The report that the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued regarding the latest events that occurred in the state of Apure is not surprising. Its animosity towards the Venezuelan government is widely known, as a result of its origin in the Cold War and its alignment with the dominant corporate network that controls the global socioeconomic metabolism and, with it, politics.
Its documentation against Venezuela is extensive and its alleged investigations about the country are not surprising; however, it is important to take note of the elements of interest to analyze the real war in process.
THE METHOD AS A PROBLEM, THE SUBJECT AS A MIRAGE
Although most of the news sources used by HRW for preparing the report are official, both the discourse and the narrative are biased. Hence, for HRW, Operation Bolivarian Shield is not a deployment carried out by the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB) and other security forces for the exercise and defense of national sovereignty, but rather an “offensive in Apure state on March 21, 2021 with the supposed purpose of fighting armed groups operating in Venezuela.”
The narrative of the aggressor State and that of the defense of sovereignty as an exercise of diffuse intentionality in the text of the report pave the way for the absence of a necessary element in any human rights report: the firm documentation of cases. With repeated presence of phrases such as “there are signs…” or “there are elements…” it tries to turn an opinion piece into a rigorous report with stories that lack elements of contrast, which calls into question the veracity of any event in which the rule of law has been violated and harms the eventual victims.
On the other hand, the subject “residents of Apure” shows that there is no clarity (or it is not the intention of the report to show clarity) about the localities where the eventual events could occur, and induces the vision of a “state of siege” to an entire federal entity. When referring to the residents of the Urdaneta parish who moved to Colombia as “displaced,” the report omits the condition of “refugees” or “persons of interest,” which is how they should be recognized according to international law and the Convention on the Statute of the Refugees of 1951.
It is striking that, Colombia being a country at war, the HRW report affirms that “in the department of Arauca, Colombia,… access to humanitarian assistance is limited and often nil.” In this discourse it appears that even the scant infrastructure in Colombia to handle the consequences of the permanent war imposed by its oligarchy is the responsibility of the Venezuelan State. In any case, the Colombian responsibility in the border incidents is made invisible, feeding the narrative against Venezuela.
The report continues describing its method, perhaps the most controversial part of the text, explaining that 68 individuals were interviewed in person in the department of Arauca and by telephone without distinguishing how many were interviewd through each mode. This is reminiscent of the report of the United Nations’ International “Independent” Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela, carried out in 2020 and developed by remote control from Panama.
THE TANGLE OF UNSUBSTANTIATED ALLEGATIONS
The report does not say it, but seems to suggest, that the Venezuelan security forces carried out air strikes on the civilian population: “The displaced Venezuelans stated that they fled due to frequent air strikes and fighting between the Venezuelan security forces and the armed groups,” making discretionary use of the word “abuse.” It alludes to the non-use of search warrants in the search for the armed criminals when it is the obligation of the State to guarantee a greater collective good, such as the lives of troops and residents in full armed confrontations, which already gives it an exceptional character when proceeding.
Another question raised by the method is whether, when HRW interviewed residents and they declared that “the detainees” were not members of armed groups, how they determined who were members of armed gangs and who were not.
The link with previous accusations serves as a pivot to relate the facts to other criminalization mechanisms already put in place against Venezuela, such as the aforementioned “independent” report and the accusation before the International Criminal Court (Venezuela I case) on which there has been no ruling yet. The link is automatically established by HRW, ignoring the fact that the Venezuelan government has asked the UN for support in the matter of the use of antipersonnel mines by Colombian paramilitary groups inside Venezuelan territory, which is in violation of numerous international agreements.
As HRW starts from an autocratic certainty about the systematic violation of human rights by the Venezuelan government (as well as any government considered “adversary” of the United States), it recommends that the office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the UN “Independent” Mission analyze the “possible” responsibility of the Venezuelan authorities for some alleged incidents the only evidence of which are phone calls and photos of origin not yet clarified.
A curious fact is that the word “drug trafficking” is not used at all in the report, nor are trafficking routes or cartels mentioned. Although the report does not specify the nature of its presence in Venezuelan territory or its existence in Colombia, it names armed groups to report versions such as “the Venezuelan security forces and other authorities have tolerated armed groups that operate in Apure and, on occasions, they have acted in collusion with them,” repeating and bolstering the dangerous discourse of the country that houses narco-terrorists.
In addition, it openly establishes an alleged relationship between the Venezuelan government and armed groups, giving credit to versions of the discourse by “humanitarian and human rights organizations in Arauca, as well as interviewees from towns and rural areas of Apure” who apparently know who does and who does not belong to the aforementioned groups.
HRW denounces alleged arbitrary detentions based on statements from relatives of the detainees and the press without taking into account the situation of armed confrontation, and establishes semi-technical criteria based on expert opinions with obvious vested interests on photos of unknown origin.
