As the US Treasury Department issued Chevron a license to drill for oil in Venezuela, easing 2019 sanctions placed on Venezuela under the Trump administration, Venezuelan dissidents weep, reminding the world that the Maduro regime continues to engage in what are internationally recognized crimes against humanity.
Officially, the historic change in US policy was a response to the Maduro regime’s dialogue with the opposition over spending on a humanitarian budget. However, the change in policy has left many Venezuelan activists and dissidents disillusioned with the country’s ongoing human rights situation.
Venezuela remains the most egregious human rights abuser in the Americas and is complicit in 7,000 cases of extrajudicial killings since mass protests against the Maduro government began, according to a 2019 United Nations report.
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Maduro’s critics say political opponents are often subjected to harassment, intimidation, imprisonment and even torture and murder.
Retired Colonel Igor Marin served in the Venezuelan military from 1965 to 1999. In comments on Fox News Digital, he discussed the case of his son, political prisoner Igbert Marin, who is currently on hunger strike at a facility Venezuelan military intelligence.
“My son, Lieutenant Colonel Igbert Marin, received a seven-and-a-half-year sentence for ‘inciting rebellion’ based on the perjury of a witness. During his captivity, he was subjected to cruel and degrading treatment, such as such as torture. He is currently on his 10th day of hunger strike.”
Observers say Venezuela’s entire state budget is being used for one purpose: to maintain the regime’s grip on power and to force the population to comply. Food, healthcare and heavily discounted petrol are routinely given to Maduro supporters and withheld from the regime’s opponents.
Alfredo Romero, director of the Penal Forum, the largest national organization representing political prisoners, has been at the forefront of defending human rights against the abuses of the Maduro administration.
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“Officially, Venezuela has 277 political prisoners, but since 2014, we have documented 16,000 cases of political prisoners.…People are detained, tortured and killed for political reasons, with the systematic use of torture against political prisoners… The violation of human rights in Venezuela is systematic; and there is no investigation,” Romero said.
Tortures used against Venezuelans according to rights groups include waterboarding, electric shocks and sexual assault.
Maduro’s regime is widely regarded as an international pariah that has lost all traces of democratic legitimacy, with neither the United States nor the European Union currently recognizing Maduro as head of state. However, the Venezuelan opposition and the Maduro regime recently resumed talks in Mexico City aimed at discussing a framework for the 2024 Venezuelan presidential election and approving a humanitarian budget for much-needed social spending for the Venezuelan people – a budget that includes education, healthcare, and food, among others.
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The situation also remains dangerous for the free press in Venezuela. Journalist Angel de Leon observed: “Censorship has always existed. It is the simplest way for the regime to take away the right to free thought from the Venezuelan.”
De Leon continued: “There are fewer and fewer media outlets due to the harassment of regulatory bodies like Conatel. So far this year there are more than 70 closed radio stations in the country. The critical press has ceased to exist. The few outlets that exist are into the hands of the Maduro regime or self-censor for fear of being permanently shut down”.
Romero added that “institutions are made for political persecution. The judicial system is a weapon for political persecution.”
Observers say that, aside from political oppression, Venezuelan daily life continues to be hellish for its citizens. De Leon warned: “You don’t invest in education … you continue to die of malnutrition, the hospital system has no investment, no maintenance, much less funding. No infrastructure of any kind has been created in recent years.” “Problems with basic services continue. Fuel is a sacrifice for Venezuelans due to the cost. Insecurity hasn’t stopped.”
When announcing the deal, the Treasury Department said, “The announcements of the United Platform and the Maduro regime are important steps in the right direction to restore democracy to the country.” He went on to say that “The United States welcomes and supports the reopening of negotiations between the United Platform and the Maduro regime, as part of our long-standing policy in support of the peaceful restoration of democracy, free and fair elections, and respect for rights and freedoms of Venezuelans”.
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A Chevron spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “We reiterate our commitment to conduct our business in accordance with the framework provided. OFAC’s decision brings greater transparency to the Venezuelan oil sector.” The spokesman added: “We are determined to remain a constructive presence in the country and to continue supporting social investment programs aimed at providing humanitarian aid.”
Fox News’ Chris Pandolfo contributed to this report.