Venezuela’s regime-backed security forces and socialist vigilantes are responsible for systematic human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity, U.N. investigators announced on Wednesday.
Investigators found that the most common violations involved killings and torture, concluding that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that many of these acts were directly ordered by Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime. Among those implicated is the former head of the National Intelligence Service, General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, who last year had U.S. sanctions lifted against him after he turned against the regime.
“The Mission found reasonable grounds to believe that Venezuelan authorities and security forces have since 2014 planned and executed serious human rights violations, some of which — including arbitrary killings and the systematic use of torture — amount to crimes against humanity,” chief investigator Marta Valinas said in a statement.
The report is based on more than 270 interviews with victims, witnesses, former regime officials, and classified documents. The Maduro regime did not grant investigators access to the country to help solidify their research.
“Far from being isolated acts, these crimes were coordinated and committed pursuant to State policies, with the knowledge or direct support of commanding officers and senior government officials,” Valinas said. “Security forces used lethal force against the victim when it was not strictly unavoidable to protect lives. Security forces also used less-lethal weapons in a lethal manner, which resulted in the death of the demonstrators.”
The findings corroborate the countless other investigations carried out on state repression in Venezuela, which is currently in the midst of one of the world’s worst economic and humanitarian crises. Responsibility for this crisis lies almost exclusively with the Maduro regime, which since the days of former President Hugo Chávez has transformed the once thriving South American nation into a Cuban-style communist state.
Last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former socialist president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, visited Venezuela to carry out similar investigations about the deterioration of human rights. At the conclusion of her report, she charged the Maduro regime with “grave human rights violations.”
In a summary of her report based on interviews with 550 victims and witnesses of abuses, Bachelet identified that the country’s security forces were responsible for “arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture” of anti-government activists. She also noted that allegations of extrajudicial killings were “shockingly high,” with over 5,000 reports of such killings in 2018 alone.
The Bachelet report failed to raise questions about the regime’s socialist philosophy as a cause of the country’s troubles and did not make explicit demands for the ultimate removal of Maduro from power and a transition to democracy.