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Venezuelan activists request a UN coordinator that is not soft on the Maduro regime

The United Nations opened a process to appoint a new in-country coordinator for Venezuela, and just in time, according to human rights activists here. They say a change is needed since current representative Peter Grohmann has not treated the Venezuelan situation properly, in addition to maintaining a political affinity with the Maduro regime.


By Patzzy Salazar.

The United Nations Organization (UN), through its United Nations website, opened a call for applications from June 11 to July 10 for the post of resident coordinator in Venezuela, a position hold to date by Peter Grohmann.

While Grohmann kept mum, other UN agencies, such as the Human Rights High Commissioner, pointed to the severe human rights crisis unfolding in Venezuela, which includes an estimated 8,000 extrajudicial executions since 2017.

Grohmann got appointed by the UN to be its resident coordinator and representative in Venezuela in 2016. A German national, he has held the same position in the Kingdom of Bahrain, was director of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Panama and deputy resident representative in El Salvador and Belize before that.

However, human rights advocates in Venezuela, point out that Grohmann has made next to zero pronouncements about the humanitarian emergency in the nation, and has questioned reports detailing the country crisis by local human rights NGOs.

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Rafael Uzcategui, a sociologist and general coordinator of the local human-rights NGO Provea, indicated that one of the main criticisms by human rights defenders to the resident representative is that he has not been independent of the government.

“He avoids doing things that would make feel the government uncomfortable, even though we, years ago, had been warning of the alarming indicators that predicted a humanitarian emergency in the country. Neither he nor any agency reported what was happening to the United Nations. What they were doing was forwarding the official reports, many of them with outdated figures and not reporting the deterioration,” Uzcategui claims.

The human rights lawyer, Carlos Nieto Palma, said that Grohmann’s tenure has been highly politicized because the representative has mostly met with officials of the Maduro regime, apparently, shunning meetings with local NGOs.

In several press releases published by digital media, the meetings held by Grohmann with officials of the government are evident.

“The needs of the population must be addressed since we are going through a complicated situation, and we have to take it to a sustainable future. To achieve this in Venezuela, we must have the data from the different social areas so that progress can be monitored,” he said after a meeting with Maduro on January 12, 2019.

It was that same month, after he met with Maduro, that Grohmann first met with some NGOs, said Uzcátegui. “The meeting took place when the emergency was already serious. These reflect the delay in reacting to what is an obvious reality.”

On January 16, 2019, Provea, together with 120 human rights NGOs, issued a statement urging the UN to act consistently and following human rights to the humanitarian emergency.

They also expressed concern about the attendance of Grohmann at the swearing ceremony of Maduro on January 10, 2019. “This appearance could be interpreted and promoted by the government as a political endorsement by the United Nations system.”

In November 2018, at a press conference, the opposition party Voluntad Popular went as far as requesting that the UN changed the resident coordinator in Venezuela for his silence in the face of the crisis in the country.

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“It is unacceptable that with a budget and with technical personnel, to face of what is happening there, has not been at least one report,” said the current deputy to the National Assembly for the state of Miranda, Manuela Bolívar.

On July 10, by an email, El Pitazo requested an interview with Grohmann. However, by the time of this writing, there has been no response.

Humanitarian aid

The human rights defenders, Nieto and Uzcategui, stressed that weak pronouncements from Grohman about the situation and the privilege given to official dialogues with international aid workers, leaving out the Venezuelan organizations, delayed the progress of the humanitarian response and leaves millions of Venezuelans waiting for aid.

“Instead of being an actor that solves and helps to address the problem in the right way, it rather hinders and delays the necessary response, because it sends the message that there is a situation that the government is controlling, which is not as serious as the NGOs denounce it. Because of that, the international community does not have a true diagnosis of what is happening. As a result, the decisions that need to take regarding humanitarian aid, not receive enough attention,” Uzcategui explained.

The Provea spokesman indicated that one of the duties of the UN resident coordinator is to demand real figures of what is happening with the evolution of COVID-19 in the country. However, the UN takes as certain those issued by the regime.

Despite reports of the situation of the returnees and the precarious conditions of the Integrated Care Post (isolation shelters) during a visit on June 24, by Grohmann and the deputy humanitarian coordinator, Samir Elhawary, they indicated that the health protocols of the Pasi located in Bolivar state are rigorous.

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Peter Grohmann indicates that health protocols have been properly. However, human rights organizations have reported mistreatment of returning migrants sent to mandatory shelters in poor conditions. Photo by VTV.

In April, the UN and PAHO reported on the sending of humanitarian aid to assuage the situation of the COVID-19 in the country, an agreement reached a meeting held with the regime Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, regime Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and his cabinet peer, Health Minister, Carlos Alvarado. On behalf of the UN was the resident coordinator of the entity in Venezuela, Peter Grohmann.

“It is unfortunate that in the reception of this aid, the government got the privileges, in a polarized country where the government going to use the reception of those aid for political gain… and there is no possibility of citizen and social control. This opacity and lack of transparency make corruption possible,” said Uzcategui.

The activist concedes that the UN could be humoring the regime in order not to be kicked out of the country (as has happened with the Organization of the American States and other agencies) and maintaining a presence but the humanitarian work is suffering as a result of this fence-sitting, he adds.

“We believe that weak pronouncements have prevailed because of the need for the United Nations agencies to remain in the country, and that is a risk we are seeing not only with Grohmann but with other United Nations actors, including the High Commissioner officials. It is a permanent tension between doing their job and doing it in a way that does not bother the government, so they do not have to leave the country,” Uzcategui concluded.

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