By Sinikka Tarvainen and Denis Duettmann (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and with opposition leader Juan Guaido in Caracas on Friday.
Maduro spoke of a “very successful meeting” and insisted he would “accept the high commissioner’s suggestions and recommendations, adding that “anyone who violates human rights will be held accountable.”
Human rights organizations and the opposition have blamed state security forces and pro-government thugs for murders, torture and arbitrary arrests in the crisis-ridden South American country.
“We live in a dictatorship that violates human rights,” opposition leader Guaido asserted after his own meeting with Bachelet.
Guaido said the UN high commission is to establish an office with two employees in Venezuela to monitor the crisis in the country. Two of the commissioner’s officials are to remain in the country to review the situation, above all in hospitals, he asserted.
Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January, is backed by dozens of countries in his campaign to oust Maduro. The head of state won a second term in a disputed election last year and has presided over a massive economic and political crisis.
Bachelet met government representatives and relatives of political prisoners on Thursday, the first full day of her visit.
The vice president responsible for planning, Ricardo Menendez, stressed that US sanctions had contributed to the country’s economic crisis, saying it had deprived the government of a large part of its resources, local media reported.
Bachelet also held talks with Diosdado Cabello, regarded as Maduro’s right-hand man, while anti-government demonstrators gathered outside UN premises in the capital.
“This is not a government, this is a dictatorship,” protesters chanted.
“The regime finished with everything in the country, with enterprises, education. They are violating human rights,” daily El Nacional quoted one demonstrator as saying.
Hyperinflation had deprived Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, of its purchasing power, another protester complained. “People sleep on the streets, eat rubbish. This is a dictatorship and we need to tear it up,” she added while tearing up bolivar bills.
Bachelet promised to work for the release of political prisoners, the father of one of them said after Thursday’s meeting.
The prisoners now number nearly 690, according to the NGO Foro Penal.
They numbered 773 last week, but dozens were released ahead of Bachelet’s visit, Foro Penal President Alfredo Romero tweeted.
Bachelet, a former Chilean president, left Caracas after Friday’s meetings.
The UN estimates that 7 million Venezuelans are in need of humanitarian aid. Millions have fled abroad amid food and medicine shortages and political unrest.