SANTIAGO — After a one-year investigation, the United Nations published a report showing that Nicolás Maduro’s government has committed crimes against humanity. In Chile, the report caused controversy, especially within the Communist Party. The party even questioned the credibility of the document.
An independent UN mission on Venezuela published its findings after investigating the country’s enduring social crisis. The report presents evidence that authorities have committed human rights violations.
But Chile’s Communist Party has rejected the findings, criticizing that the investigation was carried out from outside and that it would “lack factual evidence.”
This position caused a rift, with some actors recognizing the human rights violations and others defending the Maduro government.
The mission investigated 233 cases and reviewed 2,891 to verify patterns of violations. The report, published on Sept. 16, urges the Venezuelan state to bring perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice. These crimes include disappearances, sexual violence, torture, and killings.
According to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the country’s leadership, including President Nicolás Maduro, were aware of the crimes. “They gave orders, coordinated activities and supplied resources in furtherance of the plans and policies under which the crimes were committed.”
Marta Valiñas, the mission’s chairperson, told France24 that investigators could not visit Venezuela. However, they carried out 274 remote interviews. “We spoke with the victims, witnesses, attorneys involved … with some members of the security forces and intelligence agencies.”
Another member of the mission, Francisco Cox, told Chilean news outlet Cooperativa that a social cleansing policy was in place. “This is supported by statements of members of the special forces of the Bolivarian National Police. There is evidence that they had the green light to kill.”
The 443-page report also contains recommendations for the Venezuelan authorities to avoid these crimes. The mission will present its findings to the Human Rights Council on Sept. 23.
Divisions Among the Communist Party
In a statement, Chile’s Communist Party (PC) questioned the veracity of the investigation, accusing US involvement and “communicational and diplomatic pressure … to destabilize, discredit, and intervene in [the Venezuelan] electoral process.”
The party also criticized the “human rights defenders” that have not spoken out about the repression and violations that occurred in Chile during the social crisis of 2019. “Or those who acted as accomplices for the crimes committed during the dictatorship and who now intend to take advantage of the report to promote their campaign for the rejection of a new Constitution.”
But the party’s reaction put its most popular member, Daniel Jadue, who is mayor of Recoleta district and a contender in the presidential elections slated for 2021, in a tight spot. His party’s denial of the human rights violations could cost him support.
Still, Jadue took an opposing position, tweeting that “the validity of human rights is universal and, for the same reason, I condemn any type of violation, wherever it comes from.”
La vigencia de los Derechos Humanos es de carácter universal y por lo mismo condeno cualquier tipo de violación en el lugar que sea y venga de donde venga. Comparto Columna 👇 https://t.co/tsuGkEfiYO
— Daniel Jadue #YoApruebo (@danieljadue) September 21, 2020
Other communist parliamentarians agreed. Camila Vallejo said that “the UN reports on Venezuela have been concise. Human rights violations are intolerable and cannot go unpunished in Venezuela or Chile.”
The controversy resulted in a meeting of the party’s political commission to debate the report’s credibility.
One attendee of the meeting told news outlet El Dínamo that views that diverged from the party line were treated as personal opinions that did not discredit the party’s position. PC general secretary Lautaro Carmona said the party would not validate the report because “out of 193 UN representatives, it was only approved by 19.”
Another conclusion of the meeting was that Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has not yet validated the report so further measures should only be discussed after she has done so.
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant