Venezuela, a country beset by poverty and mass human rights abuses under the regime of dictator Nicolas Maduro, took its seat Monday on the U.N. Human Rights Council — a move that critics of the council see as further proof that the controversial body is in desperate need of reform.
Venezuela was elected to the Council last year and took its seat as the body meets for its 43rd session that lasts through March 20.
Venezuela descended into economic and social ruin under Maduro, who has been seeking to keep power from Juan Guaido, the U.S.-recognized president since elections last year. Maduro succeeded socialist leader Hugo Chavez after his death.
In an address to the U.N. General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that 4 million people have fled the country, which he called “one of the largest displacements in the world.”
President Trump, at the U.N. General Assembly in September, cited the U.N. Human Right Council’s own report on the failing regime that said “women in Venezuela stand in line for 10 hours every day waiting for food, over 15,000 people have been detained as political prisoners, modern day death squads are carrying out thousands of extrajudicial killings.”
And yet the socialist country was elected to sit on the body, along with other controversial picks such as Sudan and Libya. Somalia, Eritrea, Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia also have been elected to the council.
U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft called the vote “an embarrassment to the United Nations and a tragedy for the people of Venezuela” at the time.
The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the council in 2018, citing the cabal of human rights abusers on the body. The Venezuelan vote has also led to diplomats from other countries calling for rules changes on who gets to sit on the council.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who spearheaded the U.S. departure from the Council, said Monday that allowing the Venezuelan regime on the Human Rights Council was “shameful.”
“In 2017 alone, the average adult had lost 24 pounds. They are digging through trash and killing zoo animals for food, they are without medicine. Yet today they take their seat on the Human Rights Council,” she said.
“This is the reason the U.S. got out of it, this is the reason that we’ll continue to fight it,” she said.
Fox News’ Ben Evansky contributed to this report.
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