WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

31 May 2018 | Joint Statement

The International Community Must Avoid Adopting Measures That Deepen Human Suffering in Venezuela

Venezuela’s May 20 election, and its questionable legitimacy, will only deepen the country’s crisis, and potentially worsen the grave humanitarian situation on the ground. As organizations dedicated to promoting human rights, the below groups express our call to the international community, and to the Lima Group in particular, that any measures adopted in reaction to the elections do not contribute to the human rights violations affecting Venezuelans inside and outside their country.

In that regard, ahead of the Lima Group’s intended high-level regional meeting on Venezuelan migration in early June, we call for this meeting to revolve around sharing best practices on the reception of migrants and refugees, and to lead all participants to adopt measures that respect the human rights, dignity, and humanitarian needs of those who are fleeing Venezuela. In doing so we believe that it is fundamental that such a meeting involves civil society stakeholders working to ensure the protection of these migrants around the region, particularly in countries that are most affected by the arrival of Venezuelans.

However, in these efforts there lies an implicit tension. While pressing for a democratic, negotiated outcome, the international community risks adopting measures that would further increase the suffering of ordinary Venezuelans and worsen the migration crisis.

In this regard, we are deeply concerned by elements of the May 21 declaration issued by the 14 countries of the Lima Group, which called for “economic and financial measures” to be taken against the Venezuelan government. These measures include opposing the Venezuelan government’s access to loans through international financial institutions, and issuing advisories against engaging in economic transactions with the government.

While we note that the economic and financial measures proposed by the Lima Group make important exceptions, in particular with respect to humanitarian aid and to economic deals approved by Venezuela’s legitimately-elected National Assembly, we are nevertheless concerned that such measures run the high risk of unintentionally contributing to the deepening of the country’s already dire humanitarian crisis. For example, the debt sanctions already being implemented by the U.S. government have evidently led to over-compliance and uncertainty among financial actors, with legitimate transactions being denied. We do not believe that it is morally acceptable, or politically effective, to use generalized human suffering as a tactic to exercise pressure on the Venezuelan government, and call on the international community to ensure that these sanctions, and any new measures, avoid causing greater harm. Moreover, we urge that the imposition of any such sanctions be accompanied by clear guidance on exactly how relief from sanctions can be obtained. Without providing clear avenues for the lifting of sanctions, such measures risk being merely punitive, with the brunt of the burden likely to be borne by ordinary Venezuelans, not government officials.

Finally, we encourage the governments of the Lima Group to accompany mechanisms of pressure with mechanisms of outreach and engagement. If and when Maduro government officials decide they want return to a context marked by democratic norms, channels for dialogue and negotiation need to be open.


The following organizations are signatories of this statement:

  • Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB)
  • Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional  – CEJIL
  • Comisión Argentina para Refugiados y Migrantes – CAREF
  • Conectas Direitos Humanos
  • Misión Scalabriniana Ecuador
  • Pastoral Universitária (Brasil)
  • Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos – PROVEA
  • Serviço Jesuíta a Migrantes e Refugiados Brasil – SJMR
  • Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)



Francis Torres
WOLA Communications Assistant
+1 (202) 797-2171