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Latam Brief: Maduro expels UN human rights office

The United Nations flag waves outside the Technical Advisory Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights headquarters in Caracas, on February 15, 2024/AFP
The United Nations flag waves outside the Technical Advisory Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights headquarters in Caracas, on February 15, 2024/AFP

Latin America Daily Briefing

Venezuela’s Maduro government ordered the local UN human rights office to suspend operations and gave its staff 72 hours to leave the country. “The government said the UN human rights office must rectify its “colonialist, abusive and violating attitude”, accusing it of playing an “inappropriate role” in the country and supporting impunity for people involved in attempts at assassination, coups, conspiracies and other plots,” reports the Associated Press.

The office has operated in Venezuela since 2019 and has 13 staff members in the country, reports Reuters.

Foreign Minister Yván Gil accused the U.N. agency of becoming a tool for enemies of Nicolás Maduro. “This decision is made due to the improper role that this institution has developed, which, far from showing it as an impartial entity, has led it to become the private law firm of coup plotters and terrorist groups that permanently conspire against the country,” Gil said in a statement.

The announcement came after the Geneva-based U.N. commissioner condemned the arrest of Rocío San Miguel, a well-known Venezuelan human rights lawyer and military expert, reports the Washington Post.

The forced disappearance San Miguel and several members of her family raised international outcry this week — and experts say the move represents an intensification of repression against critical voices. (See yesterday’s briefs.)

The extraordinary move against the U.N. office is a rapid shift from rapproachement with the international community just months ago, with the signing of the Barbados Accord and softening of U.S. sanctions, reports the New York Times.

“The tactics were old. But the feeling was somehow new,” writes Brian Winter in Americas Quarterly. “The feeling you hear now, from some activists in Venezuela and diplomats in capitals around the Americas, at least in private, is helplessness.”

The government also criticized comments by the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, who said, after a visit to Venezuela, that the government food program does not tackle the root causes of hunger and is susceptible to political influences. (See yesterday’s briefs.)

El Salvador

  • Nearly two weeks after El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele won reelection and claimed that his Nuevas Ideas party won “at least” 58 out of 60 Assembly seats, there are still not even preliminary legislative results — and new irregularities continue to surface, reports El Faro.

  • The electoral authority has flip-flopped, but “chaos, anyway, could feed a narrative in favor of Bukele’s plan to dismantle the TSE by constitutional reform,” write Roman Gressier and Gabriel Labrador. (El Faro)

  • Bukele’s reelection methods and concentration of power mean the much vaunted “model” replicates that of previous Latin American autocrats: “Batista, Somoza, Trujillo, Fujimori, Ortega or Chávez,” argues Diego García-Sayan in El País.


  • Guatemala has become an unlikely hopeful story of democratic victory thanks to rare “cross-community cooperation—Indigenous rural Guatemalans teaming up across the ethnic divide with Spanish-speaking city people,” writes Quico Toro in the Atlantic.

  • “Some of the prominent Indigenous leaders who led the October protests in Guatemala are seeking to occupy the departmental governorships and be the link between the country’s executive and the municipalities for the next four years,” reports El País. President Bernardo Arévalo has promised to make the election process for departmental governors — chosen by the president and traditionally responding to cronyism — “transparent.”


  • “Government officials from Haiti, the United States and Kenya have wrapped up a planning conference for the deployment of a multinational security mission to help Haitian police deal with dangerous criminal gangs, but just how soon forces will arrive in the volatile Caribbean nation remains unknown,” reports the Miami Herald.

  • A member of a Kenyan delegation visiting Washington to coordinate the Haiti mission was found dead in his hotel room earlier this week, reports the Miami Herald.


  • Argentina’s inflation last month was 20.6 percent, down from 25.5 in December. Annual inflation last year was 211 percent, reports AFP.


  • Mexico’s next president will inherit a lot of unfinished big-ticket projects from the outgoing López Obrador administration, reports the Associated Press.


  • “At least five people died and the search continued for one more who was missing Thursday after a boat carrying more than two dozen migrants capsized off Panama’s Caribbean coast in an apparent attempt to avoid the treacherous Darien Gap land route,” reports the Associated Press.

Regional Relations

  • U.S. officials are working together to piece together what diplomat Manuel Rocha, who was arrested and chared with serving as a secret agent of Cuba stretching back to the 1970s may have given up to Cuba. “It’s a confidential damage assessment, complicated by the often-murky intelligence world, that’s expected to take years,” reports the Associated Press.

  • Cuba and South Korea announced the restoration of diplomatic relations, broken since 1959. (EFE)

  • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that the United Nations has failed to resolve international conflicts and harshly criticized Israeli actions in Gaza, reports Reuters.


  • An increasing number of Latin American drug cartels are looking ofr new markets — pushed by oversaturation of the U.S. cocaine market and its preference for synthetic drugs. After years of European expansion many are looking for new markets in Asia, reports Americas Quarterly.

  • An oil spill stemming from an overturned barge off Trinidad and Tobago, is entering Grenada’s waters and could affect Venezuela, reports the Guardian. (See Tuesday’s post and yesterday’s Just Caribbean Updates.)

  • “Raw sewage and runoff in the Tijuana River is exposing communities at the US-Mexico border to an unusual and noxious brew of pathogens and toxic chemicals,” reports the Guardian based on a new report by San Diego State University public health researchers.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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