Venezuela asks UN human rights staff to leave country amid review

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 1:01 PM

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s government has asked staff from the United Nations’ human rights body to leave the country within three days, saying it will conduct a revision of its cooperation with the organization.

The South American country’s government said it had made a decision “to suspend the activities of the technical advisory office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and carry out a holistic revision of the technical cooperation terms.”

The review will take place over the next 30 days, the government said in a statement, adding that all UN personnel connected to the office must leave the country during the next 72 hours.

The office of the commissioner in Caracas directed Reuters inquiries to officials in Geneva or New York.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said during a daily briefing that he had just been made aware of Venezuela’s decision and would need to get back to members of the press.

State television on Wednesday harshly criticized comments by the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, who just concluded a visit to Venezuela.

Fakhri had said in a statement the government food program does not tackle the root causes of hunger and is susceptible to political influences.

The UN human rights office, which has operated in Venezuela since 2019, must rectify its “colonialist, abusive and violating attitude,” the government’s statement added.

The office has played an “inappropriate role” in the country and supported impunity for people involved in attempts at assassination, coups, conspiracies and other plots, it said.

The Venezuelan government regularly accuses members of the political opposition of plotting takeovers or the assassination of President Nicolas Maduro, all accusations vehemently denied by opposition parties and their members.

The United States, the UN and others have decried the detention and arraignment this week of defense expert Rocio San Miguel. Some members of her family were also detained, though four have been released.

Other UN bodies including the World Food Programme and children’s agency UNICEF also operate in Venezuela.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Matthew Lewis)