstrators, FAES violates human rights during their operations, including theft from the homes they search.
  • The Venezuelan Prisons Observatory reported that in the first quarter of 2019, 31 detainees have died in police cellblocks in the country. These cellblocks are meant as temporary jails for pre-trail detainees, but they have become overflow spaces that that are now more dangerous than Venezuela’s hellish prisons.

Migration

  • A record number of Venezuelans entered Peru through its northern border with Ecuador, in the last days before the implementation of strict immigration requirements, Peru’s immigration office said (Venezuelans will need passport plus visa). The situation made the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) send additional teams to the border to support local authorities.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump said he was looking into the possibility of granting asylum or temporary protected status to Venezuelans fleeing political turmoil in their country.”

Opposition

  • The Guaidó government has been put on its heels by friendly-fire. Opposition news portal PanAm Post reported that two representatives of Guaidó in Cúcuta, Colombia are involved in a corruption scandal, provoking local and international reactions. According to paper, the representatives misused funds intended to pay for the costs of the Venezuelan troops that disserted the Venezuela Army and now live in Colombia. Guaidó promised that he would do whatever it takes to investigate these accusations. Representatives of the Maduro’s government lost no time accusing Guaido and his allies for illicitly profiting from Venezuela’s political and economic standoff.

Economy

  • The New York Times’ Anatoly Kurmanaev confirmed last week’s story in the Wall Street Journal regarding the reduction of business between Russian arms company RosTec and Venezuela. However, Kurmanaev portrays it as an across-the-board reduction in economic ties given the realities of Venezuela’s inability to pay, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own political and economic challenges at home.
  • The Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) announced that three new large-denomination bolivar notes would start circulating from the 13th of June. It is the second time in a year that the Central Bank is obliged to issue larger denomination bills, due to hyperinflation.
  • According to the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal more and more transactions in dollars are taking place in the country, even among the popular sectors.