THE SEVERITY OF THE UN REPORT ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION IN VENEZUELA

On September 15th, was published with detailed conclusions on the violation of human rights in the Venezuela, the Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.

Senior military and ministerial figures were likely aware of the crimes, said the investigators, who were appointed by the Human Rights Council in Geneva in September last year.

The Report confirms, in a convincing manner, what we have repeatedly denounced: the government of Nicolás Maduro violates the human rights of its citizens; it persecutes, imprisons, tortures and kills them. We have documented this before the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in a meeting held on January 23rd, 2019, on the occasion of denouncing the political persecution of which I am a victim by this criminal government, which keeps me in exile and without guarantees or rights of any kind to return to my beloved homeland.

This first Report of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) is a devastating document for the government and opens the way for the action of the International Criminal Court (ICC) by determining the responsibility of the Venezuelan State, as well as the individual criminal responsibility of its high officials, including president Nicolás Maduro, several of his ministers, military and police officers, and the attorney general, in the commission of crimes against humanity, as defined by the Rome Statute of the ICC –which was ratified by Venezuela in the year of 2000– and by the Treaties of the International Human Rights Law and the International Criminal Law, to which Venezuela is a party.

This Report was prepared under the mandate of Resolution 42/25, dated September 27th, 2019, of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, to which Venezuela is a party, in order to “investigate extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment since 2014 with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims”. In the Resolution, the Human Rights Council requested the Mission to present a report on its findings to the Council during its 45thsession in September 2020.

All the foregoing indicates that the presentation of the report, last September 15th, HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS SCHEDULED FOR NEXT DECEMBER 6th, as the spokespersons for ´madurism` (supporters of Maduro) have professed, and as it has been implied by the official response of the government, issued on Saturday 19th by the Foreign Affairs Minister Arreaza and the prosecutor Tarek William Saab –both of them, by the way, identified as responsible in this Report.

The statement made by these spokespersons –delivered from the Prosecutor’s Office– denigrating and discrediting the work of the UN, as they did at the time against the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, reflects precisely one of the problems denounced in the Report by the FFM: the subordination of all the Powers of the State particularly, the Public Ministry and the Judicial Power to the Executive Power, being this one of the fundamental reasons for the existing impunity, for the absence of the rule of law, and for the perpetration of grave human rights violations in the country.

It is important to clarify that the work of this Independent Fact-Finding Mission is different from that of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Bachelet. It is an Independent Mission, created by the Human Rights Council to investigate and determine specifically (that is, “ad hoc”) the committing of crimes against human rights in the country. However, both UN bodies have separately reached a conclusion that should shake the national conscience: the human rights violation during the period of government of Nicolás Maduro has become a POLICY ENFORCED BY THE VENEZUELAN STATE, infringing both the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the International Law.

The FFM concludes, after having documented and investigated 274 cases of human rights violations in the country, that it “has reasonable grounds to conclude that the acts and conduct described in this report constitute a violation of the international obligations of the Venezuelan State, which are recognized as crimes under national and international law” and that “all the violations and crimes documented in this report give rise to individual criminal responsibility” and “correspond to conducts that may be legally classified, under Article 7 of the Rome Statute , as crimes against humanity”.

Crimes against Humanity, under the terms of the Rome Statute, that were investigated by the UN Independent International Mission in Venezuela, include, inter alia: murder or extrajudicial execution, enforced disappearance of persons, arbitrary detention, torture and other cruel or humiliating treatment, and persecution for political or opinion-related reasons.

The Independent International Fact-Finding Missions are part of the instruments available to the United Nations system to monitor and ensure compliance with International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.

This mechanism, established since 1949 by the United Nations, has been used in different situations to determine human rights violations and specific situations in the Balkans, Palestine, Germany or South Africa, as well as the deaths in 1961 of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in Zambia .

It is since 1991 that this instrument is systematized as a fact-finding mechanism by the UN. Since then it has been used in places such as: Yugoslavia, Darfur (Sudan), the Central African Republic, Georgia, Timor-Leste, Guinea-Conakry, Lebanon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and Syria, during the war against ISIS, among others.

These Missions act according to methodological practices and criteria that guarantee the objectivity and substantiation of the facts, as well as the protection of victims and witnesses who might be subject to retaliation by the authorities. In some cases –such as the Missions to the Gaza Strip in 2009, Syria in 2011, or Myanmar in 2018– the UN Inquiry or Fact-Finding Mission did not have access to the country or region, due to specific circumstances related to the conflict or to the express refusal of the governments or forces involved, as in the case of Venezuela, where the government denied access to the country to the members of the Mission, despite their repeated communications and requests to the authorities.

