Political persecution & divided opposition gives Maduro the upper hand — as Venezuela’s people starve


Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s regime has hunkered down, betting that it can outlast its domestic and foreign opponents. For the moment, at least, it seems to have the upper hand. The big losers in this stalemate are ordinary Venezuelans, who continue to suffer from an extraordinary humanitarian crisis, The Washington Post reports:

Those who cannot pay $14 for a box of imported cornflakes still struggle to find food. According to the website Caracas Chronicles, 80 percent of health clinics have closed. Some 5,000 people a day flee the country, adding to the more than 4 million who have already left. But nearby countries, including Ecuador, Chile and Trinidad and Tobago, are taking steps to curtail entry by Venezuelans. The Trump administration, despite its anti-Maduro rhetoric, has not granted protected status to Venezuelans who have reached the United States.


Venezuela’s divided opposition benefits Maduro (see below), observers suggest. There are three pillars of power in Venezuela – political, military and economic – and while the military has been steadfast in its support for the current government, Maduro doesn’t have control of the other two, analyst Allison Fedirka reports for Geopolitical Futures

The economy is in ruins, thanks in part to U.S. sanctions, declining oil output, shortages of foods and goods, and the general need for massive structural reforms. Political power, meanwhile, is a matter of relativity: It tends to ebb and flow, but the recent defection appears to give him the upper hand if only because it deals such a blow to the image of the opposition. In short, the opposition’s division has given Maduro two advantages. It makes him seem like the safer bet for the Chavistas, and without a viable replacement, it situates him nicely for direct talks with the U.S.

Millions of Venezuelans continue to suffer rights violations, including dozens of possible extrajudicial killings carried out by a special police force, according to the United Nations’ chief human rights official, reports suggest:

Nongovernmental organizations report that the Special Action police force carried out 57 suspected extrajudicial killings in July alone within Caracas, Michelle Bachelet said in an oral presentation on Venezuela to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. Bachelet’s presentation followed a scathing written report issued in early July that found a “pattern of torture” under the regime of Nicolás Maduro and cited violations like arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and enforced disappearances.

Since the creation of the Special Actions Force of Venezuela (Fuerza de Acciones Especiales, FAES) as a branch of the Bolivarian National Police in 2017, police with the unit have engaged in serious human rights violations with impunity, Human Rights Watch said in a new report:

Its abusive policing practices in low-income communities are consistent with a pattern Human Rights Watch and Provea, a Venezuelan human rights group, found in 2016 of widespread allegations of abuses by security forces of ordinary citizens during what was known as the “Operation to Liberate and Protect the People” (Operación de Liberación y Protección del Pueblo, OLP). 

“In the midst of an economic and humanitarian crisis that is hitting the poor the hardest, Venezuelan authorities are resorting to egregious abuses in low-income communities that no longer support the Maduro regime,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

UN Watch/Twitter

And yet….

No joke: the U.N. Human Rights Council soon votes on a resolution on Venezuela’s human rights record that was drafted by Venezuela itself—diplomat Félix Peña Ramos—and sponsored by Iran, UN Watch’s @HillelNeuer tweeted. The text praises the Maduro regime’s efforts on human rights, and instead attacks the West. #UNGA #UNGA74

Colombian President Ivan Duque called on Saturday for coordinated international sanctions targeting Venezuela to help stop President Nicolas Maduro’s support for Colombian rebels and drug traffickers from destabilizing Latin America, Reuters reports (HT:FDD).

The Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) holds public hearings during the 173rd Period of Sessions. Schedule includes:

  • — 9 a.m.: “Climate Change and Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights of Women, Children, Indigenous Peoples and Rural Communities”
  • — 9 a.m.: “Political Persecution in Venezuela”
  • 10:15 a.m.: “Defense, National Security Doctrine and Violations of the Human Rights of Citizens and Human Rights Defenders in Venezuela”
  • — 10:15 a.m.: “Implementation of Protective Precautionary Measures in Favor of Independent Journalists in Nicaragua”
  • — 11:30 a.m.: “Violence and Security in the Context of the Social Protests in Honduras”
  • — 11:30 a.m.: “Persecution, Repression, Criminalization and Judicialization of the Peasant and Forcibly Displaced Population of Nicaragua”

September 25, 2019. Venue: IACHR, 1889 F Street NW, Washington, D.C. RSVP: 202-370-9000, cidhoea@oas.org

As the situation in Venezuela worsens, a mother leaves Venezuela with her children to find the medical attention they need, ShareAmerica reports (above).

Credit: Geopolitical Futures

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