Word. Report [to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations] of the Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order [Alfred de Zayas] on His Mission to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador [Some Extracts]

One of many “Gringo, Respect” murals in Caracas

One of many “Gringo, Respect” murals in Caracas.

August 3, 2018

The Report of the Independent Expert says:



After his mission, he continued to follow developments in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, including the refusal of the opposition to sign the negotiated agreement of 7 February 2018, the Declaration of the Summit of the Americas and that of the People’s Summit, both held in Lima in April 2018.


He recognises that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services. A priority for both countries is to promote dialogue among all sectors of the population. The genuine thirst for peace and justice, which the Ecuadoreans call buen vivir, is reflected in the 2013 Quito Communiqué adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and in the 2014 CELAC declaration proclaiming Latin America and the Caribbean a “zone of peace”.

Achievements and engagement by other human rights mechanisms


A problem in assessing the situation is the widening gulf between the Government’s and the opposition’s narratives, and the media disinformation, simplification and extrapolation. The Independent Expert consulted data from multiple sources, including presentations by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to the Human Rights Council.

Undoubtedly, Venezuelans are suffering from an economic crisis that has generated dysfunctions, scarcity in foods and medicines, delays in distribution, and accompanying violations of human rights. Critics in and outside the country see it as a failed State and blame the crisis on the fiasco of socialism, but few look for other contributing factors. By contrast, the Government tends to blame outside causes, notably the drop in oil prices, international smuggling rings, contraband, sanctions, and 19 years of economic warfare, not unlike the non-conventional wars waged against Cuba, Chile and Nicaragua. With political will and international solidarity, solutions can be found, since the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a rich country with the largest oil reserves in the world and major gold, bauxite and coltan deposits, enough to finance the needs of the Venezuelan people, provided that the country is allowed to function free of embargoes and financial blockades.


Obstacles to the enjoyment of human rights: economic warfare

The Independent Expert inquired from the Government and the opposition about the impact of measures adopted by several States aimed directly and indirectly at affecting the functioning of the Venezuelan economy. He also looked at the problem of currency speculation, one of the preferred tools to destabilise targeted economies, and the activities of credit rating agencies, which, although they have neither democratic legitimacy nor oversight, have a significant impact on the financial ability of States to issue bonds and obtain financing. The Banco Central de Venezuela informed him that risk rating agencies, primarily Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch, have consistently issued negative ratings based on the country’s ability to make external payments, forgetting that the Government has a history of excellent debt response. That has had a significant effect on the country’s risk level and has essentially shut down its possibilities of accessing the financial market.


Multilateralism and the principle of non-intervention

The Charter of the United Nations rests on the philosophy of multilateralism, a commitment to international cooperation, and the sovereign equality of States. Countries must not be isolated and boycotted, but helped in strengthening their democratic institutions. Over the past sixty years, non-conventional economic wars have been waged against Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to make their economies fail, facilitate regime change and impose a neo-liberal socio-economic model. In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximised so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being “weaponized” against rivals. Yet, human rights are the heritage of every human being and should never be instrumentalised as weapons of demonisation. […]

The principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States belong to customary international law and have been reaffirmed in General Assembly resolutions, notably 2625 (XXV) and 3314 (XXIX), and in the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Article 32 of the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, adopted by the General Assembly in 1974, stipulates that no State may use or encourage the use of economic, political or any other type of measures to coerce another State in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights.


While he was in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Independent Expert had long conversations and email exchanges with Pasqualina Curcio, who published a well-documented book entitled The visible hand of the market, analysing the economic war. She reminds readers that in 1970, when Salvador Allende was democratically elected President of Chile, Richard Nixon told Henry Kissinger that the United States would not tolerate an alternative economic model in Latin America and gave orders to “make the Chilean economy scream”, and when all the boycotts and sanctions failed, Allende was removed by Pinochet’s coup in September 1973. The Spanish economist Alfredo Serrano, head of the Centro Estratégico Latinoamericano de Geopolítica, analyses the manipulation of the “country risk factor”, the refusal of banks to process Venezuelan international transactions, the obstacles to obtaining insulin and other medicines, the artificially induced inflation, and the arbitrary “dollar today” figures. Furthermore, staff of the Banco Central de Venezuela explained to the Independent Expert that the pernicious exchange rate published on a website that was not grounded in factual purchase and sale transactions had been negatively impacting the economy, primarily, as a price marker, raising inflations levels, constituting an instrument of war that had risen constantly, accumulating during the year an upward variation trend over 2,465 per cent.


Economic sanctions


The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them. Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means. There is not only a horizontal juridical world order governed by the Charter of the United Nations and principles of sovereign equality, but also a vertical world order reflecting the hierarchy of a geopolitical system that links dominant States with the rest of the world according to military and economic power. It is the latter, geopolitical system that generates geopolitical crimes, hitherto in total impunity. It is reported that the United States is currently training foreign lawyers in how to draft legislation to impose further sanctions on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in an effort to asphyxiate Venezuelan State institutions.


Economic asphyxiation policies are comparable to those already practised in Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and the Syrian Arab Republic. […]

In short: economic sanctions kill.

International mediation process


Today, millions of Venezuelans worry that foreign interests may again finance a coup to impose a neo-liberal government that would abolish public services and destroy the social acquis. This could engender civil war, since a significant percentage of the population still identifies with the ideals of Chavismo. In an interview with The New York Times, opposition leader Leopoldo López expressed views endorsing interventionism:

“In 1958, there was a military coup that began the transition to democracy …. And in other Latin American countries, there have been coups that called elections. So I don’t want to rule anything out, because the electoral window has been closed. We need to go forward on many different levels. One is street demonstrations; a second is coordination with the international community.”

