Venezuela welcomed 119 Palestinian students who arrived today as part of a program that will see them study “Integral Community Medicine” in the country. President Maduro welcomed to students and invited them to make themselves at home. Maduro also said:
We receive you into our homeland on this very special and historic day. Palestine is here; the future of Palestine is here, in it’s youth. Palestine has not allowed itself to be eliminated. It has refused to die, it has resisted, and Palestine will live.
The students – 36 of whom come from the Gaza Strip – will attend the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicine Salvador Allende in Caracas on Yasser Arafat Scholarships. Maduro also took the opportunity to voice his support for the Palestinian cause, saying:
The voice of Venezuela is always, and will always be, at the service of truth and the struggle of the Palestinian people. You will see, sooner or later, that we will celebrate the fall of the Israeli Wall together. Down with the Israeli Wall!
Today’s arrival marks the beginning of a government plan that will eventually attempt to attract 1,000 Palestinian youth into the country with the goal of giving them an education in the medical field. Below, a video showing some of the festivities in honour of the arriving students:
Maduro: Heroic, historic Palestine. Palestine will be victorious… Que viva Palestina! Look, I’m going to give you a little gift. They’re going to pass this around… it’s this jacket with the three colours – yellow, blue and red – from our country’s flag.
Some pictures from the same event:
Venezuela Faces Questions from U.N. Committee Against Torture The United Nations Committee Against Torture summoned the Venezuelan delegation in Geneva today to answer questions regarding the systemic human rights violations seen in the country, particularly since the start of the year. The committee asked the Venezuelan delegation to provide information regarding allegations of torture and arbitrary detentions levelled against the Venezuelan government since the start of the year. Speaking on the allegations regarding Venezuelans detained during the protests, Jens Modvig – one of the committee members – said:
There are indications that the detained were threatened with sexual assault, were prevented from accessing lawyers, doctors, and that their families were not informed [of their detention].
Modvig also asked for clarification regarding the government’s official stance towards the colectivos, the armed pro-government groups Human Rights Watch documented as taking part in anti-protest violence. Another committee member, Alessio Bruni, called Venezuelan prison conditions “a tragedy”, while another – Essadia Belmir – posed the following question regarding the ever-increasing militarization of pro-government civil society groups:
[Is Venezuela] currently in a state of exception or emergency, so that it is necessary to use the army and Bolivarian militias to maintain order? Is the police not enough?
Felice Gaer, a committee member from the United States, had questions regarding torture and abuse. Gaer pointed out that according to official figures, between 2003 and 2011 only 12 security officials have gone to court over allegations of torture, while another 127 have been tried for assault. Gaer pointed out:
This is a very small proportion of the more than 9,000 cases of torture documented by organizations during the same period of time. How do you combat impunity in Venezuela?
The Venezuelan delegation will have 90 minutes to answer the committee’s questions tomorrow during a public meeting of the organization.