Another curious detail is the discrepancy regarding the number of people (neither displaced nor refugees) mentioned in the report: 4,500 persons had fled, and Arauquita authorities “told Human Rights Watch” that approximately 3,000 more were staying at homes of friends and family, allegedly a total of about 7,500 Venezuelans and Colombians. However, as of April 19, the Colombian authorities reported 5,800 people to whom the report does not attribute in the paragraph where it reports the figures, and neither categorizes nor determines what happened with the difference of 1,700 persons.
The report concludes by recommending actions and responsibilities, assuming its conjectures and information not verified or confirmed, to the point of calling similar exercises carried out in the past as “investigations.”
THIS IS NOT THE FIRST ATTACK AGAINST VENEZUELA
HRW’s serial obsession against the truth in Venezuela had its most recent manifestation in May 2020 when its director for the Americas, José Miguel Vivanco, stated that “the statistics coming out of Venezuela are absurd and not credible,” adding that “it is not possible that there are a little more than a thousand confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths” while he shared a supposedly joint report on Venezuela prepared by the NGO and the Johns Hopkins University’s (JHU) Center for Public Health and Human Rights.
The aforementioned report, which, because it comes from such a prestigious institution, would be expected to be equipped with statistics and rigorous data on the claims it makes, in reality is full of phrases such as “a doctor said” or “a nurse reported,” without mentioning any details in most cases, of places, names, dates or any other information that can be verified.
However, it has been cited by multiple media around the world and in all of them it was repeated that the Johns Hopkins medical school interviewed numerous Venezuelan doctors and nurses for the report (also by telephone), and it assured that a conservative estimate would place the number of deaths from the virus in Venezuela “at least at 30 thousand.”
That report went on to affirm that Venezuela would become a risk for neighboring countries due to the number of Venezuelans who might be leaving the country at that time, adding that “Venezuela’s inability to face the COVID-19 pandemic could cause more people to try to leave the country. This would further overwhelm the healthcare systems of the neighboring countries, endangering public health in the region more widely.”
Today Venezuela is a victim of a second wave of COVID-19 caused by the poor management of the pandemic by its neighbors Brazil and Colombia, which are among the first 15 countries in the world with respect to deaths per million inhabitants (11.44 and 8.59 respectively as of April 27 ). The first wave originated in the return of more than 100,000 Venezuelans migrants fleeing xenophobia and neglect that they suffered in the South American countries where they were residing.
THE MARINES OF THE “SOFT” INTERVENTION AND THEIR BRANCHES
HRW, one of the NGOs most diligently working towards implementing the criminal objectives set by the richest 1% of the planet, has repeatedly attacked Chavismo and the Bolivarian Government. It has served as a “soft power” media operator since before the Guaidó Plan, when it tried to incriminate Venezuelan institutions in 2008 and the then president, Hugo Chávez, ordered the expulsion of Vivanco from Venezuelan territory.
Since then, it has reinforced its barrage of “reports” when the previous National Assembly launched the “humanitarian crisis” narrative with the help, precisely, of the same local NGOs that have the “free press” as cannons of repeated vociferation (Elliott Abrams dixit).
It is not a minor detail that HRW is financed by the US Congress and George Soros, who in 2010 “donated” $100 million to the NGO. It also had among its board of directors the neocon John McCain (and on his death dedicated a memorial in his honor), who in 2014 demanded that Obama should militarily intervene in Venezuela within the framework of violent protests know as guarimbas as part of La Salida destabilization plot.
Vivanco himself wrote a letter to Luis Almagro in which he asked the Organization of American States (OAS) to invoke the Democratic Charter against Venezuela, once again with the excuse of the alleged lack of separation of public powers that all democracies approved by the United States should have. He argued that the judiciary is “kidnapped by Chavismo,” and recalled that since 2004 the NGO had been observing the Supreme Court of Justice to claim that it was that year that the “lack of independence” was baptized. It then recounted the use of the OAS’s Charter against Ecuador in 2005, like a reminder for Almagro of the process step by step.
HRW has not only attacked the Venezuelan judiciary and the Organic Law of the Supreme Court in its statements and reports, it has also defended the coup channel RCTV and the illegal financing of the coup façade called Súmate in 2005, led by María Corina Machado. Although it denounced the 2002 coup against Hugo Chávez, in parallel, it endorsed the brief dictatorship of Carmona Estanga that came as a result of that coup.
Although the transnational NGO covers the international front with propaganda made at home, that is, in New York, its back is covered locally by the Venezuelan NGO PROVEA and the “independent journalism” of El Nacional (called “local press” in the report on Apure). The mantra of “humanitarian crisis” accompanied the attack on an operation that was also fighting against the paramilitary incursions in the country through urban criminal gangs: the OLP of FAES. The most important operators of this NGO, who traveled to Washington DC to meet Almagro in 2016-2017, included Rafael Uzcátegui on behalf of PROVEA. Absolutely all the parties that play the interventionist role against Venezuela are embraced not only in their purposes and interests but also by their financiers and institutions that support them.
