Venezuela has denounced as “baseless” reports by the United Nations on the country’s human rights violations, saying the issue is being used as “a political weapon.”
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who was speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, said the UN reports were “riddled with lies.”
“The strategy used against my country from certain centers of power is a clear example of the use of human rights as a political weapon,” Arreaza told the council.
Venezuela’s foreign minister added that the recent reports by the UN rights office “have no methodological rigor, they are baseless and they are trying to upset our sovereignty, peace and stability.”
Arreaza made the remarks in response to a report published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein warning of possible “crimes against humanity” in Venezuela.
“My investigation suggests the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed, which can only be confirmed by a subsequent criminal investigation,” Zeid said at the Human Rights Council session in Geneva on Monday.
The UN official claimed that his office had documented the widespread use of “criminal proceedings against opposition leaders, recourse to arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force and ill treatment of detainees, which in some cases amounts to torture.”
The UN rights chief said the government of President Nicolas Maduro may move to further crush democratic institutions and critical voices amid escalating tensions with the opposition in the Latin American country.
The Venezuelan foreign minister dismissed the allegation and demanded that the UN official “cease his aggression against Venezuela.”
The oil-rich but impoverished country has been convulsed by months of protests against the government in Caracas, which first broke out in April.
Arreaza said despite the violent protests that rocked the country between April and July, “the opposition in Venezuela is back on the path of rule of law and democracy, we will see dialogue emerging thanks to the mediation of our friends.”
Speaking about the number of people killed during the recent political unrest, the Venezuelan foreign minister said the “majority of these deaths can be directly attributed to the violent actions of anti-government groups.”
Pope urges UN to help Venezuela
Separately on Monday, Pope Francis called on the United Nations to help Venezuela, as the country is grappling with shortages of medicines, food and other basic commodities.
“The most painful is the humanitarian problem. There are so many people fleeing or suffering,” the pontiff said on his return from a five-day visit to Colombia.
Washington has imposed economic sanctions directly targeting Maduro, accusing him of “dictatorship.”
Maduro says the US is seeking to stifle oil exports through sanctions and a “naval blockade” on the Latin American country. He also says the US and its allies in the region are fomenting instability to bring down his government.