Venezuela Orders United Nations’ Human Rights Office to Suspend Operations Amidst Controversy

CARACAS, Venezuela – The United Nations human rights office has been ordered to suspend operations in Venezuela following the detention of human rights lawyer Rocio San Miguel. San Miguel was arrested on allegations of plotting to destabilize the country, a charge that she denies. The Venezuelan government has accused the UN office of supporting individuals involved in assassination attempts and coup plots. In response, the government has requested all UN personnel connected to the office to leave the country within three days. The United States and the UN have condemned the detention of San Miguel, along with several governments and non-governmental organizations.

The Venezuelan government claims that San Miguel’s arrest is evidence of escalating repression, while officials from the opposition argue that due process and the presumption of innocence are being disregarded. San Miguel, known for her work in studying Venezuela’s armed forces, heads the non-governmental organization Control Ciudadano, which focuses on human rights, security, and the armed forces. She was taken into custody on February 9 at the airport near Caracas while awaiting a flight to Miami, and her arrest was initially not acknowledged by authorities.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab presented alleged evidence linking San Miguel to a plot to destabilize the country, including maps and documents. The government has accused San Miguel of having sensitive military information that she should not possess as a human rights attorney. San Miguel’s daughter, two brothers, and two ex-husbands were also detained in connection with the alleged plot. Over 200 non-governmental organizations have condemned San Miguel’s detention.

The decision to suspend the activities of the UN human rights office in Venezuela is part of a broader review of the country’s relationship with the UN. The government has stated that the review will take place over the next 30 days. Other UN bodies, including the World Food Programme and UNICEF, operate in Venezuela. The UN has yet to issue a response to Venezuela’s decision.

The detention of San Miguel has further strained the relationship between the Venezuelan government and the UN, as well as the international community. The accusations of plotting takeovers and assassination attempts are not uncommon in Venezuelan politics, with the government frequently making such claims against members of the political opposition. However, opposition parties vehemently deny these allegations. Norway, which has been mediating negotiations between the government and the opposition, recently held official meetings in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, a departure from the usual practice of convening in neutral territory.

As tensions escalate, the future of human rights and political freedom in Venezuela remains uncertain. The international community will be closely monitoring the developments surrounding San Miguel’s detention and the Venezuelan government’s review of its relationship with the UN.