Those who shout “humanitarian crisis” should inquire whether the economic war and the sanctions are not a major cause. The principle of estoppel prevents those contributing to the crisis from invoking it to demand intervention (ex injuria non oritur jus).

Humanitarian crisis and humanitarian intervention

A disquieting media campaign seeks to force observers into a preconceived view that there is a “humanitarian crisis” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. An independent expert must be wary of hyperbole, bearing in mind that “humanitarian crisis” is a terminus technicus that can be misused as a pretext for military intervention.


It is pertinent to recall the situation in the years prior to the election of Hugo Chávez, when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) imposed on Venezuela the “Washington consensus” of restructuring programmes, austerity and privatisation (see A/72/1787), which led to mass public demonstrations and a military crackdown, the Caracazo of 1989, leaving some 3,000 dead. Corruption was ubiquitous and in 1993, President Carlos Pérez was removed because of embezzlement. The Chávez election in 1998 reflected despair with the corruption and neo-liberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, and rejection of the gulf between the super-rich and the abject poor.

International monitoring of elections in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Participatory democracy in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called “protagónica”, is anchored in the Constitution of 1999 and relies on frequent elections and referendums. During the mission, the Independent Expert exchanged views with the Electoral Commission and learned that in the 19 years since Chávez, 25 elections and referendums had been conducted, 4 of them observed by the Carter Centre. The Independent Expert met with the representative of the Carter Centre in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who recalled Carter ‘s positive assessment of the electoral system. They also discussed the constitutional objections raised by the opposition to the referendum held on 30 July 2017, resulting in the creation of a Constitutional Assembly. Over 8 million Venezuelans voted in the referendum, which was accompanied by international observers, including from the Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America.



[…] As demonstrated in 13 thematic reports, other players impact on the enjoyment of human rights, including the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, transnational corporations and some lobbies like the military-industrial-financial complex. These actors often wield more influence than States. Moreover, the national and international economic orders are distorted by bilateral investment treaties, free trade agreements, credit rating agencies, vulture funds, boycotts and unilateral coercive measures, which have often resulted in the suffering of billions of individuals. Rapporteurs should focus not only on States and their failures, but also on other actors and the pervasive lack of accountability.


While the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is undergoing a severe economic crisis, the Government is not standing idle; it is seeking international assistance to overcome the challenges, diversifying the economy and seeking debt restructuring. Sanctions only aggravate the situation by hindering the imports necessary to produce generic medicines and seeds to increase agricultural production. Sanctions have also led to emigration. […]


Annex V

Open Letter from Noam Chomsky, Danny Glover and 152 others in support of mediation, not sanctions, in Venezuela

We urge the United States and Canadian governments to immediately remove their illegal sanctions against Venezuela and to support efforts at mediation between the government of Venezuela and the non violent segments of the political opposition. We, the undersigned organisations and individuals in the US and Canada, support hemispheric relations based on respect for the sovereignty of all peoples of the Americas. We are deeply concerned by the use of illegal sanctions, whose effect falls most heavily on the poorest and most marginal sectors of society, to coerce political and economic change in a sister democracy.

Polls in Venezuela show that the large majority of Venezuelans oppose sanctions, regardless of their opinion of the Maduro government. Sanctions merely complicate efforts by the Vatican, Dominican Republic, and other international actors to mediate a resolution to the deep polarisation in Venezuela. Moreover, sanctions undermine efforts of the democratically elected government and Constituent Assembly to address critical economic issues and determine their own political destiny.

Despite the high-minded rhetoric of officials in Washington and Ottawa, it is not a genuine concern for democracy, human rights, and social justice that drives the belligerent interventionist posture towards Caracas. From former US president Obama’s admittedly untrue presidential decree that Venezuela represents a national security threat to the United States, to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s declaration that Venezuela is “an increasingly violent narco-state” that threatens the world, the use of hyperbole in diplomatic situations seldom contributes to peaceful solutions on the world stage. It is no secret that Venezuela, unlike Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, is targeted for regime change by the US precisely because of Venezuela’s leadership in resisting US hegemony and the imposition of the neo-liberal model in Latin America. And of course, Venezuela holds the largest oil reserves in the world, attracting more unwanted attention from Washington.

The US and Canada tried and failed to use the Organisation of American States (OAS) to build a bloc to hypocritically evoke the Democratic Charter against Venezuela. Recently, Luis Almagro, the rogue Secretary General of the OAS, went so far as to publicly support the swearing in of a parallel Supreme Court unconstitutionally appointed by opposition legislators and allowed them to use the OAS headquarters in Washington, DC for their ceremony – without the approval of any OAS member state. Almagro has thereby delegitimised the OAS, emboldened the most extreme and violent elements of the Venezuelan opposition, and side-lined efforts at mediation.

The US-Canadian sanctions represent a cynical use of coercive economic power to attack a nation that is already dealing with hyperinflation and shortages of basic commodities. While said to be in the name of advancing democracy and freedom, the sanctions violate the Venezuelan peoples’ basic human right to sovereignty, as outlined in the UN and OAS Charters.

We call on the political leaders of the United States and Canada to reject overheated rhetoric and to contribute to the search for real solutions to Venezuela’s political and economic problems. We urge the US and Canadian governments to rescind their sanctions and support the mediation efforts pursued by the Chancellor of the Dominican Republic Miguel Vargas, the President of Dominican Republic Danilo Medina, former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Vatican, and supported by a growing number of Latin American nations.



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