As the Venezuelan government burns aid convoys, represses its people and forces them to eat out of garbage trucks, critics say the United Nations is struggling to find its voice as it issues weak statements of condemnations, while a pro-Maduro coalition digs in at U.N. headquarters
"[Secretary General Antonio Guterres] is playing right into #Maduro plans,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted this month. “Fake @UN 'negotiations' to divide opposition & buy time for protests to die down. Maduro will also want UN “experts” to blame #Venezuela crisis on sanctions.”
“When it comes to democracy & human rights UN increasingly worthless,” he said.
Disputed President Nicolas Maduro’s forces fired tear gas and buckshot on activists over the weekend as they tried to deliver humanitarian aid across the border. The U.S. and around 50 other countries have recognized National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader after disputed elections, and called for Maduro to step down.
Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was briefly arrested and detained on Monday after he showed the president video footage of three children on the streets of Venezuela rummaging through the back of a garbage truck looking for food scraps -- the latest sign of the economic catastrophe his regime has wrought on his people.
Rubio’s remarks represent part of a broader concern by conservatives that left-wing governments and institutions like the U.N. are downplaying the humanitarian crisis engulfing Venezuela due to its socialist ideology. In the U.S., politicians such as 2020 presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders have come under fire for their alleged failure to call out the Maduro regime.
Meanwhile, there have been plenty of officials in international institutions lining up to condemn President Trump’s not-yet-built wall on the southern border
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was criticized by Rubio specifically for repeated meetings with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, offering to help conduct a “serious negotiation to help the country out of the present standoff for the benefit of the people of Venezuela.”
Guterres’ statements since then have been weaker than what many hope the international body would issue given such dire circumstances, a statement in which his office said he was following “with increasing concern the escalation of tensions in Venezuela.”
“The Secretary-General appeals for violence to be avoided at any cost and for lethal force not to be used in any circumstances,” his office said. “The Secretary-General appeals for calm and urges all actors to lower tensions and pursue every effort to prevent further escalation.”
On Sunday, Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet was somewhat stronger as she decried “disgraceful scenes.”
“The Venezuelan government must stop its forces from using excessive force against unarmed protesters and ordinary citizens,” she said.
While appeals to “both sides” are typical of U.N. officials -- who regularly seek neutrality as much as possible so as to be a neutral space for negotiation -- to those looking for a tougher line on the Maduro regime, the statement from Guterres is likely only to fuel their disappointment.
“The U.N. has not taken a side except that the U.N.’s concern is for the people of Venezuela,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Fox News Tuesday.
“We’ve expressed our concern at the humanitarian problem in Venezuela. We’ve been working, our colleagues on the ground are working with the government to try to scale up the humanitarian aid notably in the areas of nutrition and health, and we will continue to do that,” he said. “But I think what we are seeing, what we saw over the weekend just makes it clearer for the need for a negotiated settlement.”
Former Venezuelan U.N. diplomat Isaias Medina, who resigned his post in protest against Maduro’s policies in 2017, told Fox News the organization was suffering from “no clear movement or decision making" on the humanitarian situation.
“The U.N. paralysis in Venezuela regarding the protection of the civilian population is only comparable to its empathy toward Maduro's regime,” he told Fox News.
On Tuesday Under-Secretary General Rosemary DiCarlo addressed the Security Council on the subject and said it was working to provide assistance to those in need, particularly on saving lives, conflict prevention and human rights.
“Such assistance should be free from political objectives and delivered on the basis of need,” she said.
At the Council meeting, Arreaza accused the U.N. of being biased against Venezuela and accused the U.S. of attempting to push a coup.
“Allow me to say to you [DiCarlo] that your briefing, your explanation was biased,” he said. “It always sought to disseminate information from one source and incidentally with all respect I don't at all agree, it is not in line with what we spoke with in our meeting with [Guterres].
“We denounce the United States government for organizing, financing and leading this clear aggression against Venezuela,” he said.
Furthermore, far from being a neutral space for dialogue and negotiation, the U.N.’s New York headquarters is becoming something of a rallying point for pro-Maduro countries to give support to the failing regime.
Arreaza, this month, announced the formation of a group that he said would defend the U.N. Charter, flanked by more than a dozen ambassadors and diplomats from countries including Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, China and Russia.
Arreaza said that the new group would be conducting “a series of actions to increase awareness around the dangers that our peoples currently face, particularly the case of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. We call upon all the member states of the U.N. to join us in defending international law as the only guarantor of ... peaceful coexistence.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley this month said that such a coalition was a “shameful waste of the U.N.’s time & resources.”
“W/ friends like Russia, China, Iran, Syria & the Palestinian Authority it's no wonder Maduro's socialist regime is crumbling,” she tweeted. “We must keep up the pressure & support the ppl’s voices for democracy in Venezuela.”