UN rights chief agrees to meet Venezuela Foreign Minister

GENEVA (AFP) – New United Nations (UN) rights chief Michelle Bachelet has agreed to meet Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, who is due to address the top UN rights body in Geneva this week, her office said yesterday.

“I can confirm that Venezuela requested a meeting and the High Commissioner will be meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs” Jorge Arreaza, UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told AFP in an email.

She did not say when the meeting would take place, but Arreaza will address the UN Human Rights Council today.

Bachelet mentioned Venezuela in her first speech as head of the UN rights office yesterday, listing it among a long line of states with human rights situations she was concerned about.

In a written version of the speech, the former Chilean president decried the “serious human rights violations” documented in recent reports on Venezuela.

Thousands of Venezuelans have been fleeing a spiralling economic and political crisis, as the country run by President Nicolas Maduro suffers a fourth year of recession.

According to the UN, some 1.6 million people have fled Venezuela since 2015.

Bachelet pointed out that the exodus was “due largely to lack of food or access to critical medicines and health care, insecurity and political persecution”.

“This movement is accelerating,” she said, warning that “cross-border movement of this magnitude is unprecedented in the recent history of the Americas”.

A report released by the UN rights office in June highlighted alleged extra-judicial killings by security officers during a crackdown on protests.

It suggested that those officers, who had supposedly been tasked with fighting crime, may have been responsible for more than 500 killings between July 2015 and March 2017, largely carried out in poor neighbourhoods.