Security Council Open VTC on Venezuela, Briefing by Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo
Thank you Mister President,
Venezuela is mired in a deepening protracted crisis that only Venezuelans can resolve.
Attempts at reaching a negotiated solution have been unsuccessful in spite of significant international facilitation efforts. The path of negotiation seems to be stalled.
In a letter to the President of the Security Council, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela stated that on 3 and 4 May, and I quote, “armed groups of mercenaries and terrorists, organized, trained, financed and protected by the Governments of the Republic of Colombia and the United States of America, illegally entered the Venezuelan territory,” unquote. According to the letter, the “declared objective” was “perpetrating criminal acts” against the Venezuelan people and “[to] carry out selective assassinations of high officials of [the] Government”, including President Nicolás Maduro.
The letter pointed to the involvement in the operation of an “extremist sector of the Venezuelan opposition”, referring explicitly to “Deputy Juan Guaidó”, who is recognized by a group of Member States as the “interim president”. According to the letter, the operation was “frustrated by the Venezuelan authorities” and, as of 13 May, the Prosecutor General of Venezuela had confirmed the arrest of 47 people in relation to the operation.
The Governments of Colombia and the United States have rejected allegations by the Venezuelan Government regarding their involvement. The leader of the Venezuelan opposition has also denied involvement in the operation and called for establishing a “national emergency government.”
On 4 May, through his Spokesperson, the Secretary-General affirmed that “we stand against any escalation of the situation in Venezuela” – and that “the way to resolve the situation is through political dialogue, as well as full respect for human rights.”
There is heightened concern regarding the stand-off and the absence of any serious negotiations between the main political parties in Venezuela, especially amid the potentially far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until restrictions imposed by the pandemic forced the suspension of its activities, the Applications Committee of the National Assembly, established to work on the selection of members of the National Electoral Council, was the only formal space bringing together lawmakers from the Government and the opposition. The Committee was also significant in that it was poised to lay the groundwork for necessary agreements between the Government and the opposition over the electoral calendar and process. Legislative elections are due before the end of the year.
We have taken note of the position of members of the opposition who have called for presidential elections to take place together with legislative elections.
We call on the main political actors to engage in a constructive negotiation to create conditions conducive to the holding of credible, inclusive and participatory elections.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly has called for a global response based on unity, solidarity and multilateral cooperation. The UN’s COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan includes Venezuela.
The 2020 Plan is expected to request some $750 million to cover humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Venezuelans and support the response to the pandemic. More funding is urgently needed.
The Government of Venezuela has been calling for “a humanitarian agreement for health and peace among all political sectors”.
While such calls are welcome, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has received reports of detentions of political leaders and journalists reporting on COVID-19 and threats and intimidation against health workers for expressing, for example, concern about the lack of equipment to fight the pandemic or for giving information on the number of cases.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern about the excessive use of force in some countries, including Venezuela, in the context of protests for access to basic rights – such as food, water and medicine.
Politicization of humanitarian aid in Venezuela has continued during the pandemic and remains a major concern. Humanitarian aid provided by the United Nations and our partners across the country is governed by the principles of independence, humanity, neutrality and impartiality.
Mark Lowcock, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator has asked all parties to respect this principled humanitarian approach and not manipulate the needs-based assistance.
Another concern is the nationwide fuel shortages, a key operational constraint for humanitarian organizations trying to sustain their response. The Venezuelan Government attributes the fuel shortages to unilateral sanctions. While available social and economic indicators show that the economic crisis predates the imposition of economic sanctions, the measures are exacerbating an already critical situation.
In his address to the G20 on 26 March, the Secretary-General appealed for the waiving of sanctions that could undermine countries’ capacity to respond to the pandemic.
And in her update on Venezuela to the Human Rights Council on 10 March, the High Commissioner noted that “despite exceptions to allow imports of medicines, food and humanitarian supplies, public services and the general population continue to suffer from the impact of over-compliance from the financial sector.” In the context of the pandemic, she has recently affirmed that “humanitarian exemptions to sanctions measures should be given broad and practical effect”.
The UN system will continue strengthening its human rights and humanitarian action in Venezuela as well as its response in support of Venezuelan refugees and migrants outside the country.
According to official figures, as of early May, close to 5.1 million refugees and migrants have left Venezuela. More than 80 per cent of this population can be found across countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Since the start of the pandemic, there are reports of Venezuelans returning to their country due to the loss of livelihoods.
Eduardo Stein, the Joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, has said that “the pandemic exposes them to even greater hardship as many are now struggling to survive, away from home.” He urged the international community “to generously provide support” through the regional response plan for Venezuelans, which to date has only 4 per cent of the required funds.
In a statement on 15 May, the European Union and the Spanish Government announced plans to convene an “International Donors Conference in solidarity with Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Latin American countries”. The conference will take place on 26 May and will be supported by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The Secretary-General has repeatedly called for a negotiated solution among Venezuelans. He has supported international facilitation efforts and offered his good offices as well, if needed and the parties request them. We remain convinced that a real negotiation among Venezuela’s main political actors is the only way forward. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, an agreement that strengthens democratic governance, with full respect for human rights and the rule of law is more urgent than ever.
We therefore call on all main political actors to resume serious negotiations.
And we urge all Member States to stand behind this call.