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Montevideo, September 22nd 2023 - 09:09 UTC



Venezuelan human rights activist arrested after meeting with UN High Commissioner Volker Türk

Friday, January 27th 2023 - 18:47 UTC
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Rodríguez had met with Türk the day before Rodríguez had met with Türk the day before

The arrest in Caracas of activist María Fernanda Rodríguez during the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Volker Türk sparked an international uproar. She was released later on Friday with no comments.

The university professor is a member of the civil association Sinergia and of the training program Lidera, one of the non-government organizations targeted by a bill regulating the functioning of agencies.

Rodríguez was detained less than 24 hours after she participated in a meeting with Türk, NGO Access to Justice Director Alí Daniels told reporters during a press conference in Caracas to address the bill drafted by Representative Diosdado Cabello, who is also the first vice-president of the ruling PSUV.

Rodriguez was arrested in the morning at the Metropolitan University (Unimet), where she is a professor, by members of the Scientific, Criminal and Criminalistic Investigations Corps (CICPC). The activist was held for a few hours before being released.

“The persecution against Venezuelan civil society organizations continues and not only that, people who have exchanged with the High Commissioner have lost their freedom,” Daniels said.

Türk is in the country to review the human rights situation and hold several meetings with members of the Nicolás Maduro administration, defenders and activists, victims of human rights violations, and indigenous leaders; as well as with representatives of the United Nations operating in Venezuela.

Rodríguez's arrest came after the National Assembly elected in 2020 issued preliminary approval for the Bill of Law for the Control, Regularization, Performance, and Financing of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Related Organizations, submitted by Cabello, who insisted that behind NGOs there were faces and political parties and that if the names of the people who run them are reviewed, “we will see that they are people who are like kings, who spend their time traveling.”

Cabello also branded these organizations as “appendices of organizations that operate to guarantee imperialism its operation in the world.” He added that, although NGOs began operating in the country for humanitarian reasons, at present “almost all of them” have to do with the political sphere and seek to generate destabilization. He said that some 62 NGOs in Venezuela were financed from abroad.

“It is not in our plans to eliminate any NGO,” Cabello also pointed out this week. ”The law will set clear rules (...) we are not going to eliminate any NGO, that is not in our plans, not at all.“ He also stressed that those who represent NGOs in the country, once the law is approved, must comply with the registration of the organization. ”Whoever has his NGO, passes, registers it, it has to be subject to control, it cannot receive foreign financing,“ he underlined.

”They proclaim themselves non-profit (...) they do not pay taxes of any kind, there is no review, nobody reviews anything (...) then they form institutes, they form other things that maintain them with that money,“ he added.

”An uproar has been going on since last week (...) here in Venezuela and in other countries of the world, the US imperialism has used the NGOs as a mechanism to finance operations of subversion, destabilization, persecution against uncomfortable governments (...) here in Venezuela there is no legislation on this issue,“ added Cabello.

Türk arrived Thursday in Caracas Thursday from Colombia on a visit for ”solidarity, dialogue, and action,“ in his own words after meeting with several groups of victims and civil society, including Rodríguez.

”Satisfied to engage with various victims and civil society groups on my first day in Venezuela. My visit is one of solidarity, dialogue, and action. All countries need and deserve a free and vibrant civic space,“ Türk posted on his Twitter account. The UN official will stay in the country until Saturday.

The Venezuelan Government said the UN official's mission was to take place in the ”execution of the mechanisms of constructive dialogue, cooperation and technical assistance existing between Venezuela and the office under his charge.”

According to his office, Türk is to make a statement upon leaving the country.

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