Venezuela Weekly: Region Searches for Solutions

Regional actors continue to take measures regarding Venezuela, and discuss what should be done. On Thursday, September 27 Organization of American States Secretary General argued that the international community had the “responsibility to protect,” Venezuela. He suggested that he would “unequivocally condemn any illegitimate armed attack” [italics mine] and warned that “the greatest tragedies of our lifetime are a result of the failure to act.” Later on Thursday he suggested “credible threats” are needed to give the Maduro government reason to negotiate.

  • Early on Thursday, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations passed a resolution saying the Venezuelan government should open its borders to humanitarian aid, and asking the UN high commissioner for human rights to submit a report on the situation. The resolution received 23 votes in favor, 7 against and 17 abstentions.
  • On Wednesday six countries from the region (Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru) sent a letter to the International Criminal Court (ICC). It marks the first time member countries of the ICC have referred another member. The letter effectively increases pressure on ICC prosecutors to investigate cases of human rights abuses in Venezuela, that have been presented to the court.
  • Also on Wednesday, the US added several names to the list of sanctioned Venezuelan officials. The move seems to indicate that the US has given up on trying to fracture the governing coalition. At one time, it was thought that Jorge Rodriguez, Delcy Rodriguez, and Vladimir Padrino López could be open to negotiation.
  • Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Trump administration is seeking to crack down on shell companies used to siphon off money from food importation networks. The effort is led by The Treasuy Department’s Marshall Billingslea, who is also the architect of the financial sanctions introduced in August 2017.

Violence

  • Amnesty International released a major report on violence in Venezuela criticizing the state for not guaranteeing the right to life in two ways. First, the government has presided over a context of generalized impunity in which violence between private individuals has soared. Second, the government has implemented repressive, militarized crime initiatives which have themselves been a considerable source of violence and effectively criminalized poverty (Download and English language report here.)
  • Soraya El Achkar, the human rights activist who led the Hugo Chávez government’s police reform effort from 2006 on, strongly criticized the actions of the Special Actions Forces (FAES) of the National Bolivarian Police (PNB). In a series of tweets, she accused them of carrying out robbery and executions, simulating confrontations, and torturing and threatening citizens. She suggested they did not reflect the spirit of the revolution and sullied the name of the PNB.
  • The FAES are the newest iteration of Venezuela’s militarized policing initiatives. After the People’s Liberation Operations (OLP) were accused of carrying out a massacre in December 2016 they were phased out, but quickly replaced by the FAES. Unsurprisingly, the FAES picked-up where the OLP left off, and in the 15 months from May 2017 to July 2018 killed 213 people. Earlier this year, the “Monitor de Victimas” published a report referring to the FAES as an “extermination group.”
  • One day after El Achkar’s criticism, Minister of Interior and Justice Nestor Reverol announced that the government would be creating a school for special instruction for the FAES. However, he did not say when this training might be implemented. Furthermore, the terms he used suggested continued conflation of citizen security and national security. On his Twitter account he suggested the training would focus on “the threats to the Fatherland, such as paramilitaries, drug trafficking, and organized crime, which seek to undermine the peace of the Venezuelan people.”

Clientelism and control

  • Last week, 34 supermarket managers were jailed for “hiding products.” On September 24 Portugal threatened to break diplomatic relations with Venezuela given that several of the managers were Portuguese. 2 days later 12 of them were released. The other 22 are still in custody.
  • The government began rolling out its new fuel payment system that will use the Fatherland Card for preferential prices.
  • Efecto Cocuyo has a story of the “social trial” of a woman who apparently made anti-Maduro comments after the August drone attack. Neighbors from her Misión Vivienda (Housing Mission) apartment building organized against her and had her thrown out. She also lost her government job. The exchanges reveal a logic whereby loyalty is expected from those who receive benefits from the government.

Humanitarian Emergency

  • The Venezuelan Health Alliance, which brings together 18 Venezuelan health care organizations, published an open letter to the member countries of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to develop an integral plan to address Venezuela’s health care crisis.
  • PAHO did manage to import 16 tons of medicines and hospital supplies in the form of 40 Emergency Medical Kits distributed to priority hospitals.

Opposition

  • The Frente Amplio (FA “Broad Front”) held a rally in the Aula Magna of the Central University of Venezuela. The FA was launched last March with a raucous rally in the same space. But the initiative soon fizzled. This time around the crowd showed its impatience. Some of those attending interrupted the political leaders speaking with shouts of “what are we going to do?!” The FA announced that it was calling for a protest on October 5, to demand the government respect collective bargaining agreements. This only moderately successful rally (there were empty seats) came despite several parties from the Democratic Unity Coalition (MUD) suggesting they saw the FA as their most important hope for unity.

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news digest that is brief yet highlights concrete information. As such most of our links will be to local and regional Spanish-language press. English-language links will be highlighted in bold.

Did I miss something important or get something wrong? Let me know at [email protected]