8506th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Venezuela

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10-Apr-2019 02:51:47
Briefers paint dire picture of Venezuela, describing worsening situation there as unparalleled in Latin America’s modern history at 8506th meeting.

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The situation in Venezuela is worsening, with an estimated 7 million of its people — or a quarter of its total population – needing assistance, humanitarian officials said today as the Security Council took up the crisis for the fourth time in as many months, debating whether it constitutes a threat to international peace and security.

There is “a very real humanitarian problem” and the United Nations is willing and able to respond if it gets more help and support, Mark Lowcock, Under‑Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the 15-member Council. Amid a severe and ongoing economic contraction, malnutrition has increased and shortages are straining the health system, he added, noting that an estimated 2.8 million people overall need health assistance, including 5.5 million children under the age of five. Exacerbating health problems are insufficient access to clean water and inadequate sanitation systems, he said, adding that the crisis has interrupted the education of more than 1 million children.

Recalling the release of $9 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in late 2018, he said the United Nations now has nearly 400 staff on the ground, with efforts particularly concentrated in the States of Zulia, Táchira and Bolivar. Emphasizing the need to separate political and humanitarian objectives, he asked the Council to support efforts to safeguard neutral and impartial humanitarian action. “Humanitarian assistance must be delivered on the basis of need alone,” he said, stressing also the importance of sustained and regular access to those in need.

Also briefing was Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. Speaking via video-teleconference from Panama City, he described the magnitude of the population outflow as unparalleled in Latin America’s modern history, with an estimated 3.7 million Venezuelans now outside their country. Highlighting the implications for the Council and the international community, he called for greater support for open-door States willing to receive, assist and host the displaced.

Kathleen Page, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, said that a study by that institution concluded that the combination of severe shortages of medicines, health supplies and food, together with the spread of epidemics, has resulted in the breakdown of Venezuela’s health system. The crisis fits the definition of a complex humanitarian emergency, she added, urging the Secretary-General to formally declare it as such and lead a full-scale United Nations response. The crisis should be a top priority for the Organization and the Council should meet regularly to address it, she emphasized.

In the ensuing discussion, Michael R. Pence, Vice-President of the United States, called upon the Council to stand up for democracy and the rule of law in a nation which has suffered so much. Describing Venezuela as a failed State, he said that, while the chaos could spread, the fight for freedom is just beginning. “Nicolas Maduro must go,” he added, emphasizing that now it is time for the United Nations to speak in a clear voice. “All options are on the table,” he emphasized, noting that the United States is drafting a resolution intended to have the Organization recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó, President of the National Assembly, as the legitimate President of the Republic.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative pointed out that the Vice‑President did not stay to hear the views of other Council members. Cautioning against the notion that the situation in Venezuela constitutes a threat to international peace and security, he urged neighbouring countries not to be deceived, and to understand that Venezuela is a bargaining chip in the geopolitics of the United States within the region. To that country’s delegation, he added: “If you want to make America great again, then stop interfering.”

Peru’s representative spoke on behalf of the Lima Group, saying that, despite Venezuela’s urgent need of humanitarian assistance, the regime in Caracas cannot be trusted to deliver it. Help must therefore be channelled through the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), he stressed.

The Dominican Republic’s representative said the crisis cannot be solved through humanitarian assistance alone, underlining that a negotiated solution must include free and fair elections with guarantees for all participants, support from the international community and respect for human rights. Such a process must be led by Venezuelans, he emphasized, calling upon the authorities to recognize the serious economic situation and to create space for humanitarian action.

Venezuela’s representative said the United States is trying to pull the wool over the international community’s eyes. While the humanitarian situation must be resolved, the diagnosis must be correct, he stressed, pointing out that none of today’s briefers addressed the “elephant in the room”: that the situation is the direct result of a plan by the United States and the United Kingdom to wreak economic destruction by provoking a social implosion that could be used as a pretext for military intervention under the guise of the responsibility to protect.

Reminding the Council of its responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations, he demanded that it explain the legal basis for allowing the United States and the United Kingdom to apply, without the Council’s consent, a programme of economic destruction against his country. What legal authority does the United States have to impose secondary sanctions on countries trading legally with Venezuela, to threaten the use of military force, to allow the expropriation of its wealth and to intervene in its internal affairs in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter? “We must stop this war of Donald Trump,” he said, calling upon Council members to ensure Venezuela’s right to peace.

Also speaking today were representative of China, France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, South Africa, Indonesia, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire and Germany.

The meeting began at 10:36 a.m. and ended at 1:27 p.m.

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