Venezuela Weekly: Human Rights Do-Si-Do

On Friday, September 27, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution creating an independent investigative body to look into human rights violations and crimes taking place in Venezuela since 2014 (extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and torture). The Lima Group proposed the resolution and it received 19 votes in favor, 7 against, and 21 abstentions (Mexico and Uruguay abstained).

International and national civil society organizations have welcomed the resolution (see the statements of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch). Venezuelan human rights group PROVEA called it historic, suggesting it was made possible “by the courageous efforts of human and social rights organizations in Venezuela, the struggle of the victims and their families, and the strong support of the international community.” Venezuela thus becomes the first Latin American country investigated by the UNHRC. Maduro’s government rejected the resolution and said they would not cooperate.

This rejection came one week after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Maduro government and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, which would allow for the visitation of special rapporteurs. Countries supportive of the Maduro government passed a competing resolution in the UNHRC supporting this memorandum of understanding and requesting that “both the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the opposition to continue to advance down the path of genuine political dialogue to reach a peaceful, democratic and constitutional solution”

Human Rights Watch said this resolution does not facilitate accountability in Venezuela and regretted that Mexico and Uruguay backed it. Uruguay said they voted in favor of it because they think it better contributes to the work of the high commissioner and that the other proposal was more political in nature.

Negotiations

Uruguay and Mexico’s convergence on Venezuela issues was not confined to the UNHRC. During a bilateral meeting, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa and Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced a relaunch of the “Montevideo mechanism” (MM) in the first week of November in Mexico. They hope for participation by Venezuela’s two conflicting political forces.

Mexico and Uruguay first launched the MM in Montevideo the night before the creation of the International Contact Group (ICG) consisting of European Union and Latin American countries including Uruguay. While the MM sought to facilitate a “dialogue” with an open agenda, the ICG promoted a “negotiation” with a specific agenda: new elections (see David Smilde and Geoff Ramsey’s review here). Uruguay’s return to collaboration with Mexico in a more neutral stance on Venezuela, would seem to be a result of its displeasure with the use of the Rio Treaty (TIAR) to pressure Venezuela. It is yet to be seen how this might affect their involvement in the ICG.

Both the Maduro government and opposition National Assembly have been positioning themselves around the issue of resuming negotiations.

  • Maduro expressed his willingness to resume negotiations mediated by Norway. Furthermore, despite the recent decision of the EU to sanction more Venezuelan officials, Maduro ordered the Vice President, Delcy Rodríguez, to meet with the diplomats of the European Union in Venezuela and to “establish a relationship of respect.”
  • The National Assembly approved a resolution of support for the proposal that Guaidó and his aides presented to the Maduro government during the suspended negotiation process. The proposal leaves open a return to the Norwegian-facilitated negotiations.
  • But the opposition’s departure from the Barbados round of negotiations in September and invoking the TIAR has created significant political costs for returning to the table. The document voted on in the AN generated significant rejection from opposition radicals who expressed their disdain that the resolution neither mentions the “end of usurpation,” nor makes any mention of the TIAR. And the same day, AN Deputy Julio Borges, exiled in Colombia, said the Norwegian-facilitated negotiation was definitively over.

Migration

  • Xenophobic attacks on Venezuelan migrants have intensified in Peru and Ecuador, generating alarm. Viral video footage showing a Venezuelan women being beaten by Peruvian police led to expressions of solidarity by some politicians, but also declarations by a congresswoman that she would request all Venezuelans be deported.
  • The Maduro government said the Peruvian government was violating its international obligations by allowing acts of this kind. For its part, the Peruvian government condemned xenophobia and rejected Maduro’s allegations. Later Peru and representatives of Guaido announced that they would coordinate actions related to Venezuelan migration and xenophobia.
  • A recent poll published by the UN High Commission for Refugees reveals that 62% of Venezuelans in Peru feel discriminated against.
  • The Maduro government’s announcement of a census of vacant real estate has alarmed many Venezuelans who fear the government will confiscate the property of those who have moved abroad.

Economy

  • Nicolas Maduro said his government is ready to renegotiate Venezuela’s $60 billion in defaulted debt, saying they have ways to work around U.S. financial sanctions.
  • The Maduro government continues to service its debt with Russia.

Humanitarian Aid

  • International efforts to address Venezuela’s humanitarian emergency continue to struggle for funding. The UN said that so far it has received just 9% of its US$ 223 million Humanitarian Response Plan for Venezuela.