Deepening of the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela caused by COVID-19 concerned the UN Security Council
Translation: Hearts on Venezuela
Original translation here
Venezuela was the center of attention among the countries that compose the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) in a session called for Tuesday, April 28, 2020, at the request of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Germany and the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), on the humanitarian emergency that the country is going through.
Members of the European Union (EU) that have a seat in the Security Council expressed their concern about the crisis in Venezuela that has deepened severely and the destabilizing effects it has had in the region, emphasizing the consequences that may emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Already last Wednesday, April 22, the United Nations World Food Program warned that COVID-19 could double the number of people suffering from acute hunger, positioning Venezuela among the five countries most at risk.
The EU fears that the pandemic will place Venezuelan citizens at greater risk with a “devastating humanitarian impact”, considering the social, economic, political and health crisis that the Caribbean country is going through. In this sense, they supported the call of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, to ensure that humanitarian assistance be provided by the organ, the International Red Cross and by national and international NGOs.
“The international community and the #UNSC cannot abandon Venezuelans,” said Ambassador Schulz on the Twitter account of the German delegation.
They also called not to politicize humanitarian assistance, as well as to allow its safe access throughout the country without any ideological discrimination.
“We urge all parties to ensure unhindered access for #HumanitarianAid and to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers. The political dispute should be put aside to deliver a joint response to #COVID19 and guarantee people’s access to medical care, clean water and information, ” Estonia reinforced via Twitter.
On the other hand, the countries of the EU reiterated that the sanctions imposed by the EU are specifically for individuals who are held liable for human rights violations in Venezuela and do not affect the population directly or indirectly, therefore, the sanctions do not prevent the purchase of food or medicine.
However, Russia insisted that the sanctions, branded by the ambassador as unilateral, complicate “the efforts” of the Venezuelan state and that the Caribbean country “is doing better than other Latin American countries in relation to COVID-19”.
The position of the EU was reinforced by the United States, which took the opportunity to announce in the voice of Ambassador Kelly Craft that as a result of the measures taken due to the Coronavirus, the North American country donated 9 million American dollars in the face of the probable deepening of the crisis.
South Africa also used its right to speak to reaffirm the position of its country that believes in “sovereignty and internal political dialogue between all parties”, adding that it must be carried out “without hindrance to allow the political and economic stability of the country”.
For its part, OCHA agreed to maintain and expand its presence in Venezuela, considering that COVID-19 may deepen the crisis. They also requested a mechanism that allows international NGOs to have a greater presence in Venezuelan territory.
Finally, the agency warned that due to the effects of the pandemic in neighboring countries, many Venezuelans are returning to the country, thus being a possible vector of COVID-19. They estimated that by mid-March, between 30,000 and 6,000 people had already returned to Venezuela.
The de facto government of Nicolás Maduro has not complied with the recommendations stated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, reflected in a report issued after her visit to Venezuela in June 2019 and which has been updated regularly.
The report reflects the humanitarian crisis that the country is going through, the repeated violations of human rights executed by security agencies, political persecution, and social control, among other patterns that have been repeatedly denounced by Venezuelan civil society .
The Centro de justicia y Paz (Cepaz), in its ceaseless work in defense of human rights, has repeatedly asked that the complex humanitarian crisis that Venezuela is going through be a topic of discussion among the countries that compose the Council of Security, in aims to achieve a solution through concrete measures applied to the situation that has affected all Venezuelans and that has forced almost 5 million people to leave the country.
In this sense, as part of the work of international advocacy, the executive director of Cepaz, Beatriz Borges, has participated in repeated meetings that seek to promote these objectives. Last February, she participated in the civil society dialogue with the President of the Security Council, Ambassador Marc Pecsteen of Buytswerve, Belgium’s permanent representative to the UN.
Borges pointed out to Marc Pecsteen that during her participation in several of these dialogues with the civil society she has posed the same question: “why Venezuela, facing one of the largest humanitarian, mobility and political crises in the world, is not permanently on the agenda of the Security Council? I would like you to explain to me and how we can make it happen.”
Pecsteen replied: “Venezuela … Why is it not on the agenda? Well, I think you know that the Council is deeply divided on this matter. We had a few meetings last year. But we weren’t very productive in the sense that the two sides were repeating each other. I think that there is no appetite in the Council to repeat that because the division persists and I don’t think there is any evolution ”.
Indeed, for a year, the Venezuelan crisis had not been discussed in the Security Council, but on April 22nd, the body met in a private session in which it discussed, at the request of Russia, about the military operations the United States has undertaken in the Venezuelan Caribbean against drug trafficking and the report of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPPA) on Venezuela.
The last public meeting was held in April 2019 and was attended by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who requested the UN the recognition of Guaidó as interim President of Venezuela.
Regarding the military deployments of the United States, the Venezuelan State had previously pronounced itself through a letter dated April 3, assuring that these “dangerous actions” are considered a threat “to the peace and security of Venezuela and the rest of the region”.
For its part, the United States had ordered on April 1st the deployment of additional destroyers, combat ships, and surveillance aircraft to the US Army’s Southern Command, in charge of South America, to launch a major anti-drug operation in the region. Likewise, on March 26th, the North American country charged Nicolás Maduro before a New York federal court for drug trafficking.
Given this panorama, diplomatic sources revealed that in the private session, Russia refused to make an expansion of the political and humanitarian issues related to Venezuela, therefore, Germany, Belgium, France and Estonia asked for a new meeting that was held on Tuesday 28th behind closed doors.
From Cepaz, with the support of other Venezuelan organizations, we will continue to insist on international advocacy in all possible forums. In this sense, we have warned about the serious consequences that the humanitarian emergency has on the population. Also, on the escalation of violence and persecution by the de facto state. Venezuelans require a comprehensive response, especially considering that Venezuela is among the countries with the highest risk of doubling the famine as a result of COVID-19. It must combine the protection of human rights and humanitarian care.
The complex humanitarian emergency continues to worsen in Venezuela. It is necessary to keep international organizations informed of the serious and profound dimensions of the crisis. For this reason, today more than ever, we must continue documenting, denouncing, and disseminating human rights violations. There, Venezuelan civil society organizations and activists have a fundamental role to play.