UN rights commissioner arrives to survey Venezuela crisis

Caracas (AFP) –


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet arrived in Venezuela Wednesday as part of a visit to review the country's ongoing economic and political crisis.

Bachelet is set to meet with both President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido before making a final statement to the media on Friday.

According to the UN, some four million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015 as basic goods have become elusive, public services and health systems have collapsed and hyperinflation has taken hold.

Guaido -- who declared himself interim president in January -- says Bachelet's meeting with him can be seen as a "recognition of the catastrophe" in the oil-rich country, despite her coming at his rival Maduro's invitation.

She also plans to meet with "victims of human rights violations and abuses and their relatives" as well as other members of the community, according to a UN statement.

Bachelet, who is preparing a report on Venezuela, had previously criticized the government's response to the crisis and called for Venezuelan authorities to respect "everyone's fundamental right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression."

Aid organizations have called for demonstrations against the situation in Venezuela on Friday during her visit as a way to increase visibility.

"We're asking Michelle Bachelet to see that what is happening in our country... is not a lie," said Pedro Amado, part of a group of former oil workers on a three-week hunger strike for unpaid wages.

Bachelet has also been critical of US sanctions against Maduro by President Donald Trump, raising concerns that restrictions on trade with Venezuela could have negative repercussions for the general population in a country where 96 percent of the budget is based on oil.