Venezuela joins U.N. Human Rights Council despite strong opposition

Oct. 18 (UPI) — Venezuela has won a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, attracting the condemnation of human rights organizations and the United States.

A total of 14 countries were voted into the 47-seat influential council on Thursday, with Venezuela and Brazil winning the two seats allocated for Latin American and Caribbean states, beating out Costa Rica.

Of the 193 ballots cast, Brazil received 153 and Venezuela got 105 to Costa Rica’s 96, according to the U.N. General Assembly.

“Victory at the U.N.!” embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tweeted following the announcement. “With 105 votes in favor, Venezuela enters the United Nations Human Rights Council as a free and sovereign country. Above the threats, our Bolivarian Diplomacy of Peace and the free self-determination of the peoples triumphed. Long live the country!”

Venezuela won a two-year seat despite over 50 countries deeming Maduro to be the illegitimate ruler of the South American nation, which has experienced a mass exodus of citizens in recent years due to its crushing economic situation and human rights abuses that the United States blames on the Maduro regime.

Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, condemned Venezuela’s inclusion on the council as “an embarrassment to the United Nations and a tragedy for the people of Venezuela.”

“That one of the world’s worst human-rights abusers would be granted a seat on a body that is supposed to defend human rights is utterly appalling,” she said in a statement. “The people of Venezuela should rest assured that Maduro cannot hide behind the cloak of an illegitimate body like the Human Rights Council.”

Venezuela’s inclusion on Thursday is “ironclad proof” that the council is broken and further reinforces the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to withdraw from the committee, she said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the countries who cast their secret ballots for Venezuela’s inclusion dealt “a harsh blow” to the cause of international human rights.

“The election to the Human Rights Council of Maduro’s representative is a farce that further undermines the council’s already frail credibility,” he said in a statement.

Following the vote, UN Watch, a nonprofit organization that monitors the intergovernmental organization, began a petition to expel Maduro from the council, citing extrajudicial killings, torture, the jailing of political prisoners and other human rights violations committed by the regime.

“Electing the oppressive Venezuelan regime of Nicolas Maduro to a human rights council is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief,” UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer said in a statement. “It’s absurd, immoral and offensive.”

The Geneva-based U.N. monitor, which campaigned in 2010 to have Libya removed from the council, said three other newly elected nations — Mauritania, Libya and Sudan — all had poor human rights records.

“Sadly, today, the U.N. General Assembly disregarded its own rules by electing regimes that violate the human rights of their own citizens, and which consistently vote the wrong way on U.N. initiatives to protect the human rights of others,” Neuer said.

Venezuela’s inclusion follows U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet releasing a report in July that documents “grave violations” of economic, social, civil, political and cultural rights committed in the country.

The United States has been leading a campaign of sanctions and diplomatic pressure on the Maduro regime to step down after his re-election was deemed illegitimate last year by the opposition-controlled Venezuelan National Assembly.

Last month, 15 Latin American countries applied sanctions against the Maduro regime, charging it of money laundering, illegal drug trafficking, terrorism and committing human rights violations.

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