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UN human rights chief: End Venezuela sanctions, which ‘exacerbated economic crisis and hindered human rights’

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said sanctions on Venezuela “have exacerbated the economic crisis and hindered human rights”, calling for the unilateral coercive measures to be lifted.

Venezuela UN sanctions human rights
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on January 27, 2023

(Se puede leer esta nota en español aquí.)


The United Nations human rights chief has called for sanctions on Venezuela to be lifted, stating that they “exacerbated the economic crisis and hindered human rights” and created “hurdles” for “the country’s recovery and development”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk visited Venezuela in January. There, he met with government officials, right-wing opposition leaders, civil society groups, and religious institutions.

“I heard from across the spectrum of people I spoke to, including humanitarian actors and UN agencies, about the impact of sectorial sanctions on the most vulnerable segments of the population and the hurdles sanctions create for the country’s recovery and development, not least in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic”, Türk said.

“It is clear that the sectorial sanctions imposed since August 2017 have exacerbated the economic crisis and hindered human rights”, he added.

The UN human rights chief’s comments reflect similar remarks made by the international organization’s top expert on sanctions, Alena Douhan, the UN special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights.

Douhan visited Venezuela in 2021 and reported that “unilateral sanctions increasingly imposed by the United States, the European Union and other countries have exacerbated the [economic crisis]”.

The UN sanctions expert stated that the Venezuelan “government’s revenue was reported to shrink by 99% with the country currently living on 1% of its pre-sanctions income”.

Douhan wrote (emphasis added):

The Special Rapporteur notes with concern that sectoral sanctions on the oil, gold and mining industries, the economic blockade of Venezuela and the freezing of Central Bank assets have exacerbated pre-existing economic and humanitarian situation by preventing the earning of revenues and the use of resources to develop and maintain infrastructure and for social support programs, which has a devastating effect on the whole population of Venezuela, especially those in extreme poverty, women, children, medical workers, people with disabilities or life-threatening or chronic diseases, and the indigenous population.

Volker Türk is an Austrian lawyer who became the UN high commissioner for human rights in October 2022, replacing his predecessor, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

Bachelet was criticized and accused of anti-Venezuela bias by Alfred de Zayas, a prominent UN lawyer and expert. De Zayas said Bachelet’s reports on Venezuela were “fundamentally flawed” and “unbalanced”. He also warned that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has become increasingly slanted and influenced by the US government.

In his official statement on Venezuela, Türk said (emphasis added):

I heard from across the spectrum of people I spoke to, including humanitarian actors and UN agencies, about the impact of sectorial sanctions on the most vulnerable segments of the population and the hurdles sanctions create for the country’s recovery and development, not least in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. People I met described their struggle to get basic and essential products to sustain their livelihoods, the impossibility of finding medicines their loved ones so badly need, and the mental impact, anxiety, and depression of falling ever further into debt to survive.

While the roots of Venezuela’s economic crisis predate the imposition of economic sanctions, as I highlighted in my interactions, it is clear that the sectorial sanctions imposed since August 2017 have exacerbated the economic crisis and hindered human rights.

My Office has repeatedly recommended that Member States suspend or lift measures that have a detrimental effect on human rights and that are aggravating the humanitarian situation, a call we make with regard to unilateral coercive measures imposed on other countries too.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Amira Halvorsen

    2023-03-05 at 18:08

    The sanctions that the U.S imposed on Venezuela hurt first and foremost innocent civilians, children and the vulnerable people. How is it possible that the United Nations accepted to inflict such a horrible and absurd punishment on the people of Venezuela? They must be lifted at once!

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