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A UN agency has been expelled from Venezuela

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Staff working at a UN human rights agency have been ordered to leave Venezuela after the UN expressed concerns about a detained activist.
UN human rights agency has been expelled from Venezuela

Venezuela has expelled staff from the United Nations (UN)’s human rights agency from the country.

The decision came days after the UN expressed concern about the detention of a prominent human rights activist.

International critics have accused the Venezuelan Government of silencing its critics ahead of a presidential election later this year.

Venezuela

Venezuelans have lived through decades of political and economic instability under the presidencies of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.

Hugo Chávez became known for suppressing opponents and critics, and the practice has continued under his successor Maduro.

In addition, the UN published a report last year finding evidence of dozens of random political arrests, deaths, and disappearances over recent years.

Rocío San Miguel

Lawyer, security expert and human rights activist Rocío San Miguel is the president of the “Control Ciudadano” (Citizen Control), a non-governmental organisation that reports on national security issues.

San Miguel was arrested by Venezuelan authorities last week after the country’s most senior legal officer alleged she had been involved in a plot to assassinate President Maduro.

In responding to requests for evidence, the government is yet to provide proof of the claim.

UN agency

In the days after her arrest, the UN’s human rights agency said it confirmed where San Miguel was being held. It also called for her immediate release.

The agency said it holds “deep concern” for San Miguel’s welfare. It added her arrest was part of a “wave of repression” against opponents of Venezuela’s government.

The country has faced other criticism from the UN for failing to address widespread starvation, following reports 80% of the country lives in poverty.

UN expulsion

In response to the criticism, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Yvan Gil expelled all UN human rights staff from the country.

Gil accused the agency of “falsifying facts” relating to events in Venezuela. He called its comments about San Miguel’s arrest “inappropriate”.

Workers were given three days to leave Venezuela.

Reaction

Director of the American branch of Human Rights Watch, Juanita Goebertus, condemned Venezuela’s decision to expel the UN agency.

Goebertus also said the agency’s presence in Venezuela is “crucial”.

UN spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said: “Our guiding principle has been and remains the promotion and protection of the human rights of the people of Venezuela”.

2024 election

Global criticism of Venezuela’s handling of human rights comes during an election year. The U.S. has been pushing for Venezuela to conduct a “free and fair” poll.

Last year, President Maduro agreed to release 20 political prisoners in exchange for the U.S. dropping some of its trade tariffs and export controls against Venezuela.

However, the President’s main rival, María Corina Machado, has been banned from running for office.

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