US hopes to keep Venezuela off UN Human Rights Council

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is hoping to keep Venezuela from winning a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

A State Department official said Friday that members of the U.N. General Assembly should vote against Venezuela next week because of severe human rights abuses under President Nicolás Maduro.

The Maduro government has killed political opponents, has withheld food from supporters of the opposition, holds nearly 500 political prisoners and has shut down independent media outlets, said Jon Piechowski, deputy assistant secretary at the State Department.

“The United States believes that the election of an egregious human rights violator such as Venezuela would be an affront to the Human Rights Council, to the protection of human rights both in Venezuela and globally,” Piechowski told reporters.

U.N. members will choose among Venezuela, Brazil and Costa Rica for two Latin American representatives on the 47-nation council.

The U.S. is one of more than 50 governments that have called for opposition leader Juan Guaidó to be named interim president of Venezuela, arguing that Maduro’s reelection last year was not legitimate.

Human Rights Watch and other nongovernmental organizations have also called for U.N. member countries to vote for Costa Rica instead of Venezuela.

Venezuelan officials regularly reject any criticism of the country’s human rights record.

A recent report by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, chronicled cases of torture, sexual abuse and extrajudicial killings in the country.

Deputy Foreign Minister William Castillo blasted the report, insisting that it “does not reflect the reality in our country.” He called it a “biased vision” of Venezuela and demanded it be “corrected.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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