UN Body Slams Venezuela for Security Force Abuses

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The United Nations has sharply criticized the heavy-handed policing tactics used in Venezuela, among several other issues, an indication of the country’s growing isolation from the international community that may only worsen its human rights situation in the short term. 

Abuses by security forces was one of the main themes during the UN Human Rights Council’s periodic review of Venezuela on November 1, according to Runun.es. The Canadian representative took aim at the anti-crime initiative known as Operation Liberation of the People (Operaciones de Liberación del Pueblo – OLP), which human rights groups have tied to numerous abuses by state forces since it was launched in June 2015.

The representative called for the Venezuelan government to “put an end to the OLP and other repressive actions taken by state security forces.”

The Vatican also requested that Venezuelan authorities “investigate cases of extrajudicial executions and the use of excessive force.”

A host of other countries, including Argentina, Spain, Ghana, France, Uruguay and Sweden expressed similar concerns. Meanwhile, some countries focused on insecurity and the abysmal condition of prison facilities in Venezuela. 

Countries ranging from Sweden to North Korea also expressed concern about Venezuela’s deepening economic crisis, which has led to widespread shortages in basic goods such as food and medicine.

InSight Crime Analysis 

The UN member nations are right to point out the flagrant human rights abuses by Venezuela security forces, as well as the deplorable conditions in the country’s prisons. In June, for instance, Time magazine found that one prison in Caracas holds over 150 inmates even though its maximum capacity is 36, and that many infectious diseases go untreated.  

The criticism is likely to push Venezuela further away from the international community at a time when it is becoming increasingly isolated, both diplomatically and economically. The US government has indicted several Venezuelan police and military officials for drug trafficking in the past year, and several airliners no longer offer service to Venezuela because the value of the local currency has bottomed out.

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Rather than capitulating, President Nicolás Maduro has responded with defiance. He has handed more power to the military, and even named one former official indicted by the United States as head of the Interior Ministry.

In this context, respect for human rights and public security is likely to be further degraded as Maduro uses whatever tools are at his disposal to stay in power. Venezuelan officials have already stated that they will employ armed groups loyal to the government — known as “colectivos” — to put down mass protests by the opposition, which is attempting to remove Maduro from office via a recall referendum.

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