Thank you for having us and giving us the opportunity to discuss the current social and political landscape in Venezuela.
Very briefly, I will try to summarize the judicial situation given that the focus of today's meeting—and it bears repeating—is the very serious and delicate humanitarian situation in Venezuela.
Before I explain, in simpler terms, why Venezuela is engaged in an ongoing coup d'état—please note my use of the expression “ongoing coup d'état”—I would like to speak to the merits of involvement by the international community.
There is no doubt that the resolution of the Organization of American States, known as the OAS, responsible for invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter, is the result of changes to Venezuela's constitutional order, changes that are now drawing the attention of those around the world. They have led to the suffering of the Venezuelan people for the past 18 years. Without the involvement of the OAS, the situation would become untenable. The government responded, through Venezuela's supreme court, by issuing rulings 155 and 156, which stripped the national assembly of its legislative authority and parliamentarians of their immunity.
We want to make this crystal clear: this actually happened in our country. It is a crime that violates the order of the republic, as set out in section 137 of the criminal code.
We also want to point out that these rulings were not the only assaults, attacks, and acts of dispossession against the national assembly. In fact, since 2016, the court has issued 46 other rulings that have removed, eliminated, or restricted the powers of Venezuela's national assembly. The affected functions include control and oversight powers of the public administration, lawmaking authority, and the censure capacity of ministers and government officials.
Since 2016, Venezuela's supreme court has nullified the national assembly's legislative and control and oversight powers. That is why everyone is now describing the situation as a rupture, or breakdown, of the constitutional order and a coup d'état.
This is the same supreme court that abolished the possibility of amnesty in Venezuela. As a result, the release of political prisoners and the return of those in exile is no longer allowed. Furthermore, the court upheld the conviction of Leopoldo Lopez, dismissing his appeal.
We have been in Canada for a while now, and it makes me wonder how Venezuela got to this point. Not only is it facing a political crisis, in terms of freedom and democracy, but it is also facing a crisis on a humanitarian, social, economic, and criminal scale.
Why has the international community taken so much time to speak out in a structured, steady and very precise way, as it has done today, on a model of power that has given the country the worst statistics ever seen on the American continent? More than 300,000 deaths by homicide and by politically motivated acts of violence; more than 3,000 criminal trials for political reasons; thousands of children dead at birth, owing to either malnutrition or a lack of medical services or medication; thousands of mothers dead in childbirth; thousands of Venezuelan seniors without pensions or medications to treat their illnesses; millions of young Venezuelans emigrating; millions of Venezuelans with monthly earnings below the equivalent of $30; thousands of Venezuelans going through garbage in search of food and begging on the streets; thousands of Venezuelan children leaving school prematurely. The bottom line is that they are a tired people without hope, with 80% of them living in poverty. When they leave home, they don't know whether they will come back.
What explains this situation, although it may be very predictable and simple, is that a huge amount of the money from Venezuelan oil has been used to buy the conscience of many of the subregion's nations. That is what has prevented the activation of international emergency and control mechanisms, which are now activated and have led to denunciations and pressure tactics.
The people of Venezuela are now starting to feel supported by the international community, and they want to thank you very much, as have done throughout history African people, Middle Eastern people and those who lived in regions close to the former iron curtain, as well as people who were occupied by the former Soviet republic. Those people are thanking you today, as they have reclaimed their freedom, their democracy and their prosperity, which were made possible by the organized movement of multilateral organizations and the leading countries in the defence of human rights, such as Canada.
We came here to bring the committee a series of documents, images, information and intelligence that, although they may be known already, confirm the warnings from previous reports, such as the 2012 report. Those reports contained enough elements to alert the world about the human, political and social tragedy Venezuela is currently experiencing. In other words, we want to ask this committee to incorporate into its file all the elements we are contributing—information, images and comments—so that the situation in Venezuela can be addressed and discussed in an emergency meeting to achieve the following objectives:
First, the government of Canada must understand the current social and humanitarian reality in Venezuela—the ongoing violence and the imminent risk of violations of human integrity that are threatening Venezuelans' lives—to improve the validation criteria for the migration of Venezuelans to Canada, including residence, asylum and the protection of needy students.
Second, we must maintain an open and public position with regard to citizenship, in Canada and elsewhere in the world, through all the international ballot multilateral organizations, to maintain the defence of human rights in Venezuela, the respect of its institutions and the restoration of democracy.
Third, we must use every tool at our disposal to promote diplomatic and humanitarian order, the opening of humanitarian aid channels in Venezuela for access to food and medications, as well as other factors related to human dignity.
Fourth, the necessary investigations must be conducted into mining, especially the Arco Minero project in the Amazon, in Venezuela, which is probably at the root of environmental crimes and violations of miners' rights in terms of work conditions, safety and human rights.
The last, but not least, point is about implementing a watchdog committee and investigation mechanisms on the right to vote in Venezuela, opportunism and manipulation through propaganda by the state, as well as monitoring the electoral process. It is only by ensuring the respect of human rights and the right to vote that we could resolve crises of a humanitarian, institutional, political and social nature in a peaceful and constitutional manner, while limiting the risks Venezuelans may be exposed to on humanitarian, social and political levels.
In closing, we think that the defence of human rights is a crucial issue for Venezuelan people today. Canada is considered a champion of human rights. That is why Venezuelans are very hopeful when it comes to Canada. For Venezuelans, Canada is a very important country. We hope to hear you say that Venezuela is just as important to Canada. As I explained, it is of the utmost importance for us to be able to rely on international involvement at this time.
Finally, I found a relatively short expression in English I would like to share with you:
“Honor bespeaks worth. Confidence begets trust. Service brings satisfaction. Cooperation proves the quality of leadership.”
We call on you with regard to the objective related to satisfaction and we are counting on your leadership.