Venezuela Expels Human Rights Agency

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By Daniel Villatoro García

Venezuela’s government on Thursday ordered the local United Nations office on human rights to suspend operations and gave its staff 72 hours to leave, accusing it of assisting coup plotters and terrorist groups.

Foreign Affairs Minister Yván Gil announced the decision at a news conference in Caracas, which came amid heightened concerns that the government is repressing adversaries in an election year. Nearly a week ago, Venezuela detained a prominent human rights attorney and members of her family, setting off a wave of criticism inside and outside the country.

Gil said the local technical advisory office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, authorized in 2019, was supposed “to improve, to optimize,” human rights. Instead, he said, it had become an “international sounding board to maintain a discourse against the Bolivarian government and against the Venezuelan people.”

The office had “become the private law firm of coup plotters and terrorist groups that permanently conspire against the country,” Gil said, though he did not show any evidence or point to a specific example of that alleged activity.

After the announcement, Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, sidestepped a question about the Venezuelan office, saying that “we need to confirm the decision.”

Rocio San Miguel, a prominent human rights attorney, was taken into custody Friday at the airport near Caracas while she and her daughter awaited a flight to Miami. Authorities did not acknowledge her detention until Sunday, and as of Wednesday, her attorney had not been allowed to meet with her.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab earlier in the week said San Miguel was being held at the Helicoide prison, an infamous institution for political prisoners. She is facing charges of treason, conspiracy and terrorism.

San Miguel’s daughter, ex-husband, two brothers and former partner also were detained following her arrest. Of them, only her former partner, Alejandro Jose Gonzales de Canales Plaza, remains in custody. He is facing charges of revealing state and military secrets and obstruction of justice.