by Bria King
Any country that chooses to support Nicholas Maduro as president of Venezuela supports the oppression and suffering of the Venezuelan people.
Roger Carstens, the deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the US Department of State expressed this view during an interview with SEARCHLIGHT this week.
Carstens, on Wednesday, carried out a series of interviews with regional media mainly because Barbados and some Eastern Caribbean countries are among those countries that still have not declared their support for Venezuela’s interim president, Juan Guaido.
The deputy assistant secretary said that those who choose to walk away from supporting Guaido also support the suffering of people under Maduro’s oppression.
“…And for me, the bottom line is that this is a time of choice. You can either choose the people of Venezuela and a positive future, which starts with recognising Guaido and his interim government or you can support Maduro and his oppression,” he said. “It’s not a time to sit on the sidelines, and we believe that it’s certainly not a time to back Maduro. If any country wants to support the Venezuelan people, you have to choose and of course, we’re opting and hoping that everyones opts to choose in supporting Guaido.”
The South American country has been in a state of upheaval since the beginning of this year when Guaido declared himself interim president, following protests and the declaration by the President of the United States that he did not recognise Maduro as the country’s legitimate president.
Since then, several countries, including St Vincent and the Grenadines have taken a position of non-interference into the internal affairs of a sovereign state, a principle established within the charters of the Organization of American States and the United Nations.
However, a recent human rights report on Venezuela, which was published by the United Nations, urges immediate measures to stop and remedy what is described as “grave rights violations” of the people.
“You’ll see that it’s not the United States of America driving this. These are impartial Human Rights observers that are really trying to shine the light on the truth of what a brutally oppressive government that Maduro is running,” Carstens told SEARCHLIGHT.
He expressed frustration about the information published in the report, where it states that over 5000 people were killed by government security forces in 2018 and over 1000 by mid-May 2019.
He also said that over 600 political prisoners were currently being held under Maduro’s regime.
As a result of the turmoil in Venezuela, the US has imposed several sanctions on the country. But Carstens said that the sanctions only affect corrupt individuals.
“As far as the sanctions go, the sanctions we believe are actually hurting those very people that are corrupt and taking money from the companies that we’ve sanctioned. The people that we’ve sanctioned are the ones that have millions of dollars in some cases that are squirrelled away in banks around the world. So the sanctions around the world that we are instituting target corrupt people and individuals, not necessarily to put pressure on the economy,” he said.
He added; “Maduro and his regime put enough pressure on the economy all by themselves in the past many years. If the economy in Venezuela was tanking, it’s because of the last few years of the Maduro regime, not because of the US sanctions”.
Peace talks between Maduro representatives and the interim president, with Norway as the mediator, are being held this week in Barbados.
And the deputy assistant secretary said that the US fully supports Guaido and his decision to have this meeting.
He said that the meeting was not something that the US could impose on anyone, nor would they want to and stressed that it is solely between the parties involved.
However, Carstens said that the US hopes the outcome of these talks result in Maduro stepping down and Venezuela being able to move forward under a new government.
“The only obstacle to a resolution that’s satisfactory to everyone is Maduro; if he leaves and gets out of the way, I believe the interim government can go ahead and start putting this economy back on track, they can start scheduling elections and Venezuela can start moving in the right direction towards normalcy, but Maduro is the sticking point here…” he said.
Carstens encouraged people in the region to read the human rights report published by the UN so that they can have a clearer view of the issues taking place in Venezuela and how it has caused many people to suffer.
“This guy is just not running his government correctly, he’s not helping his people and it’s time for Maduro to go,” he said.