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The director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch (HRW), Jose Miguel Vivanco, issued a statement today calling the Venezuelan government’s insistence that there is no crisis in the country despite the facts to be a “criminal” act, since it leads to the government refusing to ask for international aid.

Vivanco said:

To deny that the humanitarian crisis exists – there is no food or basic medicine – and stop international cooperation in order to get some assistance appears to me to exemplify an attitude from the government that I would honestly qualify as criminal.

The comments come as HRW gears up to release its latest report on the situation in Venezuela in the coming days. Vivanco said that its team of observers traveled around eight states in Venezuela in order to compile the report, and gave a sneak preview of what they saw:

We witnessed the abuses that the ordinary citizen suffers; the one who lines up [for food], the one who protests because even though they’ve lined up for long they didn’t find diapers, or corn flour, or coffee. We’ve visited hospitals.

Vivanco highlighted the fact that there is a “tremendous scarcity of basic food and medicine” in the country, and that despite this the government “resists in acknowledging the crisis”. He also said that the “ideological fanaticism” inherent to the PSUV has implications that extend beyond the food and medicine crisis:

[The government] denies all of the abuses, the torture, the persecution, the censorship that exists in Venezuela; the enormous concentration of power, the lack of respect for the rule of law and the division of powers.

On the future outlook of the Maduro government, Vivanco pointed out that the “ideological sympathies” of Latin American countries have started to shift, as evidenced by the new governments in Brazil and Argentina. He also said:

[The government] is evidently more isolated today and is discredited. [Maduro is] increasingly alone.

Man Held by National Guard Dies of Starvation

El Nacional is reporting today that the father of a man who died in custody of the National Guard on Wednesday said that his son died after being denied food and water by his guards. The deceased – 24 year-old Jose Antonio Alvarez Castillo – died in hospital of “severe malnutrition and diarrhea” after being taken to a hospital in Araure, Portuguesa state once his condition had deteriorated beyond control.

The newspaper reports that Alvarez had been in detention at a National Guard facility in the town since May. He was taken to hospital on Saturday alongside three other detainees, all of whom were suffering from the same condition.

Alvarez’s father, Juan Antonio, told local media that his son had been the victim of abuse at the hands of the National Guard since his detention. Juan Antonio said:

The Guard doesn’t allow visitors, only that we bring food and water. On Sunday when we went [to bring him food and water], they told us that he had been taken to the hospital. Once we got there, we found out that the doctors didn’t want to treat him. In the end, they started to [treat him], but he was already doing very poorly.

Juan Antonio also said that once in hospital, the entire family tried to keep in the loop on Alvarez’s condition, but that:

… the guards there didn’t allow even his mother to visit him, because it wasn’t allowed. In a moment of consciousness, our son told us that [the guards] didn’t give him food and water, and that he was always being threatened.

Juan Antonio also said that he personally witnessed the guards threaten his son while in hospital, and that his son became visibly upset whenever he saw the guards near him.

The father explained that his son was taken from his home in the middle of the night on May 3 by National Guard soldiers who claimed that he was a member in a gang called “Los Brujitos”, but Juan Antonio said that his son had “nothing to do with that”.

Juan Antonio also said:

I spent all day [yesterday] trying to find a way to give him a Christian burial. I’ve gone to the [National] Guard and the mayor’s office to see about getting a coffin because we don’t have money, but nothing’s happened.

Zapatero: Dialogue Could Start Next Week; Allup Calls for Direct Int’l Action

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero arrived in Caracas yesterday in an effort to kick start a dialogue between the opposition and the PSUV.

Earlier today, Zapatero said that he believes that the two sides could hold their first meeting as early as Tuesday. Zapatero said that the date had been proposed by the opposition.

Zapatero’s announcement comes a day after the PARLASUR [a regional diplomatic organzation] parliament met in Caracas and heard from National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup. Speaking before the members of the organization’s Human Rights Committee, Allup said:

More than international attention, Venezuela needs the direct participation of international organization and of the region’s parliaments.

Allup continued by outlining some of the the abuses committed by the Maduro government:

We’re witnessing not only the systemic violation of the rights of prisoners of conscience, but also an absence of due process, brutal repression of people who call for humanitarian aid on the streets with rage and bitterness.

Allup also told the delegates about the involvement of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Venezuelan crisis, and stressed that the Inter-American Charter for Human Rights – which outlines the tools available to the OAS in case a member state strays away from democracy – has already been applied to Venezuela:

Aside from the violation of human rights, the denial of the freedom of expression, and the violation of the separation of powers – among others – [the government] calls of traitors for denouncing these human rights violations and violations against the Constitution before the Organization of American States. They have failed at attempting to equate the government with the homeland. Even though the government denies it, the Democratic Charter has been invoked.

Earlier today, Allup said that the opposition has supporters inside the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), the nation’s top court, who actively feed them information regarding the court’s activities.

In referring to these individuals, Allup used the phrase “patriota cooperante” [literally, “co-operating patriot”]. The phrase is often used by PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello to talk about citizens who provide information to the government on opposition activities.

Kimberly-Clark Leaves Venezuela

Kimberly-Clark, a U.S. multinational corporation that produces personal hygiene products, announced today that it was leaving Venezuelan immediately. The company cited the country’s deteriorating economic situation for the move.

The shut-down means the immediate layoff of approximately one thousand employees. It also means that Kimberly-Clark products will no longer be available for sale in the country.

The company produces many household staples, including Kleenex, Cottonelle toilet paper, and Huggies diapers.


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