Venezuelan democracy 'barely alive': UN rights chief

Geneva (AFP) –


The UN human rights chief warned on Wednesday that democracy in crisis-torn Venezuela was eroding fast, questioning whether it was still functioning at all.

President Nicolas Maduro "was elected by the people," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told reporters in Geneva, but added that the government's recent actions "support the feeling that what is left of democratic life in Venezuela is being squeezed".

Asked about French President Emmanuel Macron's accusation Tuesday that Maduro was creating a "dictatorship", Zeid said there had been "an erosion of democratic life".

"It must be barely alive, if still alive."

His comments came as his office released a fresh report accusing Venezuelan authorities of implementing a policy of repression to crack down on months of street protests against Maduro.

"The generalised and systematic use of excessive force during demonstrations and the arbitrary detention of protesters and perceived political opponents indicate that these were not the illegal or rogue acts of isolated officials," the report said.

The extent of the violations "points to the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instil fear in the population to curb demonstrations at the cost of Venezuelans' rights and freedoms", it added.

Venezuela, which is suffering from an acute economic crisis marked by shortages of basic goods, has experienced months of street demonstrations against Maduro that have left 125 people dead, according to prosecutors.

"The government must ensure there are prompt, independent and effective investigations of the human rights violations allegedly committed by the security forces," as well as by pro-government groups and armed protesters, Zeid said.