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Venezuela, long accused of abuses, wins seat on UN human rights body

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a rally marking Anti-imperialism Day by the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 10, 2019. (Valery Sharifulin/Tass/Abaca Press/TNS)
October 18, 2019

Venezuela’s government — long accused of torture, persecuting its political rivals and shunned by more than 50 nations — beat out Costa Rica to win a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday in a contentious vote.

The U.N.’s premier human rights body said Brazil and Venezuela were among the 14 new members to win seats for the 2020 session.

Washington and others were hoping to sideline the South American country amid a larger push to isolate the Nicolás Maduro regime.

“We can call this vote historic because we were confronting a fierce campaign by the United States and its satellite governments,” Venezuela Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said in a statement.

Brazil won 153 votes and Venezuela received 105 out of 193 possible ballots. Costa Rica, which had announced its candidacy less than a month ago as part of an effort to block Venezuela, garnered 96 votes.

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Earlier this week, Louis Charbonneau, the U.N. director at Human Rights Watch, said Costa Rica’s candidacy meant there was “no possible excuse” for the international community to support Venezuela in the competition to fill one of the two vacant seats reserved for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“A vote for Venezuela is a vote for the torture, murder, and impunity that have become trademarks of President Nicolás Maduro’s government,” he wrote. “It’s a slap in the face to the millions who have fled the country, many facing dire humanitarian conditions, and the countless victims who never made it out.”

Washington and more than 50 other nations recognize the head of Venezuela’s opposition controlled congress, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s legitimate leader and say Maduro most step down.

Amid the deep political and economic crisis, more than 4 million people have fled the country in recent years.

While Maduro has been largely ostracized by the world’s financial markets, Thursday’s vote shows that he and his allies still have sway in the international community.

Venezuela has been accused of numerous human rights violations, including jailing political opponents and torturing military officials.

In September, the U.N. said it would be sending a fact-finding mission to Venezuela to continue investigating the allegations, which the regime has always denied.

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© 2019 Miami Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.