In these circumstances, the UN FFM use a standard methodology, established for this type of Missions by the United Nations. This is why the Independent International Mission for Venezuela, in line with other fact-finding Missions established by the Human Rights Council, used as a standard of proof “reasonable grounds for belief”, in which information from direct, reliable and credible sources is gathered

The standard of “reasonable grounds for belief” is met when “factual information has been established to the satisfaction of an objective and normally prudent observer that the incident has occurred, as described, with a reasonable degree of certainty”. The standard “is sufficiently high to indicate that further investigation is warranted, in accordance with criminal procedures “.

Reliable and credible sources include: interviews with victims, families, lawyers and witnesses of the events; legal case files; interviews with government and military officials; interviews with members of the security forces currently in service (conducted under strict confidentiality); verified digital information, in particular videos, photographs and satellite images; information contained in social networks; publicly available statements or information on relevant events issued by government institutions and representatives, including televised statements; and the laws, policies and directives of the Venezuelan government.

All cases and incidents evidence that is based on a direct source of information is independently corroborated by at least one other credible source of information. The Mission investigated 223 cases, 48 of which are discussed in detail in the Report.

Contrary to what the Venezuelan official spokespersons said in their attempt of discrediting the mechanism of the UN International Investigation Missions and their results –paradoxically, due to the fact that they are not in the country, after having been denied access to the territory– the abovementioned UN methodology of work has been accepted by the international community, in cases as difficult as the situation of human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where, because of the occupying power Israel not allowing access to the territory to the FFM, reports are prepared based on the same procedures already described. Their results, of course, are always questioned by Israel.

Venezuela’s government spokespersons try to delegitimize the mandate and work of the International Independent Mission, ignoring the fact that it is the product of a decision by the Human Rights Council, composed of 47 UN Member States, elected by the UN General Assembly, where there are countries from all over the world and all regions are proportionally represented, including Venezuela. By the way, the United States withdrew from the Council, on June 19th, 2018, because it did not agree with its composition and decisions; probably, the government of maduro will choose to do the same.

The investigations and documentation of the Fact-Finding Mission in Venezuela focused on identifying the following Crimes against Humanity committed by State agencies in the country:

1. Extrajudicial Executions is a crime linked to the use of firearms by the police, the army, security agencies, or non-State actors acting in support of the authorities, with a deliberately lethal intent, foreshadowing an arbitrary use of force, which could amount to an Extrajudicial Killing.

When authorities are or should be aware of potentially unlawful deprivations of life, they are obliged to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute the perpetrators of such incidents, including incidents where there are allegations of excessive use of force with lethal consequences.

Unlawfully and intentionally causing the death of a human being, in the context of a widespread attack, constitutes the Crime against Humanity of murder.

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2. Enforced disappearance of persons occurs when three elements are combined: the deprivation of liberty against the person’s will; the involvement of government officials, at least through tolerance or acquiescence, and the refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or the concealment of the whereabouts of the disappeared person. An enforced disappearance places the disappeared person outside the protection of the law and puts his or her life at constant and serious risk, for which the State is internationally responsible.

This crime leads to the violation of other Human Rights, including the right to life, the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the freedom and security of the person and the right to recognition as a Person before the Law.

A person can be considered a victim of enforced disappearance whenever his/her deprivation of liberty is not recognized or his/her whereabouts are not disclosed at the time he/she is due to appear before a judge.

All persons deprived of their liberty shall be held in an officially recognized place of detention.

Given the gravity of the crime, the corresponding obligation to investigate and punish those responsible is an IMPERATIVE STANDARD of International Law.

3. Arbitrary detention: a detention is considered arbitrary when it does not conform to national legislation or relevant international standards, and when it violates the right to a fair trial and the guarantee of due process. The notion of arbitrariness includes elements of inadequacy, unfairness, lack of predictability and due process, as well as elements of rationality, reasonableness, proportionality and necessity.

A Crime against Humanity under this criteria is when arbitrary detention is committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population. The Venezuelan Constitution preserves the Right to the Presumption of Innocence, and its Article 44 requires that a person deprived of liberty be brought before a judge within 48 hours.

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4. Torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is defined as acts that cause severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, intentionally inflicted and involving directly or indirectly a public official.

Acts of torture are committed for a specific purpose, such as obtaining a confession or obtaining information. Punishment, intimidation, humiliation, coercion or any action based on discrimination, sexual violence, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are acts of torture.

