WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

AP Photo/Matias Delacroix

28 Apr 2020 | Joint Statement

The Hemisphere Must Embrace Active Diplomacy to Defend the Rights of Venezuelans Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the weeks following the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the humanitarian and political situation in Venezuela has only continued to deteriorate, underlining the urgent need for multilateral support for a peaceful, democratic solution to the crisis and for greater humanitarian assistance to those in Venezuela as well as to those who have fled the country. As organizations committed to advancing human rights in the Americas, we urge regional governments to double down on their support for a peaceful, democratic solution and multilateral humanitarian response to the ongoing crisis.

We have encouraged support for peaceful, democratic, and humanitarian solutions in multilateral organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and United Nations, as well as ad hoc forums such as the Quito Process, the Lima Group, and the International Contact Group. In the context of the growing pandemic amid the complex humanitarian emergency, we now call on regional governments to adhere to the following principles in upholding the political, economic, and social rights of the Venezuelan people.

  • This is a time to urge international actors to engage in active diplomacy. As the current stalemate drags on, it has become clear that there can be no solution to Venezuela’s political crisis unless there is improved coordination between geopolitical actors, namely Russia, China, and the United States. The governments of Latin America can help to press global superpowers to abandon maximalist positions in favor of realistic political solutions, and should seek ways of publicly and privately communicating the need for engagement.
  • Leaders throughout the region should echo demands by Venezuelan civil society for an urgent accord that allows for a more robust humanitarian response to the pandemic. Escalating a humanitarian response will require an accord between the de facto Maduro government, which retains territorial control, and the National Assembly, which has democratic legitimacy and access to international financial support. This is essential to comply with recommendations by the World Health Organization to improve coordination mechanisms to support the preparation and response to COVID-19.
  • Governments in Latin America desperately need increased funding for the humanitarian response inside and outside Venezuela. The international community can help to address the humanitarian crisis by supporting NGOs working on the ground to meet humanitarian needs. In 2019 the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan received only 34 percent of the $223 million requested for its full implementation, indicating the dire need for greater resources. It is also essential that the international community diverts additional funding to regional governments’ response plans. To date, the UN’s Regional Refugee and Migrant Response plan for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela has only received 3 percent of the $1.35 billion requested to respond to the crisis.
  • Regional groups must call on the Maduro government to put an end to political repression and accept proposals for a peaceful solution that restores democratic order. Human rights defenders, humanitarian actors, health workers, journalists, and members of the National Assembly have all faced increasing repression as the Maduro government has cracked down on those who question official data and criticize the government’s response. Since Maduro declared a state of emergency on March 13, at least 34 individuals have been arbitrarily detained. It is essential that the international community continues to denounce their persecution and calls for the release of all political prisoners.
  • Governments throughout the region must demand that peaceful demonstrations by the Venezuelan people are met with respect for the rights to life and integrity. Facing shortages of basic necessities including electricity, gasoline, potable water, and telecommunications services, various communities in Venezuela have exercised their right to protest. On April 23, Charlis Antonio Nunez Palma (29) lost his life during protests in Upata in Bolivar state. It is critical to urge authorities to respect mechanisms of peaceful protest, to use differentiated and proportionate force in the maintenance of public order, and abstain from deploying armed civilians to respond to public demonstrations.
  • Regional leaders should insist that all restrictions that limit the access and work of humanitarian organizations are lifted. As noted in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan, many humanitarian organizations have been unable to carry out their work on the ground due to gasoline shortages, restrictions on movement under the quarantine, and obstacles to register and authorize international NGOs to operate in the country. Governments should insist that any accord features verifiable guarantees of transparency and oversight of assistance, and includes broader access for UN humanitarian actors on the ground.
  • Solidarity with Venezuelans must not end when they leave their borders. To date, over 5 million people have fled Venezuela due to the humanitarian and political crisis. Despite commitments to broaden access to regular status in the 2018 Quito Declaration, most Venezuelan migrants and refugees across the Americas lack regular status in their host countries, leaving them without access to formal employment, education, or health care. As stated in Resolution 1/20 of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, migrants and displaced persons face heightened vulnerability in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the urgency to extend regular status and access to basic services to Venezuelan migrants living abroad.


A.C. Médicos Unidos de Venezuela
Acción Solidaria
Asylum Access
Caleidoscopio Humano
Caribe Afirmativo
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (CDH-UCAB)
Centro de Justicia y Paz (CEPAZ)
CIVILIS Derechos Humanos
Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos de Perú
Conectas Dereitos Humanos
Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional
Clínica Jurídica de Migrantes y Refugiados de la Universidad Diego Portales
Fundación CELTA
Laboratorio de Paz
Monitor Social A.C.
Movimiento Ciudadano Dale Letra
Observatorio Electoral Venezolano
Observatorio Global de Comunicación y Democracia
Promoción Educación y Defensa en DDHH (PROMEDEHUM)
Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA)
Radar de los Barrios
Red de Activismo e Investigación por la Convivencia (REACIN)
Serviço Jesuíta a Migrantes e Refugiados Brasil (SJMR)
Sociedad Hominis Lura (SOHI)
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)