Mar. 22, 2019 -- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday expressed her concerns over the recent sanctions on the sale of Venezuelan oil, saying they may aggravate the country's economic crisis.
"Although this pervasive and devastating economic and social crisis began before the imposition of the first economic sanctions in 2017, I am concerned that the recent sanctions on financial transfers related to the sale of Venezuelan oil within the United States may contribute to aggravating the economic crisis," Bachelet said when reporting to the 40th session of the Human Rights Council on Venezuela.
Bachelet said those sanctions would have "possible repercussions on people's basic rights and wellbeing."
The UN rights chief said the magnitude and gravity of the human rights impact of the current crisis in Venezuela is "a worrying destabilizing factor in the region."
Noting that a technical team from her office is currently in the country, she said this is a positive first step because she believed it will lead to continued access for the rights office in the future.
Bachelet said Venezuela's health system continues to deteriorate, with a very significant impact on maternal mortality and morbidity and infant mortality.
"The recent nation-wide electricity blackout has exacerbated this situation, further reducing people's access to food, water, and medication, and severely affecting hospitals," said the high commissioner.
Citing a recent survey, she also noted that more than 1 million children no longer attend school in Venezuela, mostly because of their parents' inability to feed them breakfast, the failure of schools' food programs, and a lack of affordable public transportation.
"Water shortages, scarcity of natural gas and the collapse of public transport also continue to affect many people, and together with hyperinflation, they generate dire economic conditions, which have triggered thousands of social protests," said Bachelet.
The electricity supply has returned to normal in Venezuela after a massive blackout occurred on March 7, making schools and government offices shut down in the aftermath. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday launched civic-military exercises to protect the nation's public services, saying all forces will be deployed to prevent further attacks on the power grid or water distribution network.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Tuesday slapped sanctions on a Venezuelan gold mining company and its leader, the sixth round of sanctions since January by the Trump administration to pile up pressure on Maduro.