Torture constitutes a Crime against Humanity when it is committed as part of a systematic or widespread attack. However, according to the Rome Statute, the Crime against Humanity of torture does not require that the act be committed for a specific purpose; it is considered a crime under International Law even when it is committed outside of a widespread or systematic context.

5. Persecution for political or opinion-related reasons occurs when the State uses its entire propaganda media and the justice system to persecute, to exile or to detain citizens for dissenting or differing in their political positions or opinions, thus using the judicialization of politics to conceal the rights and guarantees of citizens.

The Mission notes in its Report that “The main victims of these violations are often government critics with high public profiles or individuals who have achieved prominence…” which “includes targeted public officers”.

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I cannot fail to mention that, in this section, specific reference is made as a Crime against Humanity to the political persecution, viciousness and incitement to hatred of which I myself have been a victim by nicolás maduro and his Attorney General, who has generated permanent operations of judicialization of the politics against me that keep me exiled from the country.

The two sides of the human rights violation in the country

The FFM identifies two distinct target populations and motivations in the committing of Crimes against Humanity by the Venezuelan State: action on the population, whether civilian or military, for specific political reasons, and action against the poverty-stricken population in the country’s barrios (neighborhoods) and in the countryside, in a sort of “social cleansing”; those actions are fundamentally aimed at repressing and carrying out extrajudicial executions in the poorest sectors of the country, in order to exercise social control, all of it justified by an alleged fight against insecurity.

Violation of human rights against specific political objectives:

The murders committed by the security forces during the period of maximum political tension in the country are documented in great detail. It is also documented the lethal use of firearms by military and police forces that resulted in more than 165 deaths during that period alone, the majority of which remain unpunished.

Cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and imprisonment without trial are recorded in great detail; the hell of the political detention centers is accurately described: La Tumba (“The Tomb”), Boleíta, El Helicoide, as well as a significant number of clandestine detention sites identified by the victims and pinpointed by satellite.

Torture, humiliation, cruel treatment, rape, sexual assault, threats, and physical and psychological punishment of detainees are systematically practiced in all of these temporary detention sites. All detention spaces are designed to keep the detainee in permanent condition of physical and mental torture and in violation of his or her fundamental rights.

The direct sources in the Report identify the perpetrators of these crimes; their names are in the Report and are in the reserve of the Mission to be submitted to international criminal instances.

The harsh treatment of the military and their families reproduces in the conduct of the repressive forces the worst practices of repression and torture.

The murder by torture of Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo and the cruel tortures to which he was subjected; the death of Councilman Fernando Albán and the absurd versions of suicide given by the authorities, as well as the execution of Oscar Pérez and 9 people from his group, are only the most visible examples of crimes committed by the Venezuelan State security forces.

In this group of human rights violations, the responsibilities of police and military officials, both from the GNB (National Guard), PNB (National Police), SEBIN (Intelligence Service), DGCIM (Military Intelligence Directorate), CONAS (National Guard’s Anti-Extortion and Sequestration Command), or FAES (National Police’s Special Action Force), directly involved as perpetrators, are evident and reflected. In addition, the Fact-Finding Mission documented the presence of senior officials, particularly from the command structure of SEBIN and DGCIM, in the commission of these crimes, as well as direct testimonies from officials and former officials of the military and security forces, who indicated that senior government officials, including president nicolás maduro, gave direct instructions to act against the victims.

Likewise, the FFM has compiled all the public statements made by these high officials, including president nicolás maduro, attorney general Tarek William Saab, and minister of information Jorge Rodríguez, in which they incited acts of repression, generating an atmosphere of hate within which victims were already sentenced and condemned well before the detentions or enforced disappearances took place.

The Report concludes by determining that there is sufficient evidence to imply that these senior government officials have personal responsibility for the commission of these crimes, and therefore they should be investigated by international criminal tribunals.

The Mission Report specially mentions the lack of action on the side of the competent bodies that are constitutionally responsible for ensuring respect for Human Rights and due process; in particular prosecutor Tarek William Saab is held responsible for the commission of Crimes against Humanity by preventing victims from having access to justice and by acting with negligence and omission in the investigation of all these Human Rights violations, which were either known to him directly or were made public and notorious facts. It is pointed out that prosecutor Saab dismantled the Attorney General’s Office to appoint temporary prosecutors, who are subject to removal as he considered them “personal de confianza” (personnel who is non-unionized or not fully integrated in the office structure, and who might hold higher positions but are easily dismissed).

