Venezuela is vying for a seat on UN Human Rights Council Thursday over opposition from advocacy groups and fellow Latin American countries as the General Assembly chooses 14 new members of the panel.
The Geneva-based council works to promote and protect human rights around the world. It has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis.
Two of the eight seats alloted for Latin America are up for grabs and crisis-plagued Venezuela is seeking one of them.
The leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro has jailed opposition leaders and is accused of using torture and arbitrary arrests as it struggles to hold on to power amid a collapsing economy.
More than 50 countries have switched their recognition to national assembly speaker Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate acting president.
Brazil wants one of the Latin American seats, and Costa Rica jumped into the fray October 3 to seek the other and keep it from going to Venezuela.
“Due to serious human rights violations” confirmed by the United Nations, “the regime in Venezuela is not an adequate candidate for the Human Rights Council,” Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado said at the time.
“It would be inadmissible for those who have committed human rights violations and crimes against humanity to sit on the council,” said Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States.
Late last month the council created a group of experts to investigate human rights violations in Venezuela since 2014. The Caracas government called this a hostile act.
“There is certainly no precedent for Latin American countries to challenge one of their neighbors for a seat on a multilateral body in such a direct provocative way,” said Christopher Sabatini, who teaches international and public policy at Columbia University.
“If Venezuela isn’t elected it will signal a sharp shift in regional politics and attitudes toward the Maduro government’s participation in multilateral bodies dealing in areas where it has such an abysmal record,” he added.