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The diplomatic bullying of Venezuela

Héctor Constant, Representative of Venezuela to the UN Geneva. Photo from El Impulso.

The most recent report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (FFMV) makes severe assertions about the responsibility of the country’s highest authorities for human rights violations that amount to crimes against humanity. Although each statement is grounded in accordance with international standards used for this type of investigation, the Venezuelan government was not satisfied this time with questioning the methodology and integrity of the members of the FFMV but went one step further to fall into the diplomatic bullying, which has expressed itself in various ways.

First, the representative of Venezuela before the Human Rights Council threatened the countries that vote in favor of the renewal of the mandate of the Mission with taking “the pertinent diplomatic and political measures, in the bilateral and multilateral sphere”; the spokesman’s threat was later ratified in a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

Second, several embassies in Venezuela received the message that the government would be considering suspending the presence of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) if the resolution that extends the mandate of the FFMV is approved.

Third, the government has also transmitted messages implying that its return to the negotiating table in Mexico would be conditional on the non-renewal of the Mission’s mandate.

So much pressure and blackmail lead to a single conclusion: the Maduro government is willing to do anything, except accepting the recommendations of the FFMV, just as it has not taken those of the OHCHR. Giving in to these blackmails will not improve the human rights situation in Venezuela and, on the contrary, will show a human rights violator strengthened, to continue violating the rights of the population with the certainty of impunity.

Peru has already stepped aside with unsustainable arguments. For other countries to follow this route would be a slap in the face to the victims and their families, who believed in the UN system as a last resort for justice. Making political calculations with the pain of the victims would be unacceptable.

In this context of diplomatic bullying, Venezuela also aspires to reelection in the Human Rights Council. Some countries deem that keeping Venezuela on the Council would be the best as its commitment to cooperate with the organs of the human rights protection system could be appealed to in order to moderate its actions. In this regard, it is worth asking, has Venezuela shown willingness to cooperate in the three periods it has had as a member of the Council? Would Libya have violated less the rights of its citizens if it had not been expelled? Would Putin have refrained from holding an annexation referendum if he remained on the Council?

The only thing that Venezuela’s presence in the Human Rights Council has served for has been to act in alliance with the like-minded group, in order to block resolutions that seek to protect the rights of Syrians, the Rohingya, and many other victims, as well as to divert time and resources in special procedures of doubtful effectiveness. Ironically, the Venezuelan government upheld throughout this time that “it was cooperating with the United Nations”. As the FFMV’s reports once again unmasked the government with convincing information, its false story no longer deceives and now resorts to gross blackmail against the very cooperation of the United Nations and the States making up the Human Rights Council.

There is only one way to contain this diplomatic bullying: to confront it through the approval of the resolution that extends the FFMV’s mandate and the exclusion of Venezuela as a member of the Human Rights Council.