The Judicial Branch, particularly the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and its Constitutional Chamber, are held responsible for violating due process and validating the actions of the National Executive by means of issuing decrees and executing unconstitutional reforms of laws that have allowed the concentration of all the power of the Venezuelan State in the hands of nicolás maduro.

The stories of these abuses and Human Rights violations must be read; it is a responsibility of all Venezuelan citizens. It is a list of violations that is still incomplete, since the Report has yet to reflect all the violations of the PDVSA workers’ Human Rights, the arbitrary detentions to which they have been subjected, the violation of all their rights to due process, the lack of hearings, the humiliations and punishments, as well as the death in custody of former minister Nelson Martínez.

It is striking that the relatives and victims of the abuses against the workers of PDVSA (the National Oil Company), and the workers of Corpoelec (the State Power Corporation), as well as against political and social leaders of Chavismo (real still supporters of Hugo Chávez), are not reflected in this UN Report, whether because of the terror of the victims’ relatives to the reprisals that can be taken against their imprisoned victims, or because some people, like in the case of Aryenis Torrealba and Alfredo Chirinos, still insist that “Comrade maduro is NOT aware of the facts”.

If this Report teaches anything, it is that the relatives and those who are victims of the violation of their rights, particularly those of the Chavista and revolutionary side, have the duty to publicly denounce such abuse before the corresponding national and international bodies, because as long as impunity subsists in the country, Human Rights violations will continue to occur as part of a State policy.

The silence of the relatives out of fear or other political considerations keeps the victims in the permanent horror of a government that is particularly hard on the dissidents of the revolutionary camp.

While writing this article, I listened to an audio recording by William Fariñas, one of the Commanders of the November 27th, 1992 Rebellion, in which he denounced the disappearance of General César Mejías Camacaro, who was very close to Carlos Lanz (who has himself been missing for quite some time). I also received information about the attack on the leaders of leftist parties who, by showing their disagreement with maduro, are being taken to prison, under common crimes charges. The repression will not stop no matter how much silence is kept about it. It is a pattern of behavior, a policy, of a degraded and desperate government.

Maduro’s government “Social Cleansing”

The report reveals in crude detail the murders and extermination operations that have been carried out by the State police forces (PNB, GNB, FAES, CICPC/Criminal Investigation Corps, Regional Police, DGCIM, SEBIN and CONAS), in joint operations and with a great deployment of resources, weapons, men on the ground to –in real “razzias”/police raids– annihilate mainly the youth of the poor neighborhoods of the country, with the apparent objective of dismantling criminal gangs, in massive operations of false positives and social control.

In the popular neighborhoods, where the social base of Chavismo has always been located, police and military forces have perpetrated all kinds of extrajudicial executions, which have been denounced by the victims’ families and which also have abundant witnesses. Some of these cases were investigated when the Public Prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Díaz, was in charge of the office of the Attorney General.

According to statements by the Minister of the Interior himself, General Néstor Reverol, during the period covered by the Report, 24,343 young Venezuelans (99% of them men from the popular districts of the country) have died for “resisting authority”. This number, disproportionate by all accounts, exceeds the one of the victims of the war in Yemen, and reflects what has been the de facto establishing of the DEATH PENALTY for the impoverished people in the country; a policy that is being stimulated by the highest authorities of the government, mainly by nicolás maduro, who created the FAES and has allowed the police forces to enter in the destitute Venezuelan neighborhoods MASKED (for concealing their faces; as death squads usually do) and to act unpunished, in order to impose terror among the population.

This type of action against the popular neighborhoods had NEVER occurred in the country, neither with this dimension nor with such violence; never with this level of impunity and much less with the acquiescence and the massive and unabashed support of the Venezuelan State.

Different mechanisms and methods have been implemented, which have resulted in real “social cleansing” campaigns under different names, such as the Operations for People’s Liberation (OLP; initials in Spanish), or the Operations for People’s Humane Liberation (OLHP), but which have left in the end thousands of deaths and detainees in the poor neighborhoods of the country.

There are sufficient testimonies and accounts from victims, family members and witnesses, so the Fact-Finding Mission was able to determine that there is a PATTERN OF ACTION characteristic of clean-up operations and extrajudicial killings, in which the chain of command, communication systems and internal discipline of the public forces were fully functional. There are indicia for the Mission that “the President or the Minister was present during the discussions of several specific operations”.

