The OHCHR put out a press release a few weeks ago about violent protests in Venezuela in which the following words leapt off the page to anybody who has been following the situation without blinders on:
“security forces are allegedly responsible for at least 46 of those deaths, while pro-Government armed groups, referred to as ‘armed colectivos’ are reportedly responsible for 27 of the deaths. It is unclear who the perpetrators of the remaining deaths may be.” [my emphasis]
It was “unclear” to the OHCHR if protesters had killed a single person!
The OHCHR’s full report, which was just released, does not go to that extreme but is still an embarrassingly shoddy and biased report. In a section with the subheading “Violent anti-Government protesters”, the OHCHR report concedes that four murders have been perpetrated by protesters but hastens to add that protester violence has been a “reaction to the disproportionate use of force by security forces” and that the “level of violence by these groups increased as the use of force by security forces rose”.
Four is less preposterous than zero, but is still wildly off the mark. See the detailed timeline provided by VenezuelAnalysis.com.
Direct victims of opposition political violence: 23
Bryan Principal, Oliver Villa Camargo, Niumar Jose Sanclemente, Almelina Carrillo, Paola Ramirez, Jesus Leonardo Sulbaran, Luis Alberto Marquez, Efrain Sierra, Rexol Navas, Gerardo Barrera, Anderson Dugarte, Jorge David Escandon, Pedro Josue Carrillo, Danny José Subero, Orlando Figuera, Douglas Acevedo Sánchez, Ronny Alberto Parra, Alexander Rafael Sanoja Sanchez, Jose Luis Bravo, Ramses Martinez, Hector Anuel, Oneiver Quiñones Ramirez, Felix Pineda Marcano, Ronald Ramirez
Deaths indirectly linked to opposition barricades*: 8
Ricarda Gonzalez, Ana Colmenarez, Maria de los Angeles Guanipa, Angel Enrique Moreira Gonzalez, Carlos Enrique Hernández, José Amador Lorenzo González, Luis Alberto Machado, Miguel Angel Villalobos Urdaneta
Additionally, how were the murders of unarmed civilians like Orlando Figuera and Almelina Carrillo by protesters a “reaction” against the security forces? Similarly, how is the burning of food warehouses and ambulances, which the OHCHR also concedes took place, a reaction against the security forces?
Moreover, the first person killed by opposition protesters was the civilian bystander Brayan Principal on April 12, only eight days after the protests began. The VenezuelAnalysis timeline shows that, right from the beginning of the protests, when security forces have perpetrated crimes they have been arrested and charged. That’s quite a contrast with what frequently occurs in the United States which is not faced with violent foreign-backed protesters trying to oust the government. It was only four days after the protests began, on April 8, when protesters torched a Supreme Court building.
I would not advise Black Lives Matter protesters in the United States to torch a Supreme Court building and expect to have their actions excused by the OHCHR or any other high profile outfit as a “reaction to the disproportionate force by police”.
The extremely well documented case of Orlando Figuera also exposed some inexcusable sloppiness in the OHCHR report. It falsely stated that Figuera died the same day he was attacked. He actually died in hospital few weeks later. His parents claimed he had been killed for being a suspected Chavista.
Why were the protesters brazen enough to murder Figuera in broad daylight in front of numerous witnesses?
There have apparently been no arrests in the case though the government has identified one of the perpetrators (who was in hiding).
Here are a few reasons:
- 1) People in opposition strongholds – like the one where Figuera was murdered – would likely be afraid to name the perpetrators or, sadly, even supportive of the crime in some cases.
- 2) The Attorney General at the time, Luisa Ortega Diaz (who has now been fired and is who now collaborating with US prosecutors to target the Maduro government), was preoccupied with weakening the government and maneuvering to save her own skin should the opposition seize power.
- 3) Biased reporting promotes impunity. When the United States government wants to vilify a government and have it overthrown – which has been the case in Venezuela for the past fifteen years – numerous natural allies reflexively offer a helping hand: private media companies around the world, high profile NGOs and of course UN bodies like the OHCHR. The destruction of Iraq since 1990 does not happen without UN complicity even though neocons demand that the UN be even more subservient to the US.
There is a section in the OHCHR report on “Violations of the right to freedom of expression” and “Smear campaigns against journalists”. The OHCHR included a throwaway remark that “journalists were also targeted by demonstrators and supporters of both the opposition and the government.“
Prominent opposition supporters tried to get Abby Martin and Mike Prysner lynched by spreading allegations that they were working as informants for the government. Watching their report on the violent protesters the OHCHR whitewashed is something I highly recommend. The OHCHR’s bias not only makes opposition violence more likely, it makes honest journalism about it more dangerous.
The report “recommends” that opposition leaders condemn all violence by its supporters when the OHCHR itself goes out of its way to ignore that violence and deflect responsibility away from the perpetrators. The OHCHR also didn’t think to “recommend” that opposition leaders stop calling on the military to overthrow the government. An organization not at the service of the US Empire would also have “recommended” that the US government not violate international law by imposing economic sanctions or threatening the use of force against Venezuela. Have OHCHR investigators not reviewed the UN Charter recently?