Venezuela slams 'biased' United Nations rights report

Venezuelan security forces have been sending death squads to commit extrajudicial killings of young men, according to a United Nations report released on Thursday.

Families of 20 men had described how masked men dressed in black from Venezuela's Special Action Forces (FAES) had arrived in black pickups without licence plates.

The report also focused on the country's worsening economic and humanitarian crisis, noting that "large sections of the population have no access to food distribution" as a result of its "progressive scarcity and unaffordability", with the country's monthly minimum wage equivalent to just a few dollars a month.

It said they broke into their houses, taking belongings and assaulting women, and in some cases stripping them naked.

The UN report said many of them appeared to be extrajudicial executions. "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 UN rights chief also said the USA oil embargo and other sanctions imposed on Venezuela were taking a harsh toll, further exacerbating "the effects of the economic crisis, and thus the humanitarian situation".

The UN report came after former Venezuela spy chief Manuel Cristopher Figuera told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Maduro's administration was a "criminal enterprise".

Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly legislature, has since declared himself president of Venezuela.

A national guard hydrant truck sprays opponents to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during protests in Caracas, Venezuela.

"During my visit to Venezuela, I was able to hear first-hand the accounts of victims of State violence and their demands for justice", said Bachelet.

Finally, UNICEF estimates that approximately 3.2 million children are in urgent need of healthcare and nutritional assistance; we urge the Maduro regime to facilitate unimpeded access to, and the the entry of, worldwide humanitarian aid.

Venezuelan authorities also noted over 50 factual errors in the analysis by the High Commissioner, who, among her recommendations, called to take specific measures immediately to stop and resolve what she called serious violations of economic, social, civil, political and cultural rights.

The report, which United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet will present to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday, delivers a scathing critique of President Nicolás Maduro's embattled government and its handling of Venezuela's deepening political and economic crisis.

She added that social programmes had been used "as an instrument of social control".

"The killings were part of a strategy by the government of President Nicolas Maduro aimed at "neutralizing, repressing and criminalizing political opponents and people critical of the government", which accelerated since 2016", the report said.

In the statement, the rights office pointed to a series of laws, policies and practices in Venezuela that it said had "restricted the democratic space, dismantled institutional checks and balances, and allowed patterns of grave violations".

  • Jon Douglas