US hopes to keep Venezuela off UN human rights panel

October 11, 2019 - 11:36 am

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 Nicolas Maduro.

State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Jon Piechowski said allowing the Maduro government to have a seat would be an "outrageous proposition" and "affront to the human rights council."

Piechowski said the Maduro government has killed political opponents, withheld food from supporters of the opposition and holds nearly 500 political prisoners.

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

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

Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental 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 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in July 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."