By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) - A recent UN report on Venezuela paints a devastating portrait of the country’s economic, social, and political situation, but overlooks the U.S. role in the suffering, said an American expert.
According to Gabriel Hetland of University at Albany, the UN report, released earlier in July, has flaws despite the undeniable importance of it.
The assistant professor of Latin American, Caribbean, and the U.S. Latino Studies said that while the report acknowledges that U.S. sanctions are having an impact on the current situation in Venezuela, it "downplays their tremendous role in Venezuelans’ current suffering".
He stated that the report "wrongly suggests" that U.S. actions have hurt Venezuela’s economy only since August 2017, while non-sectoral U.S. sanctions on Venezuela date back to 2014.
These sanctions "undoubtedly contributed" to Venezuela’s pariah status on international credit markets, he was cited as saying by the U.S-based magazine The Nation.
"The report also fails to mention the psychological and other damage caused by illegal U.S. threats of war against Venezuela," Hetland said.
According to the academic, the report also largely ignores the role that the opposition played in the burst and exacerbation of Venezuela’s crisis.
"[Venezuelan opposition leader] Juan Guaido’s ill-fated coup attempt on April 30 is mentioned only in passing," Hetland said.
He emphasized that the report lets the Venezuelan opposition off the hook, making virtually no mention of "opposition violence in 2014, 2017, and 2019, which, in addition to causing deaths and suffering, has compounded the challenge of getting both sides to the negotiating table."
Hetland stressed that mainstream media coverage of the report also deserves criticism, referring to a story ran by The New York Times on July 4 under the headline: “Venezuela Forces Killed Thousands, Then Covered It Up, U.N. Says”.
He asserted that this statement is misleading even though it is technically accurate.
Criticizing the way NY Times opens the story, Hetland stressed the report says the government’s Special Action Forces (FAES) killed nearly 7,000 Venezuelans in 2018 and the first half of 2019.
"Yet the Times story makes it appear as though these deaths were primarily or entirely of political opponents, when the OHCHR [The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] documents just six such cases. Even a single instance of state murder for political activity is unacceptable, but six is a far cry from thousands," he added.
- UN report on Venezuela
The report released by the UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on July 4 is based on 558 interviews with victims and witnesses of human rights violations and the deteriorating economic situation in Venezuela and eight other countries, as well as other sources. It covers the period from January 2018 to May 2019.
It underlined that Venezuela's state institutions have been militarized over the past decade, and security forces have allegedly been responsible for arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture of people.
The majority of victims have not had effective access to justice and remedies, the State is "violating its obligations" to ensure the rights to food and health situation in the country is dire, according to the report.
It urged the government to end “grave” rights violations in the South American country.
"I call on all those with the power and influence -- within Venezuela and elsewhere -- to work together, and to make the necessary compromises to resolve this all-consuming crisis. My Office stands ready to continue doing its part," Bachelet said.
She paid a three-day visit to Venezuela in June to meet a wide range of actors, including President Nicolas Maduro, other senior government officials, as well as the opposition leader and the National Assembly President Juan Guaido.
A team of two UN human rights officers stayed in the country after her visit, with an agreed mandate to provide technical assistance and advice, and to monitor the human rights situation.
Maduro's government blasted the "biased" UN Human Rights report on Venezuela a day after its release.
Venezuela's economy has been in precipitous decline following a global downturn in the price of crude oil, the country's main export. Political unrest has been ongoing between Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and Guaido since Jan. 10.
Nearly 5,000 people leave Venezuela every day because of "instability and uncertainty" amid a crisis over the presidency and economy, and three million Venezuelans have already left the country since 2015, according to the UN Refugee Agency reports.