Nearly five million have fled Venezuela as abuses continue: UN

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 11 2020 12:04 AM

People march as they protest against Venezuelans living in the country, who arrived after fleeing the crisis in Venezuela, in Lima, Peru February 25, 2020. Sebastian Castaneda, Reuters

GENEVA, Switzerland - Some 4.9 million people have left Venezuela, wracked by years of economic and political crisis, the UN rights chief said Tuesday, decrying ongoing attacks on opposition politicians, protesters and journalists.

Providing an update on the human rights situation in Venezuela to the UN Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet warned that "political tensions and acts of violence by security forces and government supporters against opposition parliamentarians have continued" since her last report in September.

She lamented that opposition parliamentarian Gilber Caro and his assistant Victor Ugas remained detained in an unknown location since their arrest late last year, while congressman Ismael Leon remained under house arrest.

"My office has also documented attacks on political opponents, demonstrators and journalists, without follow-up action by the security forces," Bachelet said.

She also pointed out that security forces had since the beginning of the year been blocking opposition politicians from accessing the parliament.

"In addition, my Office continues to receive allegations of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment at the headquarters of the General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence in Caracas," she said.

The UN rights chief warned that unions were also under attack, with union leaders facing evictions and arbitrary detentions.

These abuses come as Venezuelans face a towering political crisis, with opposition leader Juan Guaido recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries, including the United States.

They are also suffering the worst economic and social crisis in recent history, with medicine and food shortages common.

Bachelet pointed to UN statistics showing a full "4.9 million people have left the country."

She voiced concern over punishing sanctions slapped on the country by the administration of US President Donald Trump, including an oil embargo.

This, she warned, had severely hit the government's "resources for social spending" at a time when 2.3 million people in the country are "severely food insecure", and another seven million are considered "moderately food insecure."

"Despite exceptions to allow imports of medicines, food and humanitarian supplies, public services and the general population continue to suffer from the impact of strict financial sector scrutiny," Bachelet said.