Friendship vs human rights — Part 2

Playing politics while my family suffers

Monday, January 21, 2019

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Editor's note: Part 1 of this piece was published in The Agenda, Sunday Observer, January 20, 2019. It details the experience of this Jamaican-Venezuelan and the harsh and compromised conditions under which her family members live in Venezuela. This is the conclusion of her cry for help.


The question here is why does the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) want Jamaica to turn a blind eye to the social and economic chaos in Venezuela? Do they not care about starving men, women and children, the destroyed families and disrupted lives? Do they not care that the basic needs of millions of people are not met because of the actions of the Nicolás Maduro Administration? Is the climbing death toll and millions fleeing not enough proof?

Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith said it best: “The Government of Jamaica, in supporting the resolution, acknowledges that the fundamental values and principles, including the maintenance of the rule of law, respect for human rights, and democracy, as well as non-intervention in the internal affairs of states, remain pertinent considerations... like the several countries represented here. For us, our interest has always been, and continues to be, that of the well-being of the people of Venezuela.”

Kudos to you, Minister. If we don't stand for something we will fall for anything.

My advice to the Opposition would be to set aside your emotions and nostalgia stemming from “friendship” and a lucrative oil arrangement and look at the plight and suffering of the people. Do not end up on the wrong side of history. The PNP says the Government needs to participate in a fact-finding mission to get a better understanding of what is happening on the ground. I, however, have a better idea. Instead of speaking from miles away in a country like Jamaica, where they are free, fed, and pampered, perhaps the Opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, Lisa Hanna, or Leader of the Opposition Peter Phillips should go to Caracas for even just a day or two and walk the streets, visit any hospital, do a supermarket run. Maybe then they will sing a different tune.

I believe it is the PNP that needs to do more research. Given your support for democracy, how can you the Opposition support a dictator and tyrant like Maduro? Do you not read the international news? Do you not feel concerned for teenagers being abducted because their ideologies differ from the Government? Doesn't your heart reach out to the mothers and fathers being separated from their children? I want to understand how it is that you show compassion for the human rights of people detained under the state of emergency in Jamaica whilst showing no remorse for the human rights of citizens of another country. Your stance is that we should not “create” enemies, but a friend to all. How are we creating an “enemy” if we are all aware, including yourselves, of the atrocities being experienced in Venezuela?

The act of toasting President Maduro when he 'won' his second term in office by sending a congratulatory letter to the Venezuelan Embassy in Jamaica, because Jamaica and Venezuela have long' decades of a friendship is most disheartening. How could you? Why congratulate someone who has administered acts of cruelty on the very people he purports to lead? Maduro's reign and administration is the reason there is so much suffering. How could you support that and send him a letter of congratulations?

I understand that the Opposition's position is to always maintain a “voice” in Parliament on all matters, including foreign policy concerns of the Government, but, my God, don't be blind to the suffering of a whole people and not want to do something about it. If we don't stand for something, we will fall for anything.

A review of the United Nations 2018 Fact Finding report on Venezuela or the report from Human Rights Watch available online will reveal the following:

1. The UN expert panel report suggested Venezuelan officials have unlawfully executed 8,200 and jailed 12,000+ shop.

2. Human Rights Watch said that during the leadership of President Maduro, the accumulation of power in the executive branch and the erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the Government to intimidate, censor, and prosecute its critics and reported that broadcasters are being censored if they criticise the Government.

3. Venezuelan Government security forces tortured thousands of detainees with “electric shocks, asphyxiation, sexual assault, and other brutal techniques”, according to a 2017 joint report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Penal Forum (PF). The report said these were not isolated abuses or occasional excesses by rogue officers, but rather a systematic practice by Venezuelan security forces.

4. Supreme Court judge fled the country saying The State is ordering him as to what decisions to arrive at.

5. A constitutional crisis was triggered when Maduro removed power from the National Assembly, created a new body filled with his supporters called the Constituent Assembly, and secured his grip on power via a snap election which was not contested by the Opposition.

6. A series of operations by the pro-Maduro security forces resulted in the jailing of members of the Opposition and imprisonment of political opponents vocal against actions of the Maduro Administration.

7. Nearly two million people have fled Venezuela due to economic, humanitarian and political crisis since 2015, according to the The UN report published in 2018. UN predicts that five million will flee the country by the end of 2019.

8. Venezuela's ousted chief prosecutor called on the International Criminal Court to capture President Maduro and charge him for what she claims are crimes against humanity. Luisa Ortega, who was fired after breaking with the Maduro Government earlier this year, appeared at The Hague, where she filed a complaint, based on the 8,290 deaths she says took place between 2015 and 2017 at the hands of officials who received instructions from the Government.

9. Maduro has been declared a dictator on the international scene by countries including the US, Canada and some European powers.

If the PNP wants to remain a friend to a dictator, a tyrant, a president whose policies and evil inhumane acts are the reason so many babies and children are dead, families are torn apart, and there is serious, widespread economic instability, I don't get it.

As someone that identifies as both Jamaican and Venezuelan, I admire the stance the Jamaican Government has taken at the Organization of American States. They were asked to make a vote, and it was either a “yes” or a “no” and they voted against Maduro. It was a decision I believe any country with concern for human rights would have done. It also shows that we are a strong nation that stands for what is right in the international arena of foreign affairs. Supporting human rights and taking a stance against the oppression being experienced by the people of another nation is the right thing to do. I take the side of human rights over friendship.

At the end of the day, all human beings matter. A life matters more than a bilateral agreement of two countries.

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