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Volume 49 Number 2, February 9, 2019 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

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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]

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 Lópeznb 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.


Venezuela Defeats US in Election, Now Must Build Independent Economy

The US is leading an economic war against Venezuela that is causing tremendous damage. This chronicle by a member of Venezuelanalysis' Delegation reports on the electoral process and the economic situation in the Caribbean nation.

By Kevin Zeese - Popular Resistance
May 29th 2018 at 9.39am

Upon returning to the United States from Venezuela and reading the terrible media reporting of the election, it was evident that the people of the United States are being lied to. The Intrepid News Fund and Venezuela Analysis invited me and others to come to Venezuela for the election to see first hand what actually happened so we could report what we saw and break the media blockade against Venezuela.

The US is leading an economic war against Venezuela that is causing tremendous damage, but there is also a media blockade preventing the truth from being told. Mayor Carlos Alcala Cordones of Vargas, speaking to foreign delegations, told us the media blockade was more damaging than the economic blockade.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) summarised the biased and inaccurate media coverage, writing,

Western media have taken an entirely different outlook to the [elections], unanimously presenting them as seriously flawed, at best, and at worst a complete sham presided over by a dictator. The New York Times (5/20/18) presented the election as 'a contest that critics said was heavily rigged in his favour,' Huffington Post (5/21/18) christened it 'a vote denounced as a farce cementing autocracy in the crisis-stricken OPEC nation,' while NPR (5/21/18) stated: 'Nicholas [sic] Maduro has easily won a second term, but his main rivals have refused to accept the results, calling the polling fraudulent - a view shared by the United States and many independent observers.'

In reality, Venezuela had free, fair and transparent elections and manages the most sophisticated and accurate voting system in the world. Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Centre has a Democracy Programme, said, "As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world." This is consistent with others who have monitored Venezuelan elections. In the recent election, there were 150 international observers from over 30 countries who also noted the advanced nature of the election system and validated the results.

The opposition and the United States faced two choices in this election: (1) run against President Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution, or (2) seek to undermine the election by not participating. The US decided the latter approach was the best alternative and directed its vassals in Venezuela to boycott. Henri Falcon, the leading opposition candidate, did poorly, falsely declaring the election a fraud. Not only did the boycott hurt him, but he also advocated succumbing to the United States, e.g. dollarize the economy and seek loans from the IMF and western financiers. This was not popular because such loans end up being a disaster for national sovereignty as the financiers dictate neo-liberal policies that send money to the capitalists while cutting essential services for the people.

Despite the boycott, Maduro received the vote of 28% of the eligible electorate, around the same as Barack Obama received in 2008 and more than he got in 2012 or Trump in 2016. The 46% turnout is similar to US turnout and much higher than countries like Chile and Switzerland.

The economic punishment is not related to democracy. There is no economic blockade of Honduras, where a coup was followed by questionable elections, or Brazil, where there was a coup, or Saudi Arabia, a monarchy without national elections. Granma, the official voice of Cuba, which has a lot of experience with US economic war, describes ten examples of efforts to destabilize the government since the election.

Why Maduro was supported by the electorate in the midst of an economic crisis

The people of Venezuela are suffering from serious impacts of the economic war being fought against them. The US sanctions combined with the drop in oil prices has sent the Venezuelan economy reeling. This election was important because Venezuela withstood the attack of the US and western powers, who refused to accept the election and tried to oust Maduro.

The Venezuelan people are well aware of who is causing their problems. When we took a tour of the Metro Cable, a Chavez-built gondola that brings people in poor neighbourhoods down the hillside, we were stopped by a grandmother who had a message she wanted us to share with people in the United States. She said, "We know you want our oil, but stop punishing the people of Venezuela."

When the Bolivarian Revolution had money from high oil prices, it was used to improve the lives of the poor. The results were marked decreases in poverty and illiteracy and increased access to health care and housing. The economic war has put stress on all of these programmes, but Maduro persists despite it.

One of the great successes of the Maduro era is the Housing Mission, which built two million homes for the poor. Each home houses four to five people, meaning eight to ten million people received housing, which included furniture. This is quite an accomplishment in a nation of 32 million people. The programme began in 2011 after there were devastating mudslides and hopes to reach 3 million homes by 2019.

Compare this to the United States, which is in a housing crisis, where the 2,461 people are evicted every day, and poor and middle-class families are housing-insecure. Consider the US response to the storms in Puerto Rico, where nine months later the island is still in crisis, or cities like my home town of Baltimore, where we have thousands of homeless and 16,000 abandoned homes.

The economic sanctions are creating food shortages in Venezuela with blockades of food and medicine purchases and with some wealthy Venezuelans adding to the problem by hiding food or sending it to Colombia.  In response, Maduro announced an expansion of the Local Provision and Production Committees (CLAPs), to distribute food to six million people.

The Bolivarian Revolution is seeking food sovereignty in response to the injustices of the global food supply system, a goal made more difficult but also more essential due to the economic war. Food production is a long-term problem in Venezuela due to its oil-based economy, which caused farmers to move to urban areas in the 20th Century.

Maduro has also fought off agribusiness by banning GMO's and the privatising of seeds, protecting indigenous food knowledge from corporate capture and seeking to create a democratic food system.  Venezuela is an example of ecosocialism, where food systems are socialised and developed in an economically sensible and sustainable way.

