Venezuela has issued a strong retort to the U.S. after its ambassador to the United Nations accused Caracas of ignoring human rights violations.
In an increasingly tense meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Venezuelan delegation said the forum “needs to be free of politicization and double standards,” adding that Washington’s absence from the body would be a “gain” for the world.
Earlier, the U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley warned her country could withdraw from the Council over the group’s “chronic anti-Israel bias.”
Haley cited Venezuela’s alleged human rights abuses as an example.
She noted the council pursued five resolutions against Israel in its March session but none against the government of President Nicolas Maduro and said it must change “if it is to have any credibility.”
“If Venezuela cannot (address rights issues), it should voluntarily step down from its seat on the Human Rights Council until it can get its own house in order,” Haley said. “Being a member of this council is a privilege, and no country who is a human rights violator should be allowed a seat at the table.”
Jorge Valero, the Venezuelan ambassador, later told the Council, “This (U.S.) government has no moral authority to set itself up as a universal judge of human rights”.
“If there was a bit of shame, the U.S. government should not only give up its position on this Council but also apologize to the world for the atrocities it has committed throughout history,” he added.
The Trump administration will make a decision on whether to leave the body after the current session ends on June 23.
“The United States is looking carefully at this Council and our participation in it. We see some areas for significant strengthening,” Haley said.
As Israel’s major ally, the United States has long criticized the Council’s position on the country.
Washington boycotted the body for three years under President George W. Bush but rejoined when Barack Obama took office in 2009.
Before her trip to Geneva, Haley accused the Council of “whitewashing brutality” by electing countries such as Venezuela and Cuba as members in an opinion column published in the Washington Post.
But she made no mention in her post of Egypt or Saudi Arabia, two U.S. allies elected despite their poor human rights records.
Jamil Dakwar, Director of the human rights program at the American Civil Liberties Union, told Reuters that he thought it’s hard for the U.S. to criticize other countries under Trump administration’s own actions against human rights, such as the travel ban and the the crackdown on immigration.
“The United States must get its own house in order and make human rights at home a priority — then, it can begin to credibly demand the same of other countries abroad,” Dakwar said.
Brazil’s Temer Could Lose Power as Fraud Accusations Pile Up
As multiple corruption scandals continue to swirl around Brazilian President Michel Temer and his government, the country’s top electoral court is set to relaunch a trial Tuesday that could remove the president from office over alleged illegal financing in his 2014 campaign as running mate to former President Dilma Rousseff.
Just hours ahead of the scheduled start of the trial, Brazil’s federal police sent Temer Monday an interrogation document with a list 84 questions as part of a separate investigation probing the president over accusations of corruption, organized crime and obstruction of justice.
Temer has 24 hours to respond to the questions, a deadline that will come Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. local time.
The accusations stem from an explosive wiretap, reported May 17, in which Temer was heard appearing to give his approval to bribes to buy the silence of the jailed former president of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, the chief mastermind behind the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff last year and a powerful witness in government corruption cases.
The conversation was recorded by Joesley Batista, chairman of JBS, the largest meatpacking company in the world, which was also involved in a large corruption scandal for bribing Brazilian politicians, as part of a bid to win a plea bargain deal with prosecutors.
The bribes were intended to keep Cunha silent about embarrassing secrets that could jeopardize the legitimacy of Temer’s presidency. In the leaked wiretap, Temer is heard telling Batista about the payments: “Look, you’ve got to keep that up.”
The president said the recording wasn’t proof of wrongdoing. He said that he didn’t report the bribery references to authorities because he did not believe them. The case was delayed as authorities investigated the source of the audio.
Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has accused Temer of corruption, criminal organization and obstruction of justice as a result of the wiretap. Temer separately faces accusations of irregular campaign financing and has also been named in the central corruption investigations, known as Operation Car Wash, probing a bribery scheme in the state-run oil campany, Petrobras.
According to Brazilian Constitution, if Temer resigns or is dismissed, Congress must approve an indirect election to choose the person who will continue the electoral period that Rousseff began in 2015 and that ends on Jan. 1, 2019. Tuesday’s electoral financing trial could unseat the president, or he could face an impeachment process over corruption accusations. Both processes would likely be lengthy.
Brazilians have taken to the streets to demand Temer’s resignation and for immediate direct elections to be held to allow Brazilian voters to elect the next president. Temer has reiterated that he will not be resigning.
According to a new poll released Monday by the country’s largest labor union, known as the CUT, nine out of 10 Brazilians prefer direct general elections and 75 percent reject Temer’s administration.