All the witnesses and direct sources of information coincide in stating that the police and military forces in joint operations (which, according to Minister Reverol, have mobilized up to 95,000 officials) surround and besieged entire neighborhoods in the early morning hours, using artillery vehicles , tanks, snipers and helicopters, and they “comb” the neighborhood from top to bottom, entering the “ranchos” (shacks) and the humble houses without any legal procedure, without the presence of prosecutors from the Public Ministry, with a list of names of people they are looking for, a list that is created by previous intelligence work and that many times is wrongly fed with information provided by interest groups.

Direct sources and testimonies indicate that once the joint security forces enter the house, they violently remove the women and the elderly –potential witnesses– and immediately detonations are heard; as a result, the civilians who were captured are always killed. There are enough stories of family members and witnesses who saw the victims unarmed, alive, surrounded by police officers, and then they turned up at the city morgue.

According to testimonies, police authorities simulate armed confrontations by “planting” weapons on their victims. They create “false positives”, which is reflected in the fact that almost none of these operations result in police casualties. Most witnesses and direct sources of information state that the instructions to the officers to apply the “death penalty” in the operations were received directly by their superiors, either in person or by radio.

Some investigations carried out by the Prosecutor’s Office until 2017, and testimonies from forensic experts indicate that the majority of the victims –and this is recorded in the files– have gunpowder tattoos in vital areas, such as the chest, head and neck, which indicates “tiros de gracia” (coup de grâce/ death blow shots) point blank range shots and contact shots.

All the victims, family members and witnesses testify that the police forces, when leaving the victims’ homes, steal their money, belongings and even food. The police forces call it “a spoil of war” that encourages the framing of false positives.

The Mission’s report indicates that there is sufficient public and notorious evidence of the support and encouragement by the highest authorities of the government –Nicolás Maduro, Interior Minister Reverol, and then -Vice President Tareck el Aissami– to this kind of police operations.

In view of the call by the High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, in her Report on Venezuela of June 2019, to disband the National Police’s Special Action Forces (FAES), due to the information and testimonies received in her Office that this body was responsible for thousands of extrajudicial executions, the response of maduro was to give all its support to the FAES, all its resources and support to a body that has been strongly questioned by the population and by human rights organizations; the Mission has determined that 65% of the extrajudicial executions they have registered were carried out by the FAES.

The command structure of these joint forces is very strict and vertical, so there is no doubt for the Mission that the High Commands of these Corps, as well as the High Commands of the government, are aware of what is happening with these thousands of extrajudicial executions.

The UN Fact-Finding Mission establishes individual criminal responsibility in the perpetration of Crimes against Humanity in these “social cleansing” or extermination operations developed by the government, operations in which nicolás maduro, Néstor Reverol, Tareck el Aissami, General-in-Chief and minister of defense Vladimir Padrino López, and Tarek William Saab as Attorney General are named.

The Attorney General is singled out because of a permanent OMISSION of his responsibility to safeguard citizens’ rights and due process and, furthermore, for failing in his responsibility to investigate public and notorious violations of the victims’ human rights.

General Padrino López is singled out for the involvement of the FANB (the Bolivarian National Armed Forces) under his command in acts resulting in Crimes against Humanity during these government-led social cleansing operations.

Just seven years ago, it was unthinkable that the FANB would sully its uniform and the Bolivarian Doctrine, by modifying its regulations to become involved in police operations that resulted in the murder of innocent people.

The FFM of the United Nations reflects in detail the Barlovento case, which involves officers and troops of the Bolivarian Army. Based on the files and interviews with witnesses and relatives of the victims, the Mission documents in detail how a large-scale military operation was carried out in the Miranda state, involving the 323 Caribbean Battalion, which established theaters of operations in the El Café neighborhood/sector; inhabitants of the area were captured and executed, under accusations of allegedly belonging to criminal gangs.

In this case it has been determined that the victims were subjected to torture and two of them were executed directly by the officer in charge and the remaining 10 were located in a MASS GRAVE in the town of Aragüita; the victims were killed by blows from stabbing weapons, presumably machetes –a terrible crime!

There, in the UN Report, appear the names of those identified as responsible; there are officers who took part in the 1992 Fourth of February Chavez’s Rebellion. Now they end their careers and their reputation as people’s soldiers, to be pointed out for committing Crimes against Humanity.

But these Crimes against Humanity committed by the police and military forces in the context of the various operations carried out by the government are not the result of our military and police forces becoming mad and committing heinous individual acts.

