Disinfo: UN report on Venezuela ignores US sanctions, opposition violence

Summary

The 5 July UN Human Rights Report on the situation in Venezuela lays a disproportionate amount of blame on the Maduro government, but ignores the effect of the US sanctions on the deteriorating socioeconomic crisis plaguing the Latin American country. While readily condemning government forces for violence and repression of dissent, it does not discuss deaths at the hands of opposition protesters between 2014 and 2017. In one infamous episode in June 2017, a 22-year-old man was burned alive by an angry opposition mob — one of at least 60 people murdered by the guarimberos during that riot.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin narrative on the situation in Venezuela, painting the ongoing socioeconomic catastrophe there as a direct consequence of US sanctions. See our debunk of this claim here. Upon charging that the UN report ignores the role of US sanctions in the crisis, the article immediately acknowledges that the opposite is the case, quoting from the UN press release summarizing High Commissioner Bachelet's findings. In the very next sentence, however, it reverts to arguing that the report dismisses their effect "with a wave of the hand." Explicit reference to the negative impact of sectoral sanctions was made in the report itself (pp. 5-6, 14) and during the press conference which accompanied its publication (1:21-1:35, in Spanish). At the same time, the report notes that the beginning of the economic crisis far predates the imposition of the sanctions regime, citing the Venezuelan government's own statistical data (p. 6, para 27). The "60-people-murdered" claim is unreferenced and false. The figure was likely lifted from a June 2017 BBC report, which cites Venezuela's chief prosecutor as saying that "[a]t least 60 people have been killed in protest-related violence since the beginning of April" that year. In other words, a total five dozen people (both pro-government and pro-opposition) were killed (not necessarily "murdered by guarimberos") in the space of two months (not during one riot) in a year which saw an average of 27 protests daily. By the end of July 2017, the total number of protest-related deaths had risen to 124 (p. 10), of which 46 were attributed to law enforcement and 27 to pro-government militias (p. 12); of the remaining 51 deaths, only four were tentatively attributed to anti-government groups (p. 32).

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 158
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 06/07/2019
  • Language/target audience: English
  • Country: Venezuela, US
  • Keywords: United Nations, Nicolas Maduro, Human rights, Economic difficulties, Sanctions, State oppression
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Disproof

Conspiracy theory, presented without evidence. Claiming the media and government is under total control by shadowy rulers is a common trope in pro-Kremlin disinformation.

Anti-Russian protests in Georgia provoked by the George Soros' Open Society Foundation

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Disproof

This is another conspiracy theory followed by the Russian media. Western non-governmental organisations are often targeted by pro-Kremlin disinformation. Propaganda often accuses George Soros of organising anti-Russian protests because of his support for democracy and human rights in dozens of countries around the world. Protests in Georgia began on the night of 21 June; discontent in Georgia was provoked by the visit of a Russian delegation to Tbilisi to participate in the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy. Following this, indignant civilian activists who accused Russia of occupying Georgian territories gathered outside the Georgian parliament. The Soros Open Society Foundation has nothing to do with the protests in Tbilisi.

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Disproof

No evidence given. Recurring Kremlin narrative about Ukraine, which they claim is under external control from the US or EU. Ukraine is a sovereign state, not controlled by any foreign government. Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected by almost the whole world, including the EU. You can find several disinformation cases on Ukraine being under foreign control here.