These are just some of the social programmes that Venezuela has sought to expand under Maduro. Maduro has also tried to break the financial blockade with oil-backed cryptocurrency.

US sanctions have had the effect of causing the people to blame the United States and unify around Maduro and the current government.

Deep Democracy Not Dictatorship

US leaders and the media describe Maduro as a dictator. It is absurd on its face when the election history of Venezuela is examined. Not only does Venezuela have lots of elections, but it is seeking to develop participatory democracy at the local level.

The Chavistas have won almost all elections since 1998, but lost two national elections. In 2007, the opposition defeated Chavez-supported constitutional amendments. In 2015, the opposition won the national assembly. In the last presidential election, Maduro narrowly defeated Henrique Capriles by 1.49%. This history shows consistently free and fair elections, not a dictatorship.

The National Constituent Assembly is pointed to as an example of dictatorship. When the opposition won a large majority, they showed their true colours by removing portraits of Hugo Chávez and Simon Bolivar. Then they passed an amnesty law for themselves where they listed all 17 years of crimes in seeking to overthrow the government. This law was found unconstitutional by the court.

The opposition promised removal of Maduro within six months and incarceration of Chavista leaders when they took power. Violent opposition protests followed that led to over 125 deaths. The Supreme Court found that three of the right wing legislators were elected by fraud and until they left, the Assembly could not act. The Assembly refused the court's decision and in the midst of a stalemate, Maduro used his constitutional power to activate the National Constituent Assembly. The opposition tried to block the vote and 200 polling stations were besieged on election day, but it went forward. Chavistas were elected but the opposition claimed the turnout of over eight million voters was "too high" to be credible.

The National Constituent Assembly has an interesting democratic makeup. Two-thirds of the members are geographically based and one-third represent different constituencies, including trade unions, communal councils, indigenous groups, farmers, students, disabled people, and pensioners. They are currently writing amendments to the constitution, which will be voted on.

The communal councils show the participatory nature of Venezuelan democracy. The 2006 law on Community Councils allowed groups of citizens to form Citizen Assemblies that represent 150 to 400 families in urban areas, 20 families in rural areas, and 10 in indigenous communities. More than  19,000 councils have been registered. They elect their leadership, meet and decide on projects needed for the community. They have received $1 billion in funding for various projects and have established nearly 300 communal banks, which provide micro-loans. Communes are combinations of local councils that work on larger projects.

These councils are the frontline of participatory democracy, but are ignored by the western media, as they are inconsistent with the claims of "dictatorship". For the Bolivarian Revolution, the councils are intended to ultimately replace the democratic liberal state by bringing together citizens, social movements, and community organisations, to practice direct participatory self-governance. They are a main pillar in the transition to an ecosocialist, communal state. They are a work in progress, striving toward these goals based on a belief in the sovereignty of the people, which take on more functions of the public sector as they demonstrate competence. Maduro recognises Venezuela is still a capitalist-based economy and has identified the commune as the centrepiece of democratic socialist governance.

The example of creating real democracy, working to break from capitalism and moving to a socialised economy by and for the people, is what the United States and oligarchs fear. That is why Maduro is called a dictator and the US calls for a military coup "to restore democracy", which really means restore the pre-1998 oligarchy and protect capitalism.

The presidential election, originally scheduled for the end of 2018, was moved up to April when the US State Department, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, other regional conservative governments and opposition parties called for 2018 presidential elections to be brought forward. Then, they claimed April was too soon. To appease the opposition, the government agreed to move the elections to May 20, signing an agreement with right-wing candidates Henri Falcon and Javier Bertucci that included a host of electoral guarantees. Despite this, the US and its allies said the elections were illegitimate. In the end, the elections went forward and Maduro won an easy victory.

Maduro Takes First Steps After Election

While Maduro won the election against Venezuelan candidates, he was really running against US imperialism. Maduro overcame great challenges to win a mandate to continue the Bolivarian Revolution. After the election, he urged dialogue with the opposition, seeking to move Venezuela to peace. Maduro also ordered the US Charge d'Affaires Todd Robinson and head of political affairs (who he described as the head of the CIA), Brian Naranjo, to leave Venezuela.  He accused them of being involved in "a military conspiracy" against Venezuela. This is consistent with calls for a military coup by former Secretary of State Tillerson and Senator Rubio as well as Trump's claims of a military option for Venezuela.

Maduro must confront the economic war and build an independent economy, alongside and often led by the communes. Grass-roots activists are calling for a National Emergency Plan on food, the electric system and Internet, health care and education. China and Russia recognised Maduro's victory. He needs their support for major projects.

Maduro and the Venezuelans still face significant obstacles. The internal traitors, who seek a return to the pre-Chavez era, have been exposed as more loyal to the US and international finance than to Venezuela will need to be held accountable. The problems of corruption and crime will continue. And, Maduro will be under threat of attacks from US-allied Colombia and Brazil.

To show solidarity, people in the US should call for an end to sanctions and threats of regime change in Venezuela. Let Venezuela be independent and pursue its Bolivarian revolutionary path. We may learn something about democracy from them.


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