“THEY DEPEND ON OUTSIDE FINANCING TO WORK INDEPENDENTLY”
Vivanco’s proceedings against Venezuela align precisely with what Soros said in 2010 through the US National Public Radio (NPR) about the expansion of HRW driven by his large donation: “The people who carry out the investigations will not necessarily be Americans… The United States has lost its moral height and that has endangered the credibility, the legitimacy of the Americans being at the forefront of defending human rights.”
An HRW statement entitled “Venezuela must revoke the emergency decree issued by Maduro” published in 2016, in which it took sides with the now defunct MUD (one of many anti-Chavista political alliances) and the coup attempts of the then anti-Chavista controlled National Assembly, also attacked the Bolivarian Government’s measures for the path that hurt the most the big funders of NGOs like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Freedom House and Soros himself. We quote:
“The emergency decree also orders the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to suspend all agreements that provide foreign financing for individuals or organizations, when ‘it is presumed’ that they are ‘used for political purposes or to destabilize the Republic.’ Authorities have systematically accused human rights defenders of destabilizing Venezuelan democracy, this decree could in practice force important non-governmental organizations in the country, which depend on foreign funding to work independently, to close their doors or drastically reduce their work.” (Note the confession in bold, which is ours).
On that occasion, up to 125 NGOs at the national and international level, including frequent visitors to Washington DC such as PROVEA, the Human Rights Center of the Andrés Bello Catholic University, COFAVIC and Espacio Público, demonstrated, as they are doing now, against the regulation on foreign financing of their political activities. HRW’s “Venezuelan” alliances are also the friends of Almagro and the US State Department, the spokesorgan can be often confusing.
THE NORTH OF INTERFERENCE IS INTERVENTION FROM THE NORTH
NGOs like HRW, on the international level, and their local branches like PROVEA are asymmetric resources of unconventional warfare and luxury operators of color revolutions that recycle the narrative of “humanitarian crisis” whenever possible. HRW is really the one that puts the cards on the table, cartelizes human rights for the benefit of the anti-Venezuela elite and puts the finger on the wounds made by the media, seeking foreign interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.
There is nothing to expect from Joe Biden other than his attacks against Venezuela in 2016, much less from Colombia’s Duque (or Uribe), because for a long time their waterline has been to ask for and provoke an intervention in Venezuela through a cartelized US concept of human rights and whatever “Chavista misdemeanor” they want to create. HRW just follows the storyline.
Previously, NGOs had done the same, in favor of NATO, against Libya and Syria. In 2017 Amnesty International (AI) published a report entitled “Human Slaughterhouse: Hangings and mass exterminations in the Syrian prison of Saydnaya,” in which it affirmed that the Syrian government executed between 5 thousand and 13 thousand people in a period of five years.
The report, labeled as fake by a former British ambassador to Syria, relies on anonymous sources outside Syria, rumors, and the dubious use of satellite photos recalling Colin Powell’s performance at the United Nations in 2003 to justify the “weapons of mass destruction” narrative in Iraq. There is a lot of hyperbolic language like “slaughterhouse” and “extermination,” but little evidence for the serious accusations being made.
HRW joined the campaign, claiming that the Syrian government used chlorine gas against civilians fleeing Aleppo. Again, there was little evidence to the claims, and it later emerged that it was the Al-Nusra Front that attacked the Aleppo refugees as they struggled to enter the regions controlled by the Syrian army. One day there is a report on the execution, another day chemical weapons, barrel bombs the next day and so on.
These truculent organizations never mention that the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria was triggered by Western intervention and their beheading jihadist allies.
SCHEDULED (AND CONVENIENT) OBSOLESCENCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The approach of multilateral bodies such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights or the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and international NGOs such as AI or HRW has been to exclude violations by non-state actors, a vision that has become obsolete since the 1993 UN Human Rights Convention in Vienna, which explicitly recognized the role of non-state actors in human rights violations.
Thus, the influence of the United States government and its allies over armed criminal forces such as the Contra in Nicaragua, RENAMO in Mozambique and UNITA in Angola to apply systematic terrorism against civilian population was recognized.
Carlos Emilio López, a Nicaraguan human rights activist and legislator, has pointed out that “the reconceptualization of human rights is that as States must respect human rights, so should companies, churches, organizations, social organizations, oligopolies, media, and the people as individuals. That is, we are all obliged to respect human rights, not just State institutions.”
Every time these NGOs and international bodies claim that their competence excludes non-state actors, they deliberately display a 30-year lag in washing their hands of abuses carried out by the political actors with whom they sympathize.
Many of these NGOs, inside and outside Venezuela, have been corrupted and co-opted for many years due to their direct links with key players in corporate globalization and neoliberal operators who seek to undermine and reduce the role of sovereign nation-states. Multinational companies, business funders, and other NGOs heavily financed by corporations appear in the work history of the managers of these NGOs.
Their human rights activities are guided by emphatic neoliberal hostility towards the governments of nation-states, so that their reports deliberately aim to exclude or discredit information from governments or other official sources.
That is why the so-called investigations of HRW expose its mission as an organization at the service of a neocolonial project.
Featured image: José Miguel Vivanco, Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch (Photo: HRW).
Translation: Orinoco Tribune