Latin American presidents turn a blind eye to Maduro abuses

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 77th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters on September 20.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 77th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters on September 20.

AP Photo

The new United Nations report accusing Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro of being directly responsible for massive “crimes against humanity” is one of the most explicit accusations from a sitting president that I have seen recently.

And yet, surprisingly, when the presidents and foreign ministers of Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Peru and other Latin American countries addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York in recent days, they didn’t even mention the human rights abuses in Venezuela.

It is one of the biggest human rights crises in the world, unfolding right under their noses and which, according to previous UN estimates, has resulted in more than 6,700 extrajudicial executions and more than 6 million refugees. But these leaders chose to talk about almost anything but that.

Some of them, like Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez, have even called for the relaxation of international sanctions against the Venezuelan dictatorship.

“Argentina adheres to the request of the peoples of Cuba and Venezuela that the [economic] blockades against their countries are lifted,” Fernandez said. Where, exactly, did Fernandez get the information about what their citizens want, since they haven’t had free elections in decades?

Colombian President Gustavo Petro spoke to the United Nations General Assembly about the “yellow butterflies” and “magical” natural beauties of the Colombian jungles – nothing wrong with that – but never even mentioned the name “Venezuela”. Nor did he refer to the approximately 2.5 million Venezuelan refugees who crossed the border into his country, fleeing the Maduro regime.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who represented his country’s president, spoke about the war in Ukraine and other global issues, but also omitted Latin America’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

Earlier this year, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador boycotted President Biden’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, citing the United States’ refusal to invite the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

Most of the speeches last week before the United Nations General Assembly came just hours after an independent international fact-finding mission on Venezuela – appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council – released its report exposing Maduro’s atrocities.

The report found ample evidence of “a plan orchestrated by President Nicolás Maduro and other high-level figures to suppress opposition to the government, including through the commission of extremely serious acts of torture constituting crimes against the ‘humanity”.

The report cites “killings consistent with previously documented patterns of extrajudicial executions and other violations in the context of security operations” by the Maduro regime. It also found evidence of “acts of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including sexual and gender-based violence, committed by law enforcement and state intelligence services”.

To his credit, Biden included a paragraph in his speech to the UN saying that “years of political oppression” in Venezuela have driven more than 6 million people from that country, and that, “We urge a directed dialogue by the Venezuelan and a return to freedom and freedom”. fair elections.

But, with the exception of Biden’s speech and a few mentions of the Venezuelan exodus by the presidents of Chile and Ecuador, most Latin American leaders turn a blind eye to the massive human rights abuses. man in Venezuela.

International human rights experts agree that the independent UN mission’s report is unusually harsh, as it cites Maduro by name. It also includes many well-documented examples of government atrocities, which could serve as a prologue to a possible case before the International Criminal Court against the Venezuelan dictator.

“This is the strongest UN report on Venezuela I’ve seen so far,” José Miguel Vivanco, human rights officer at the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. “This is not a generic report, but a report with the names of the victims and which identifies those responsible for the abuses up the chain of command.”

Yet major Latin American presidents have talked about “yellow butterflies” and other unrelated issues, or even defended Maduro’s dictatorship in the UN General Assembly. Their silence will only embolden Maduro and other dictators.

Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show Sundays at 7 p.m. ET on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera

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This story was originally published September 23, 2022 7:10 p.m.

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