No, this criminal action is the result of a POLITICAL ORIENTATION AND SPECIFIC ACTION OF THE GOVERNMENT, AIMED AT ANNIHILATING PEOPLE AND MAINTAINING SOCIAL CONTROL OF THE BARRIOS WITH THE EXCUSE OF FIGHTING CRIME.

The speech of Maduro, his lies and his programs of hate, the “Tun-Tun” (“knock-knock”; code name for the government security operations to round up dissidents) and the threats, the propaganda and the irresponsible statements by Jorge Rodríguez, Tarek William Saab and other political and military bosses; all of these stimulate the execution of Human Rights violations. Among the calls to resort to violence, unfounded accusations, and media lynching, the police and military forces act at will in the country, with the certainty of enjoying total impunity, and with the support of the government, the public prosecutor’s office, and the judiciary power.

These procedures, in addition to being illegal and criminal, are absolutely ineffective. It is well known that “coquí” (a notorious crime boss) continues to operate on the Cota 905, a neighborhood in the hills of Caracas, and that the criminal gangs put the whole city in check when they decide to settle their differences “a plomo limpio”, by numerous shoot-outs, in the Petare neighborhoods.

The maduro government is doing the exact same thing that, customarily, the Brazilian police and army do in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, and the same thing that the paramilitary forces do in the poor neighborhoods of Colombia: extermination; a violent, right-wing response to the social problem of crime.

The hundreds of testimonies of the victims and the relatives of the deceased victims –who are identified with a code in the Report to protect their lives– must be read, so that we realize that something very bad is happening or has happened in our country.

I remember when I read Ernesto Sábato’s book “Nunca Más” (“Never Again”, 1984), a book that collected the testimonies and facts of the 9,000 cases that could be documented (it is estimated that there were 30,000) regarding the victims and desaparecidos of the Military Junta in Argentina; the horror of fascism when the military and police forces of that country massively violated the Human Rights of the Argentine people on the basis of the doctrine of security and defense of the Condor Plan in force in the Southern Cone.

Torture, crimes and disappearances took place all over the country, while fear and the World Cup held in those years in the country, diverted attention from the horror that millions of Argentines –young people, students, workers, union leaders and humble people– lived through.

I remember thinking at that moment: how is it possible that this happens in a society? How so much cruelty is possible? How is it possible so much absence of laws and of a minimum vestige of humanity?

To read this Report of the Independent International Mission of the UN and, above all, to read the testimonies of the victims and their families is a duty that all Venezuelans have to fulfill; it is something that should shake the conscience of the whole country.

Neither us, leftist men and women, Bolivarian people, nor anyone belonging to any political sector, can give in, or accept torture, crime, persecution. We cannot excuse these crimes under any circumstances. It is not a question of comparing crimes, or denouncing some and silencing others. Any violation of Human Rights is despicable and reprehensible; it is an act of cruelty at odds with any political project to transform society.

What has happened in the country since 2014? What has become of our institutions under maduro rule? How has this elite turned the dreams of an entire people into a nightmare? How long will our military forces continue to support and participate in these crimes, in this cruel and illegal action? How long can the progressive and patriotic moral forces of the country and the region continue to excuse so many crimes and so many Human Rights violations? How long will the political leaders of the country, those who continue supporting maduro, those who continue calling themselves “sons of Chávez”, keep silent before these acts of barbarism, before this disregard for human life, for the people?

Time continues to prove me right: as I have denounced it, nicolás maduro has created a complex and uncharted situation, where treason, felony, destruction and surrender of the country is accompanied by economic and social violence, which wipes out the rights of the people, and criminal violence against young people and the poorest.

The actions of this government must be stopped once and for all. We must put aside extortion and fear and mobilize to restore the constitutional order, the spiritual balance of society and the Fundamental Human Rights of all people and for all people.

The perpetrators of these crimes will undoubtedly pay, it is a matter of time; the crimes they committed will weigh on them all their lives. Sooner rather than later, they will have to answer to the courts of the Republic and to international tribunals, to the International Criminal Court, of which we are a party.

There is no excuse for these crimes to continue to be perpetrated, violating the Bolivarian Constitution and the fundamental principles of International Law, wiping out the Human Rights of the entire country.

When this nightmare is over and the popular sovereignty is reestablished, we must say as the title of Ernesto Sábato’s book: we will NEVER AGAIN allow this situation to be experienced in our country.

Soy Rafael Ramírez, ing y politico vzlano, Min. de Petróleo y Presidente de PDVSA 2002–2014. Ex-Embajador ante la ONU. Visita mi blog https://www.rafaelramirez.