The recent arrests of three members of the Venezuelan NGO Fundaredes are an example of how the Chavez regime pursues dissident voices and human rights defenders in Venezuela, affirmed the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in presenting this Monday (5) – the date that marks the 210th anniversary of the country’s independence – her most recent report on the situation in Venezuela.
Bachelet’s office documented, between May 2020 and May 2021, 97 incidents related to human rights activists in Venezuela, many of whom were charged with criminal offenses for engaging in legitimate forms of civic participation.
“These are signs of shrinking civic space and increasing polarization,” Bachelet said. “The arrest of three Fundaredes members just three days ago is a worrying example,” he added, taking the opportunity to ask the detainees to have urgent access to the defense lawyers of their choice.
Bachelet said he supported the initiatives for a dialogue between the Nicolás Maduro regime and civil society, citing as a positive example the new composition of the National Electoral Council (CNE), which now includes two nominees by the opposition, but which remains a controlled body. by chavismo. Still, the High Commissioner said restrictions on civic space remain a matter of concern.
“In particular, I highlight the stigmatization, criminalization and threats against dissident voices, especially against civil society, the media and members of the opposition.”
Bachelet also urged the regime to release all political prisoners and apply humanitarian measures to detainees with serious health problems.
In his speech, Bachelet said that the judicial and police reforms announced by the regime recently are welcome. “Police reform is the occasion to mark a significant and sustainable shift towards greater protection of human rights and the prevention of human rights violations. It is an opportunity to strengthen oversight and accountability mechanisms, strengthen professionalization and the training of members of the security forces,” he noted.
Last month, Maduro appointed his wife, Cilia Flores, and Diosdado Cabello, number two in Chavismo, to chair a commission “that will make a profound and accelerated revolution” in Venezuela’s justice system. The commission’s first mission is to present proposals to reduce the overcrowding of prisoners in the cells of police stations or places of pre-trial detention which, like prisons, are overcrowded, mainly due to the slowness of the judicial process in the country.
Bachelet also cited as positive the recent conviction of a police officer for the murder of César Pereira during a protest in 2017. “Systematic judicial proceedings in similar cases, including consideration of chain of command responsibility, would reflect a firm willingness to bring perpetrators to justice,” he said, stating and following that he entered into an agreement with the regime’s Attorney General to gain access to the files on cases of human rights violations. “I am confident that my teams will soon have access to court hearings.”
The UN team led by Bachelet has visited eight Venezuelan states, passing through 26 detention centers so far. Last week they visited a Sebin detention center, where they conducted individual and confidential interviews with detainees.
Vaccines and poor conditions
The access of Venezuelans to basic services was also a point cited by Bachelet, who called for the continuation of efforts to lift international sanctions against Venezuela, also recalling that socioeconomic inequalities are a problem that already existed in the country before the sanctions.
The working conditions of health professionals and vaccination against Covid-19 in this sector also need to be improved. Bachelet cited organizations that complain about the lack of personal protective equipment, the lack of payment of salaries and unhealthy working conditions. “It is estimated that more than a fifth of Covid-19 deaths in the country affect health workers. Vaccination must be accessible to all.”