On June 19th, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about Venezuela and foreign actors in the country in an interview with Argentinian outlet Infobae.
To the questions host Laureano Perez Izquierdo asked, the answers were the following:
“QUESTION: What is your opinion about the talks currently developing in Barbados between the representatives of the Maduro regime and the Venezuelan opposition?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I always live in hope, but in the end, the conversation can only be about one thing, that Maduro must leave. He’s wreaked devastation on the Venezuelan people, now impacting people all over South America. There’s tens of thousands of refugees here in Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile – all are experiencing challenges. From people who have had to flee their homes, people who wanted to live in Venezuela who couldn’t find or make a living for themselves and for their children. That’s unacceptable, and the cause of that is Maduro and his cronies. They need to leave Venezuela, and then we can begin to do the work to rebuild that country democratically, with free and fair elections, in a way that will truly restore the greatness that Venezuela once had.”
Pompeo also referred to the UN Human Rights Council report, released on July 5th, which was “devastating” for President Nicholas Maduro’s government.
“The only way out of this crisis is to come together, in dialogue”: that was the clear message delivered by Michelle Bachelet, the UN human rights chief.
She recounted her ground-breaking mission to the country two weeks ago, to meet senior officials and politicians, including President Nicolás Maduro, and President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim President in January, sparking the latest unresolved political crisis to beset the oil-rich Latin American nation. She also met members of civil society and heard testimony from victims of grave human rights violations.
Previous OHCHR reports have highlighted killings, the use of excessive force against demonstrators, arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture. The latest publication warns that “if the situation does not improve, the unprecedented outflow of Venezuelan migrants and refugees will continue, and the living conditions of those who remain will worsen”.
“During my visit to Venezuela, I was able to hear first-hand the accounts of victims of State violence and their demands for justice,” Ms. Bachelet said. “I have faithfully conveyed their voices, and those of civil society, as well as the human rights violations documented in this report, to the relevant authorities.”
The situation is complex, she said, but “the report contains clear, concrete recommendations for the way forward. I sincerely hope the authorities will take these recommendations in the constructive spirit in which they are made.”
In response to the High Commissioner’s comments, the Venezuelan representative to the Human Rights council dismissed her Office’s report, calling its contents “incomprehensible”, lacking in “scientific rigour” and omitting to mention the “immoral blockade” facing the country.
The report is exquisitely biased, and presents the point of view almost identical to the stance of the US and the US-backed opposition, headed by US-Proclaimed Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido.
It claims to have interviewed over 550 “victims,” without providing who exactly they are and what the selection criteria was.
Former lawyer for the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Alfred de Zayas, in a video on YouTube said that High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s report on human rights in Venezuela mostly ignores the severity and responsibility of US sanctions against Venezuela.
De Zayas argues that the report left out essential aspects in its otherwise damning report on Venezuela because the council has increasingly fallen under the sway of the demands of the US government.
However, on July 14th, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the US sanctions on Venezuela.
The draft resolution was approved with 28 votes in favor, 14 against and five abstentions, and was presented by Venezuela and Palestine on behalf of the Movement of Non-aligned Countries (NAM), except Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, and Peru, during the OHCHR’s 41st session.
“I am grateful for the overwhelming support of the member states of the UN Human Rights Council for the resolution presented by the presidency of NAM in favor of Venezuela. A victory that expands international cooperation and rejects imperial sanctions,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tweeted.
The document also reaffirms the “inalienable right” of every State “to choose freely and develop, in accordance with the sovereign will of its people, its own political, social, economic and cultural systems, without interference from any other State or non-State actor,” in strict conformity with international law.
In another part of the interview with Pompeo, Izquierdo asked about the “atrocities” carried out by the “dictatorship” and if it can even remain in power.
“SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s the question everybody wants to know the answer to. I can’t do timeline. I can say this: Maduro can’t govern that country again, and I believe he knows that, and I think all the Venezuelan people know that and all those around him know it. In the end, I think the Cubans are going to have a very difficult decision to make. They have propped up this regime for an awfully long time. They need to leave. They need to go back. When they do that, the Venezuelan people will rise, they’ll vote, they’ll pick – they’ll elect someone. I don’t know who they’ll elect, but they’ll have had the opportunity to have a free and fair election and they can start the rebuilding that needs to take place. It will take months and months and months to begin to rebuild the Venezuelan economy, and we need to start that. It can’t be started with the Cubans still controlling the security services and running the intelligence operations inside of Venezuela.”
