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Colombia must support Venezuelan victims before the HRC

Photo from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia

In the framework of the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, there will be two moments of debate on Venezuela. On March 21, the interactive dialogue will be held for the oral update of High Commissioner Volker Turk on the situation of human rights in the country. On March 22 there will be another interactive dialogue, this time around the most recent findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela (MII).

The current composition of the Human Rights Council is favorable to the scrutiny of the performance of countries based on international standards. Even so, certain circumstances make some countries privilege political calculation over principles.

It already happened once with Norway, whose then Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, issued a statement on the human rights situation in Venezuela, which was met with an angry reaction from the Maduro government, which, in its logic of blackmail, threatened with leaving the negotiating table in Mexico. Since then Norway has remained silent in any debate on human rights in Venezuela.

It is worrying that the same thing could happen with Colombia, whose current ambassador in Geneva brings to the representation of his country a valuable trajectory of decades from the field of human rights NGOs. However, the ambassador does not command himself and must respond to the guidelines of the Palacio de San Carlos. The same guidelines that led the Colombian representation before the OAS Permanent Council to leave the room at a time when the situation of human rights in Nicaragua was being debated, alleging, days later, that it had chosen not to participate or vote because it was in the middle of a humanitarian negotiation with the Ortega regime.

Fortunately, Colombia’s first intervention in the Human Rights Council was precisely on Nicaragua, together with 6 other countries that condemned the most recent atrocities of the Ortega-Murillo duo. The question remains regarding Colombia’s position when Venezuela is debated in the second half of March as President Petro has asked Maduro to be a mediator in the negotiation process with the ELN. No doubt Maduro will try to neutralize Colombia, just as he did with Norway, by invoking some sort of higher humanitarian principle that prevents frank discussion of the continued suffering of the Venezuelan population, even though that suffering is responsible for the exodus of some 7 millions of people whose leading destination, by the way, is Colombia.

Turk’s first report on Venezuela, as well as the MII update, require clear support from Council members. An intermediate position that Colombia could well take in this period of sessions would be to take part in a joint declaration, as it did on Nicaragua, so as not to appear alone in a condemnatory oral intervention, but also not isolated and silent far from other democratic and institutional left governments like Chile. In September, Colombia could well refrain from actively promoting a resolution on human rights in Venezuela. Still, it could vote in favor of it, staying on the side of those who do not relativize the Council’s principles due to political calculations.

In the times of Hugo Chávez, since the first UPR in 2011, it was common for NGOs to listen in the Missions in Geneva to representatives of countries that chose to inhibit themselves in the debates on human rights in Venezuela, so as not to irritate Chávez. Meanwhile, he took care of irritating the rights of the population to the extreme, with consequences that persist 10 years after his death.

Massive violations of human rights do not accept the dosing of stances. Giving ground only affects the victims and is a kind of calculation that must not be made in a forum that was created to protect them, not the violating governments.