(CNSNews.com) – The U.N. Human Rights Council, now without the United States after the Trump administration’s departure, opened a new session in Geneva this week, and gave a platform to the foreign minister of Venezuela.
In his speech Tuesday Jorge Arreaza – who in June welcomed the U.S. withdrawal from the U.N.’s highest human rights body – accused the U.S. of “flagrant human rights abuses” in the form of sanctions against Venezuela, and a decades-long embargo of Cuba.
He urged the HRC to take a stand against such “unilateral coercive measures” against any country, designed to force it to follow the dictates of powerful nations.
Arreaza said despite U.S. economic pressure, and despite threats on the life of President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has launched an economic growth plan for prosperity.
He several times sought to link the U.S. to the situation in Venezuela, where the socialist regime’s political and economic policies, and suppression of dissent, have been blamed for dividing and impoverishing the country.
Referring to a drone attack apparently targeting Maduro during a military parade last month, he said the “assassination attempt” had been planned in Miami.
Arreaza also pointed to reports in U.S. media in recent days claiming that U.S. officials had met with Venezuelan military officers who were plotting a coup against Maduro.
According to the claims, first reported by the New York Times on Saturday, U.S. officials had met several times with the Venezuelans at their request, but decided against providing support to any coup plan.
(National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a weekend statement that that the administration’s “policy preference for a peaceful, orderly return to democracy in Venezuela remains unchanged.”)
Arreaza noted that he was speaking on the anniversary of Augusto Pinochet’s coup in Chile against the elected communist government of Salvador Allende in 1973.
“Forty-five years later, actions continue to be carried out, directed by the powers in the United States, to frustrate the dreams of the people of the Americas,” he charged.
“We denounce the siege against Venezuela, the economic and financial blockade of our country. We condemn the United States’ and European Union’s coercive economic measures which seek to ensure that our economy collapses, as was the case in Chile in 1971, 1972, and 1973.”
According to figures cited by the new U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, in her opening address to the HRC session, roughly seven percent of Venezuela’s population – an estimated 2.3 million people – have fled the country in an accelerating exodus, “due largely to lack of food or access to critical medicines and health care, insecurity and political persecution.”
“In the first week of August, more than 4,000 Venezuelans per day entered Ecuador; 50,000 Venezuelans reportedly arrived in Colombia over a three week period in July; and 800 Venezuelans per day are now reported to be entering Brazil,” she said. “Cross-border movement of this magnitude is unprecedented in the recent history of the Americas.”
‘Why is the Maduro government allowed to be a member of this council?’
Despite its widely-criticized human rights record, Venezuela is a member of the HRC – one of 14 of the council’s 47 current members that are designated “not free” in Freedom House’s annual rankings, based on scores for political rights and civil liberties.
The fact that repressive regimes like Venezuela’s are able to win seats on the HRC – and then use them to support each other – was one of the reasons cited by the Trump administration in its decision to exit.
Arreaza received a respectful reception at the HRC, although during later interventions by non-governmental organizations, his government did come under fire.
A representative of the NGO U.N. Watch read out a statement on behalf of a Venezuelan woman, Rosa Orozco, who had been unable to travel to Geneva for the session.
Orozco’s 23-year-old daughter, Geraldine, was shot dead by members of Maduro’s National Guard during an earlier wave of anti-government protests in February 2014. According to published accounts, she was shot three times – once in the back, then in the face, and finally in her chest at close range.
“I talk to you not only on behalf of Geraldine but on behalf of the 224 other Venezuelans who have been killed during protests,” Orozco said in the Spanish statement read out on her behalf.
“Even if Geraldine is no longer with us, her struggle to defend human rights should resonate with all of you today.”
“And that is why I must ask, Mr. President: Why is the Maduro government allowed to be a member of this council?” she asked.
“Why has it allowed Foreign Minister Arreaza to address this council, when his own government imprisons, tortures and kills our people with impunity?”