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UN asks Venezuela to accept humanitarian aid

© AFP/File | The UN says that some 1.6 million Venezuelans have left their country since 2015, like the ones pictured August 2018, and has asked Caracas to "accept humanitarian assitance" to address the ongoing crisis

GENEVA (AFP) - 

The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday voted through a resolution urging the government of crisis-hit Venezuela to "accept humanitarian assistance" to alleviate the country's "scarcity" of food and medicines.

The decision marked the first time in the history of the UN's top rights body that it has adopted a resolution on Venezuela, council spokesman Rolando Gomez told AFP.

The text, tabled by a range of Latin American countries along with Canada, passed with 23 of the council's 47 members voting in favour, 17 abstaining and seven, including China, Cuba and Venezuela voting against.

The resolution asks Caracas to "accept humanitarian assistance in order to address the scarcity of food, medicine and medical supplies, the rise of malnutrition, especially among children, and the outbreak of diseases that had been previously eradicated or kept under control in South America."

It also expressed "its deepest concern at the serious human rights violations in a context of a political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis" in the country, pointing to a damning report by the UN rights office published last June.

That report suggested that officers, who had supposedly been tasked with fighting crime, may have been responsible for more than 500 killings between July 2015 and March 2017, largely carried out in poor neighbourhoods.

The council on Thursday also called on Venezuela to "cooperate" with the rights office, run by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

Earlier this month, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza hailed the arrival of Bachelet at the helm of the rights office following a thorny relationship with her predecessor, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, and vowed his country's full cooperation.

During the last session of the rights council in June, Zeid had called for an international investigation of atrocities in Venezuela, blasting the government's chronic refusal to probe security officers over the alleged killings of civilians.

He asked, in vain, for the council to set up its highest-level probe -- a Commission of Inquiry -- for Venezuela and said the International Criminal Court may need to get further involved.

But Thursday's text fell far short of that, merely calling for Bachelet to present a "comprehensive" report on the situation in the country next June.

Venezuela's economy has gone into free-fall over the past several years as the price of oil, the country's critical export, tumbled and the government printed money to try to maintain spending.

The UN says that some 1.6 million Venezuelans have left their country since 2015.

© 2018 AFP