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30 Jan, 2019 13:24

‘Direct nexus between US sanctions & death’ – UN rapporteur slams ‘economic war’ on Venezuela

‘Direct nexus between US sanctions & death’ – UN rapporteur slams ‘economic war’ on Venezuela

The US is waging “economic war” against Venezuela and engaging in a coordinated effort to “demonize” President Nicolas Maduro, believes UN rapporteur to Venezuela and expert on international law Alfred de Zayas.

In an interview with RT, de Zayas, who is also a former secretary of the UN Human Rights Council, said it was “obscene” for Washington to invoke human rights as motivation for its actions in Venezuela while it continues to wage an economic war on Venezuelan citizens.

“Who is causing, who is aggravating the problem? The sanctions have aggravated the problem. The economic war has aggravated the problem,” he said.

US President Donald Trump recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s “interim president” last week, throwing the country further into political crisis. In response, the Maduro government accused Washington of trying to engineer a coup and steal its oil.

Asked to explain his previous characterization of the US sanctions as possibly amounting to “crimes against humanity,” de Zayas said there is “a direct nexus” between the sanctions and death.

Why is there death? There's malnutrition, there's lack of medicine. If you need insulin, and you don't get it? You die. You need anti-retroviral drugs. You don't get them? You die. That has happened.

De Zayas recalled a UNICEF report which determined that 500,000 children had died as a direct results of the US sanctions regime against Iraq by 1996. There are currently estimates that hundreds of Venezuelans have already died as a result of sanctions-related shortages, he said.

De Zayas said that financial mismanagement by the Maduro government was also a real factor in the current unrest and that the government has "too many ideologues and not enough technocrats" – but ultimately said that choosing the government to run Venezuela is not up to the US.

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“I believe in democracy. I believe in the ballot box. If you believe in democracy, you can not boycott an election. The name of the game is that you actually have to put your candidate out and expect that the people will vote for you or against you,” he said, referring to the Venezuelan opposition’s decision to boycott the recent presidential election, which saw Maduro re-elected.

Echoing comments from other analysts, de Zayas said that the US was interested in getting control of Venezuela’s oil and gold. Looking at Iraq and Libya — two other oil-rich countries which faced US regime change — he said it is the major oil companies which are “reaping the benefits” and not ordinary people.

If Venezuelans were benefiting from their natural resources that would be fine, he said, but “when all the profits flow outside of the country, when they flow to the United States or when they flow to a super-rich elite of Venezuelans, that does not serve the Venezuelan people.”

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De Zayas was the first UN rapporteur in Venezuela in 21 years, but his 2017 report on the country was mostly ignored by the UN and the media. He told the Independent this week that he believed this was because his opinions did not echo the mainstream consensus.

“When I came back [the UN and media were] not interested. Because I am not singing the song I’m supposed to sing so I don’t exist,” he said, adding that the report which he formally presented was the subject of no debate and was simply “filed away.”

De Zayas believes that mediation was the only way to solve Venezuela’s political crisis and that talks would have to be conducted in “good faith.” A previous mediation effort by the Spanish government in 2016-17 failed, he said, because the opposition refused to sign the deal at the end of the process.

“If Guaido wants to speak seriously with the government, that is the way to go,” he said, adding that he warned opposition figures during his fact-finding mission that they can’t simply “ignore the existence” on pro-government Venezuelans.

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