UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s visit has sparked a string of anti-government protests in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, with demonstrators calling on her to visit hospitals and prisons to witness the country’s crisis.
The health sector is in urgent need of humanitarian aid, because it does not even have cleaning products or sanitary pads, daily El Universal quoted trade unionist Silvia Bolivar as saying.
Bachelet met representatives of the sector yesterday.
Demonstrations were also staged by oil sector employees demanding delayed salaries and teachers complaining that hunger was keeping children out of school, according to daily El Nacional.
Relatives of political prisoners rallied to ask Bachelet to visit detention centres, where they said the prisoners were being tortured, and to urge her to intercede for their release.
Nearly 30 political prisoners have been released in recent days, according to the NGO Foro Penal, which says more than 700 such inmates still remain behind bars.
Bachelet tweeted that she looked forward to “listening to all voices and working with all actors to promote and protect all human rights of all Venezuelans.”
“We shall continue co-operating and strengthening our ties with the United Nations system for the benefit of all Venezuelans,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said after welcoming Bachelet on Wednesday.
President Nicolas Maduro said he hoped that the visit “will be for the good of the system of human rights in Venezuela.”
Bachelet, a former Chilean president, on Thursday met government representatives including Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino and Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, as well as attorney general Tarek William Saab, according to local media.
Bachelet yesterday held talks with Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom more than 50 countries have recognised as interim president.
Bachelet has previously expressed concern about human rights violations in the South American country, including political killings by police and the detention of senior opposition figure Roberto Marrero.
Venezuela is experiencing a massive economic and political crisis under Maduro, who won a second term in an election boycotted by most of the opposition last year.
The US-backed opposition has failed to persuade the army to turn against Maduro and oust him from power.
The military prevented an attempt by Guaido to bring humanitarian aid donated by the US and Latin American countries into Venezuela in February.
About 139 tonnes of aid that is stored in the Colombian border city of Cucuta is now approaching its expiry date, Colombian broadcaster Caracol reported on Thursday.
Millions of Venezuelans have left the country amid hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, and power cuts.
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