Elliott Abrams

OAS Press Conference Remarks on International Crimes in Venezuela

delivered 12 July 2019, Washington, D.C.

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

I'm very pleased to be here at the OAS with this panel and with the Secretary General.

The current state of affairs, as it has been described, is not normal or acceptable for the Venezuelan people or for the people of the neighboring countries, who have all had to bear the burden of Maduro regime's brutality.

We've all now seen the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, presenting the evidence that the Venezuelan General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence, DGCIM, and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, SEBIN, are abusing and torturing detainees. These reports include, as we have heard, beatings, asphyxiation, sexual abuse, cutting the soles of the feet with razor blades, electric shocks, food deprivation, death threats to family members.

In January of this year, Human Rights Watch and Foro Penal similarly reported that security forces used asphyxiation, electric shocks, food deprivation (again), death threats against soldiers accused of plotting. Just this week we learned that ten female prisoners in DGCIM custody were taken from the their prison cells and moved Monday to an unknown location. Their whereabouts remain unknown despite inquiries from their families, lawyers, and representatives in the National Assembly.

We are all aware of the case of Capitan de Corbeta, Rafael Acosta Arevalo, a naval officer who died while in the custody of Maduro's thugs and their Cuban advisers.

This week, the regime denied the repeated requests of Captain Acosta's family to obtain custody of his remains; and instead the regime took the body and buried the body, presumably in an attempt to conceal the evidence of his brutal mistreatment. And this would not be the first time the Maduro regime has killed a political prisoner. We all, I think, recall the horrifying events of October 2018 when the councilman Fernando Alban was, by all indications, murdered while in regime custody.

The report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights cites the killing last year, in one year, of 5,287 Venezuelans for what the regime called "resisting authority" during security operations. And from January to May of this year, another 1,569 deaths.

We support the call from the High Commissioner for Human Rights to disband the FAES, the National Police Special Action Force, which her report holds responsible for a significant portion of what the report called "extra-judicial executions."

All this is part of a wider pattern of repression. Foro Penal has reported on more than 2000 people since January of this year for political reasons. It has reported that 700, nearly 700 political prisoners are being killed. At least 38 journalists have been detained this year according to NGOs. And hundreds of Venezuelan journalists are living in exile.

One hundred eighteen Members of the National Assembly have suffered reprisals since 2016. As you know, many are in exile, or, some have sought refuge in foreign embassies, and we should stop for a moment and thank the democracies that are protecting these democratic voices in embassies in Caracas.         

The arrest of the first vice president of the National Assembly, Edgar Zambrano, and National Assembly deputy Juan Requesens demonstrates how far the regime will go to stifle any dissent.

The United States calls on the democracies of the world to join us in condemning all of these violations of human rights. And we appeal to countries that have not yet formally recognized Juan Guaido as Interim President to do so as soon as possible, as Greece did this week, and call upon them to withdraw any remaining support for the regime's de facto hold on power.   

As you know, as a result of the corruption, mismanagement, and repression, more than four million Venezuelans have had to leave their homeland. And, unless there's change in Venezuela soon enough it will be five million.

The burden on neighboring countries is very great and growing. And I want to state our thanks to the governments of those countries, especially Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and the islands that are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, for their generosity toward Venezuelan migrants and refugees.

The United States also supports the ongoing work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the mechanisms it has established to support human rights and democracy in Venezuela.

Immured to the full implementation of the recommendation issued by the commission for the people of Venezuela, we welcome the historic announcement this week that the Commission on Human Rights will be visiting Venezuela -- the first time in over a decade.

To conclude, I would just say no dictatorship lasts forever; yet every day the illegitimate Maduro regime persists is also another day of repression, another day of torture and suffering and humiliation for the Venezuelan people. So we must all come together and support the people of Venezuela in their quest for an immediate end to these terrible and violent human rights violations, these acts of repression, and support them in their quest for a restoration of democracy for their country.

Thank you.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008))))

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