Maduro's seat at the Human Rights Council

By Xili Duran

Photo by Reuters

Venezuela will have a seat for the next 3 years at the United Nations Human Rights Council on January 1st 2020.

With almost 5 million migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the country, mainly because of the economic crisis and misery wages imposed by the government but also often citing human rights violations or political persecution as reasons to seek protection, it would seem paradoxical were it not for the fact that this council also includes massive human rights violators such as Saudi Arabia or China.

Venezuela’s economic and social indicators are in free fall, malnutrition cases are increasing and diseases that were eradicated are making a comeback; mother and infant mortality are hitting the highest levels in half a century, in what is one of the biggest setbacks a country has reported in such little time without suffering a massive natural disaster or a conflict.

The news baffled Venezuelans inside and outside the country, since Juan Guaido has been bragging about securing international support from numerous countries around the world. How come Maduro gets to seat in Geneva to discuss human rights with Guaido’s allies?

The fact is Guaido has been lying all along about the real possibilities of diplomatic pressure to force a change in the regime and overstating his own strength in this arena, where he counts only with the support of Trump and his subordinates. Obviously not out of concern for the Venezuelan people (Trump keeps deporting Venezuelans and holding them in detention centres for migrants), but just out of pragmatic realpolitik. After the Syrian genocide by the Assad regime, helped by Russia and Iran, with the active or passive acceptance of most governments in the world, indifference to the Venezuelan disaster should not come as a surprise. International solidarity from social movements and popular organizations is crucial, but no illusions should be held regarding governments.

For these elections at the HRC, Brazil and Venezuela presented their candidacies to represent Latin America. The pro-US Lima Group, heavily influenced by Brazil, apparently underestimated Venezuela’s 3-year campaign to join the council and by presenting only Bolsonaro’s Brazil as a competitor from the region, made it possible for both countries to be elected. In a last minute move, Costa Rica presented its candidacy 14 days before the elections but stayed out for 1 vote, as it gathered 96 of the 97 required to join the council.

Maduro can still collect votes in international forums. He is the chairperson of the Non-Aligned Movement, a forum established in 1956 (almost as old as the United Nations), composed of 120 countries that are not aligned formally with or against any major power. Venezuela’s candidacy to the HRC obtained 105 votes, so it’s easy to imagine (votes for this election are secret) who voted in favor.

According to Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy at Human Rights Watch, Brazil probably voted in favor of Venezuela for a seat at the council, given its opposition against a statement done by the Lima Group in support for Costa Rica just 2 days before the election. Realpolitik again.

Independent popular mobilizations are the only way to oust Maduro from power, in a perspective of democratic and social gains por the oppressed majority. No foreign power can be trusted to solve the issues that afflict Venezuelans inside the country and forcibly displace millions outside its borders.

Guaido has been an obstacle to popular mobilization, with his strategy aiming at gathering support from the chavista military to deliver a coup d’état, while having oil and financial sanctions increasing the burden of the economic crisis on working class Venezuelans. The HRC story should remind us of the importance on the popular slogan: ‘only the people will save the people,  solo el pueblo salva al pueblo‘.

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