Regarding foreign players in the country, that according to Pompeo are causing more harm than good, he mentioned that all apart from the US must leave.
“QUESTION: Cuba is key, but Russia, China, and Iran are also in Venezuela and Latin America. What is your message for them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we hope every foreign power will leave. We want the Venezuelan people to control their own destiny. We think that would be best. In the end, I’m confident that the Venezuelan people will take back their country.”
In conclusion to the interview, Pompeo said that in South America the US saw “opportunities” rather than challenges, and that Russia’s expressed support for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega wouldn’t change anything since “they’ve got the wrong end of the stick,” and that the Nicaraguan people knew that their president was leading them in “a bad direction.”
In unison with Pompeo, US National Security Advisor John Bolton reiterated that the US “would not rest until despotic Maduro is gone & corrupt actors have ceased the abuses against Venezuelans,” while sharing new sanctions imposed on four security agency officials.
Today @USTreasury designated four of Maduro’s security agency officials, the DGCIM, who have brutally tortured, repressed, or intimidated the people of Venezuela. The US will not rest until despotic Maduro is gone & corrupt actors have ceased the abuses against Venezuelans. https://t.co/uThdqoSxAR
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) July 20, 2019
The US Treasury sanctioned Division General Rafael Ramón Blanco Marrero (Blanco), Colonel Hannover Esteban Guerrero Mijares (Guerrero), Major Alexander Enrique Granko Arteaga (Granko), Colonel Rafael Antonio Franco Quintero (Franco). All of them are high ranking officials in the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM).
The DGCIM, including these officials, has been accused of systemic human rights abuses and repressing dissent and was sanctioned on July 11, 2019.
“The United States will continue to hold individuals accountable who are involved in the former Maduro regime’s use of intimidation and repression to target and silence political opponents, innocent civilians, and members of the military,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “The United States will use all of its authorities to target those who have helped the illegitimate Maduro regime repress dissent, free speech, and the will of the Venezuelan people.”
These continuous sanctions that seem to be endless lead to two conclusions:
- Surely the US is to run out of officials to sanction in Venezuela;
- The support for President Nicolas Maduro is much wider than the US and the US-backed opposition give the impression of.
Separately, on Maduro’s side – Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on July 20th arrived in Venezuela to meet with Nicolas Maduro.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Zarif is scheduled to hold talks with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and some other officials like Venezuelan Foreign Minister and speaker of Venezuela parliament.
He added that Zarif will then travel to Nicaragua and Bolivia to discuss the latest developments in political and economic relations.
In addition, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza published a communique on his Twitter denouncing and rejecting statements made by the High Representative of the European Union (EU), Federica Mogherini, as she threatened the South American country with new sanctions if there was no progress in talks between the Venezuelan opposition and the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
#COMUNICADO | Venezuela rechaza declaraciones de la Alta Representante de la Unión Europea, Federica Mogherini, por entrometerse una vez más en asuntos internos y proferir inaceptables amenazas, en un momento donde la sindéresis resulta vital para el diálogo entre venezolanos. pic.twitter.com/UVLLeEqben
— Jorge Arreaza M (@jaarreaza) July 16, 2019
“Venezuela rejects the statements made by the High Representative of the EU, Federica Mogherini, for interfering once again in the country’s internal affairs and making unacceptable threats, in a moment when adhering to the core principals of law is vital for dialogue between Venezuelans.”
The statement called the warnings “unacceptable menaces” against the country, and explained that Mogherinin’s attempts of intimidation are akin to interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs. It added that this kind of methods is similar to the “aggressive positions of the U.S. government.”
“The EU seems committed to maintaining the conflict as a formula for making policy, even contradicting the peaceful spirit of the renewed negotiations led by Special Advisor Enrique Iglesias,” the communique read.
The warning in question was published on July 16th, saying that there was a limited timeframe to reach a favorable conclusion.
▶️The EU welcomes & supports the resumption in Barbados of the talks facilitated by the Government of Norway as the main channel to overcome the crisis. https://t.co/wzOnKWFqs1
— EU Council Press (@EUCouncilPress) July 16, 2019
“In case there are no concrete results from the ongoing negotiations, the EU will further expand its targeted measures. It also recalls that these measures can be reversed in case substantial progress is made towards the restoration of democracy, rule of law and human rights in Venezuela.”
Regardless of the rhetoric, very little success appears to be achieved against the Maduro government in Venezuela, negotiations appear to be progressing and both the US and the opposition it backs appear to be running rapidly out of steam.
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