By Henry Steck, International News Writer
Julio Borges, Freddy Guevara and other Venezuelan opposition leaders will discuss human rights viola-tions made by President Nicolas Maduro’s government with European officials this week. On Monday, September 4, Venezuelan Opposition leaders met with French President Emmanuel Macron, and plans on also meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May. Once a growing democracy and South America’s most wealthy state, over the last five years Venezuela has plunged into turmoil.
Borges and Guevara were once the president and vice president respectively of the opposition-led Na-tional Assembly, a governmental body stripped of its power by Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Madu-ro’s command in March. Since his election in 2013, Maduro has expanded his rule in Venezuela great-ly. With the creation of the National Constituent Assembly in July, Maduro holds virtually absolute control in the country. Open letters written by the opposition have called for international support against Maduro’s government.
The economy of Venezuela remains in free fall, with GDP retreating quickly amidst rampant inflation. The rapid inflation is making groceries, medicine and other goods inaccessible to most citizens. The currency and other aspects of the economy are thought to be manipulated by Maduro. In the back-ground, the 2014-15 collapse of oil prices from $120 per barrel to just $30 per barrel has also burned the Venezuelan economy. Since then, prices have only recovered to in the neighborhood of $50 per barrel. The country possesses some of the best oil reserves in the world, and the commodity’s export makes up over three quarters of Venezuela’s total exports.
Murder rates are also rising sharply, reaching record highs. The United States Bureau of Diplomatic Security released a report this year marking the murder rate in the country’s capital of Caracas at ap-proximately 140 per 100,000 people, making it the most dangerous city in the world outside of a warzone.
The allegations of human rights violations against Maduro’s government mostly pertain to its action against thousands of citizens who have taken to the streets to oppose President Maduro. Videos shared via social media capture the excessive force used by Venezuelan security forces against pro-testers. There have also been reports of house raids, and detained protesters being tortured.
A “Truth Commission” created by the Maduro government and designed to possess unusually strong power to prosecute and sentence opposition leaders like Borges and Guevara has placed these leaders under investigation for treason. Maduro claims that many opposition leaders deserve treason sen-tences for supporting US sanctions and seeking US military intervention, an option US President Don-ald Trump has not ruled out. In addition, Venezuelan citizens connected with the opposition have re-ported being unable to leave the country and some international aid has not been allowed in.
The UN has made its concern with the situation clear, with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein stating: “These violations have occurred amid the breakdown of the rule of law in Venezuela, with constant attacks by the Government against the National Assembly and the Attor-ney-General’s Office…The responsibility for the human rights violations we are recording lies at the highest levels of Government.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 12th print edition.
Contact Henry at