From the IPS United Nations Niewsbriefs
Despite escalating tensions and anti-government demonstrations, the Venezuelan government has not addressed any human rights issues regardless of the rising death toll and captive political prisoners, a panel of experts stressed Monday.
Issues such as humanitarian rights, economic policies and governance problems were discussed at the Americas Society/ Council of the Americas panel discussion “What’s Next for Venezuela?”.
The panel agreed that the country faces many challenges such as insecurity, rising inflation and lack of staple products, and that the Venezuelan government has been unable to make any swift negotiations, decisions or changes to curb the crisis.
Many of the protests, which began in January, have ended in violent clashes where the death toll has risen to 28, over a thousand arrests have been made and political prisoners have become an issue.
Although students sparking these demonstrations are bringing attention to humanitarian issues, the government has not responded to their cause, the experts said.
“This has been one of (President Nicolas) Maduro’s most serious mistakes. If you look at the demands of the students, the first is the human rights issues of political prisoners. This has become more central as the protests went on,” said Javier Corrales, professor of Political Science at Amherst College.
In February, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the protection of human rights of all Venezuelans, and urged authorities to listen to the protesters’ demands.
The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council also drew attention to the unnecessary use of force and violence against protesters and journalists. However, the Maduro government has not made any serious efforts to investigate human rights abuses.
Accountability for the lack of action has been drawn towards the poor decision making process within the government and the apparent absence of political knowledge.
“The decision making process has been hijacked internally. For them to survive they need to solve the decision making process. So far politics is not in its toolkit. So the first reaction we see is repression and censorship,” said Luisa Palacios, head of Latin America Macro and Energy Research.
The panel referred to the arrest of opposition leader Leópoldo Lopez as part of President Nicolás Maduro’s government’s failure in decision-making.
“They don’t really know how to play politics,”Palaciios said, pointing out a flawed decision-making process that commits the mistake of putting Leópoldo in jail, making a martyr out of a political prisoner.
Palacios also emphasised that international involvement is very important in solving the crisis. She said that the Venezuelan government would not understand the consequences or the point of view of human rights unless it becomes an international issue.
“International involvement will make this a much safer process as we go along. If Venezuelans are left to their devices I remain concerned due to the lack of the government’s political tools.”
Corrales stated that the U.N’s response to the instability and unrest has been far more forceful and remarkable than usual as the U.N’s involvement in Latin American affairs is usually quite low.
He made a comparison to the protests in Brazil and Chile where the governments were able to make immediate negotiations, changes in cabinet and new programmes despite larger demonstrations.
“In Chile, only one person died during two-and-a-half years of protests. The protests were massive, perhaps more massive than in Venezuela. The international community complained about the police force in Chile and only one student died and there were about 1,800 arrests,” Corrales said.
Since Maduro took office in April 2013, he has been accused of following former President Hugo Chávez’s failed policies.
Jassmyn Goh is a trainee at the IPS United Nations bureau in New York City.
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