UN council mum on Venezuela, EU members warn of virus risks

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations (UN) Security Council took no action after discussing the humanitarian situation in Venezuela behind closed doors on Tuesday but its European Union (EU) members said the coronavirus pandemic “risks having a devastating human impact in a country grappling with an already grave economic, social and humanitarian situation”.

A statement by France, Germany, Belgium, Estonia and former council member Poland reiterated EU concerns “about the sharply deteriorating crisis in Venezuela and its destabilising effects across the region, including its severe humanitarian consequences.” The members said the EU is the largest donor to Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, “providing more than half of all funding”, and they called for stepped up efforts to respond to the country’s underfunded humanitarian emergency.

The EU members backed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call “to work closely with the UN system to enable the provision of humanitarian assistance by the UN, the Red Cross movement and by national and international non-governmental organisations. The EU members of the Security Council call for the depoliticisation of humanitarian assistance and for safe and unhindered humanitarian access throughout the country,” the statement said. They reiterated that EU sanctions are targetted at individuals in Venezuela responsible for human rights violations and were “explicitly designed not to affect the population. Therefore, the sanctions do not impede humanitarian or medical assistance in any way,” the statement said.

Diplomats said the Security Council couldn’t agree on a press statement because Russia wanted a reference to the negative impact of sanctions included.

Germany’s Deputy UN Ambassador Juergen Schulz stressed to the council that “EU sanctions imposed against Venezuela, do not apply to humanitarian assistance and humanitarian activities, including medical assistance,” and “in no way stand in the way of or impede the global fight against COVID-19”, according to the text of his remarks released by Germany’s UN Mission.

Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis was “dire” before COVID-19, Schulz said, pointing to the more than five million Venezuelans that have left the country, often in search of medicine and basic health services.