- The Washington Times
Thursday, September 24, 2020

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido called on the international community to prosecute socialist President Nicolas Maduro and his allies, seeking to build on the momentum of a harshly critical United Nations investigation that revealed “egregious” human rights violations by the regime in Caracas.

Mr. Guaido, who is recognized by the U.S. and roughly 50 other nations as Venezuela’s rightful interim president after a widely criticized 2018 election, highlighted that the scathing review and said it marked the first time that an “acting dictator has been accused of crimes against humanity” in Latin America. Mr. Guaido and his allies are hoping the report provides fresh energy to a campaign to oust Mr. Maduro that appeared to be losing steam in recent months.


“We must ensure that those who have committed crimes against humanity are prosecuted,” he told a virtual event Thursday hosted by the Washington-based Atlantic Council. ” … “It is very important that justice be served and that awareness be raised about these crimes.” Last week, the U.N.’s top human rights body, of which Venezuela is a member, released a report that concluded that security forces linked to Mr. Maduro conducted arbitrary killings, torture and sexual violence since 2014.

In his own address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, Mr. Maduro — a protege of the late anti-U.S. populist President Hugo Chavez — slammed the U.S. for what he called “criminal, inhumane aggression” after the Trump administration slapped new sanctions on the dictator for aiding Iran’s oil supply.

“The world must know that we are prepared to fight with the force of our history, our spirit, reason and international law,” he said in a pre-recorded speech that ran twice his allotted time. He called the U.S. the “most serious threat to peace in this world.”

Despite a pressure campaign and economic embargo spearheaded by the Trump administration, as well as a domestic humanitarian crisis that has sent living and public health standards plunging, Mr. Maduro has stubbornly clung to power over the past two years. U.S. efforts to entice the Venezuelan military to abandon the regime have so far failed to bear fruit.

Addressing representatives of several dozen countries that recognize him as Venezuela’s legitimate leader on Wednesday, Mr. Guaido called on global supporters to “consider a strategy that contemplates different scenarios after the diplomatic route has been exhausted.”

As the country nears the Dec. 6 parliamentary elections, Mr. Guaido made a plea to the international community to monitor the vote as fears mount that Mr. Maduro’s government could attempt to interfere or resist the election’s outcomes.

“We need organizations such as the European Union to monitor the elections since the regime is holding the electoral process hostage,” he said Thursday.

Mr. Guaido, who heads the opposition forces in Venezuela’s National Assembly, claims he was the rightful winner of the disputed 2018 election. Mr. Maduro instead claimed the victory and was inaugurated for second presidential term in January 2019, managing to retain the crucial backing of Venezuela’s military and security forces.

The Venezuelan crisis could play role in the U.S. presidential election, with a large group of Venezuelan Americans living in the key swing state of Florida. The Trump administration has highlighted a string of tough measures and sanctions it has taken against Mr. Maduro, and Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden also signaled his backing for the 37-year-old Mr. Guaido’s movement.

“As Juan Guaido speaks about the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Maduro, I reaffirm my commitment to stand with the Venezuelan people,” Mr. Biden tweeted.

Speaking alongside Mr. Guaido Thursday, Venezuela’s Special Envoy of Foreign Affairs Julio Borges said Mr. Maduro’s “dictatorship has affected us all.”

“The worst thing that could happen in Venezuela,” Mr. Borges said, “is that nothing happens and we get used to more of the same persecution, prosecution and torture of Venezuelans.”


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