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Montevideo, July 20th 2019 - 18:04 UTC

 

 

Bachelet in Venezuela to check human rights situation; Maduro releases 21 political prisoners and applauds the visit

Thursday, June 20th 2019 - 09:50 UTC
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Bachelet is expected to meet with Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó — two men locked in a power struggle for control of the crisis-wracked nation. Bachelet is expected to meet with Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó — two men locked in a power struggle for control of the crisis-wracked nation.
On the eve of her arrival, Maduro freed 21 opposition activists considered political prisoners, including a lawmaker and 18 people detained during recent protests On the eve of her arrival, Maduro freed 21 opposition activists considered political prisoners, including a lawmaker and 18 people detained during recent protests
Apparently, Bachelet will not visit the Helicoide prison, where many of the nearly 700 activists considered to be political prisoners by the opposition are being held Apparently, Bachelet will not visit the Helicoide prison, where many of the nearly 700 activists considered to be political prisoners by the opposition are being held

The United Nations' top human rights official arrived in Venezuela on Wednesday for a visit that comes amid heightened international pressure on President Nicolás Maduro for allegedly silencing opponents with jail, torture and excessive violence.

On her first visit to Venezuela, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is expected to meet with Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó — two men locked in a power struggle for control of the crisis-wracked nation.

But the fact that her three-day trip is even taking place is seen as something of a minor triumph for rights activists.Bachelet's predecessor, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, was repeatedly denied access to the country for criticizing what he said was the government's refusal to recognize a humanitarian crisis. In contrast, Maduro appears to be rolling out the red carpet for Bachelet, who survived jail and exile during Chile's military dictatorship.

On the eve of her arrival, the government freed 21 opposition activists considered political prisoners, including a substitute lawmaker and 18 people detained during recent anti-government protests. Previously, Maduro began allowing the Red Cross to deliver humanitarian aid.

Appearing on state TV shortly before Bachelet's arrival, Maduro said he was ready to hear out any of her proposals that aim to improve conditions in Venezuela.

“We greatly anticipate her visit,” Maduro said. “It will be good for Venezuela's system of human rights.”

Supporters of Guaidó, however, have called for protests out of fear Bachelet will get a highly curated, unrealistic view of a crisis that has led a staggering 4 million Venezuelans to flee widespread hunger, a broken medical system and soaring inflation.

Guaidó has failed to seize power five months after launching a campaign to oust Maduro. But he has managed to win the recognition of more than 50 nations and galvanize international opinion against Maduro, who faces complaints of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court filed by Canada and five Latin American nations.

In addition to meeting with Maduro, Bachelet will meet with socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello, as well as the Supreme Court head and attorney general. She also plans to see victims of human rights violations and their relatives, the U.N. agency said.

Notably absent from a draft agenda are visits to detention centers such as the Helicoide prison, where many of the nearly 700 activists considered to be political prisoners by the opposition are being held. Earlier this year, Bachelet issued a tough statement criticizing the Maduro government for harsh crackdowns on dissenters and reports of extrajudicial killings of poor, unarmed residents at the hands of security forces.

“I am also deeply concerned about the shrinking of the democratic space, especially the continued criminalization of peaceful protest and dissent,” she said.

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