- Valeria Yraita-Zevallos
Venezuela’s Top Leaders Committed Gruesome Crimes Against Humanity, UN Report Reveals
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his regime committed acts of torture - beatings, deprivation of life, asphyxiation- and sexual and gender based violence as depicted in the new U.N report. The findings in the 2022 U.N report highlight crimes committed to opposition politicians, journalists, protesters, and human rights defenders, as well as the citizens and indigenous people in the mining states of southern Bolivar. This marks another year of the extensive investigations carried out by the U.N, but will the most powerful leaders in Venezuela finally be prosecuted?
Since 2019, the U.N has been collecting intel on the human violations occurring in Venezuela under the Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (FFMV).The mission’s process of collecting information includes interviews on the victims of abuse, along with their family, employers, and others who have a linkage. Most of the interviews are carried out by phone or video through protected lines. However, due to Venezuela’s restrictions on foreign interaction, most of the intel for the newest report had to be collected alongside the border. In total, the FFMV carried out 245 interviews and collected various legal documents that proved top leaders and state actors of Venezuela continuously committed human rights abuses.
The Directorate General Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) were the main contributors in human rights violations, as found in previous reports. However, specific individuals, like President Nicolas Maduro and other “high-level individuals” were found to further orchestrate and approve these crimes.
In Boleíta headquarters in Caracas, El Helicoide detention centers, and others were the main target areas were opponents of the regime were tortured and abused. Out of the 122 victims detained by the DGCIM (Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence), 77 were tortured. Since 2014, another 51 cases of abuse to detainees have been found by the SEBIN. The detainees under SEBIN encountered extreme abuse from being forced to eat their own feces to being put in a device, called “la señorita”, that distorts their bodies and plunges them into water. Furthermore, similar abuse was carried out by the DGCIM, including sexual abuse and forced fights between older prisoners. Despite the extensive reports of torture, no one has been held accountable by the Venezuelan government.
Furthermore, the Arco Minero region is one of the epicenters of human violation crimes committed due to the ongoing land disputes between state and non-state actors. The government established the region as the “National Strategic Development Zone'' after the 2016 mining oil crisis in Venezuela. Thus, the region, part of southern Venezuela, is heavily militarized and controlled by many criminal groups. This has caused innocent citizens of the area and those coming from outside other regions in search for a stable job to be the main targets of abuse. Predominantly, women are attracted to the region due to being promised economic prosperity, however, no women are allowed to work in the mines and are rather enslaved by criminal groups, threatened if they seek to escape, raped, and publicly shamed. In the Arco Minero Region, women are sex-trafficked and men in the mines have, “their hands or fingers cut off for breaking the gangs’ rules.” The region’s importance to the Venezuelan government due to its economic power, has led them to ignore the ongoing abuse of its citizens in exchange for quicker production.
The Venezuelan government has since denounced all claims from the UN report and provided limited commentary on it. The Venezuelan Ambassador from Geneva, Hector Constant Rosales, has been one of the few to speak out saying that the report has gone, “Beyond the limits of the unspeakable, incorporating direct accusations against the president and other high authorities of my country.” The Venezuelan ambassador expressed the report as masking “obscure interests” to further paint the country in a negative manner against the world. However, the U.N seeks to bring international awareness to the abuse in Venezuela through its Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) report. Offices outside Venezuela like the Washington Office of Latin America (WOLA) have partnered with the U.N mission to conduct an independent and private investigation on the crimes against humanity. Moreover, countries like the United States and those from the European Union have repeatedly condemned the abuse caused by Maduro and have worked to place sanctions to have the president step-down. However, due to the sanctions’ role in further worsening Venezuela’s humanitarian and economic crisis, President Biden is pushing to remove the sanctions and find another way to end Maduro’s leadership.
From the detailed and supported findings of the U.N’s Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (FFMV), Venezuela continues to face international backlash and is in danger of losing its few diplomatic relationships, like the upcoming peace talks with Colombian President Gustavo Petro. Yet, the country’s worsening humanitarian, economic, and refugee crisis has limited the ability for outside nations to end the country’s corrupt system through diplomatic actions like sanctions as it further fuels the economic and social instability affecting the lives of innocent civilians.