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LATIN AMERICA | 21-06-2019 08:30

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet arrives to survey Venezuela crisis

Aid organisations have called for demonstrations against the situation in Venezuela on Friday during Bachelet's visit as a way to increase visibility.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet arrived in Venezuela Wednesday as part of a visit to review the country's ongoing economic and political crisis.

She is set to meet with both President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó before making a final statement to the media on Friday.

Bachelet tweeted that she was looking forward to "working with all actors to promote and protect all human rights for all Venezuelans".

According to the UN, some four million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015 as basic goods have become elusive, public services and health systems have collapsed and hyperinflation has taken hold.

Bachelet first met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Wednesday night, who said he expressed the government's willingness to work with the high commissioner to "correct what needs to be corrected... in order to preserve the human rights of Venezuelans".

The pair also discussed the impact of "illegal" US sanctions, including a ban on the sale of Venezuelan oil in the US market, which he said hinders the socialist government's advancement of human rights in the country.

Guaidó - who declared himself interim president in January - says Bachelet's meeting with him can be seen as a "recognition of the catastrophe" in the oil-rich country, despite her coming at his rival Maduro's invitation.

Bachelet, who is preparing a report on Venezuela, also plans to meet with "victims of human rights violations and abuses and their relatives" as well as other members of the community, according to a UN statement.

She had previously criticized the government's response to the crisis and called for Venezuelan authorities to respect "everyone's fundamental right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression."

Aid organisations have called for demonstrations against the situation in Venezuela on Friday during her visit as a way to increase visibility.

"We're asking Michelle Bachelet to see that what is happening in our country... is not a lie," said Pedro Amado, part of a group of former oil workers on a three-week hunger strike for unpaid wages.

Bachelet has also been critical of US sanctions against Maduro by President Donald Trump, raising concerns that restrictions on trade with Venezuela could have negative repercussions for the general population in a country where 96 percent of the budget is based on oil.

-By Alexander Martinez-AFP


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