How the United Nations Fails Venezuela with Diego Arria

Diego Arria, Venezuelan politician and diplomat who served as Venezuela’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1991–1993) and President of the Security Council (March 1992), addresses the 11th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.

On Venezuela:

“Today, Venezuela is a devastated land: without food, without medicines, without law, without freedom, without rights and an exodus of millions. It is a country where there are also Milosevics, Karadzics and Mladics that kill, torture, imprison and use the denial of food and medical attention as a weapon in a war against the civilian population.”

“Ironically, it is unnoticed by the international community that Venezuela is intervened and occupied by more than twenty thousand Cuban agents who control the armed forces and the police and intelligence agencies.”

On the failure of the UN:

“Despite this reality, the Secretary General of the UN only urges us to participate in the classic ‘appeasement’ of negotiating agreements with a criminal regime.”

“No one can demand that we accept any solution at any price. In this regard, not even the United Nations, which as we know is not a largely democratic body, can do so.”

“When the Security Council meets to consider resolutions, its members read them on clean sheets—lives that do not have blood, that do not have tears.”

Full Remarks in Spanish. See below for English

(Introduccion en ingles)

Allow me to thank Hillel Neuer, the President of this extraordinary organisation, and his wonderful team. I hope Hillel doesn’t take this time out of the eight minutes he has given me.

I have been very moved these last few days, for this extraordinary opportunity to meet human rights heroes, victims, and their families. At the same time, I cannot but express my optimism and encouragement when I see so many young people attending this meeting. It will be their responsibility to be better than the previous generations. At the beginning of my conversation I want to say that I am so happy that the Venezuelan Ambassador in this country, a new one, representing President Guido, her name is Maria-Alejandra, is here with us today. This makes me very happy.

Hillel told me to speak about my personal experience in conflicts around the world, as well as in Venezuela. I will tell that in Spanish.

(Continúa en español)

El 25 de abril de 1993 en Srebrenica, por primera vez en mi vida y en un solo día, presencié horrorizado y conmovido los restos de los cuerpos de más de diez niños destrozados por morteros que destruyeron una escuela, epidemias por falta de agua potable, medicinas y hambruna. En el pueblo de Amici los cadáveres de una familia musulmana incinerados después de asesinarlos en su propia vivienda.

Ese día como líder de la misión del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU reunimos al pueblo de Srebrenica y les dije: “Aquí estamos los embajadores de Francia, de Rusia, de Nueva Zelanda, de Hungría, de Pakistan y de Venezuela representando la cúpula política del mundo; el Consejo de Seguridad para asegurarles que les protegeremos decretando Srebrenica como un area segura”.

Sin embargo, desde allí mismo declaré a los periodistas que nos acompañaban que “Un genocidio en cámara lenta estaba ocurriendo ante los ojos del mundo”. Dos años después, en julio de 1995 y en menos de 48 horas, el genocidio que temía tuvo lugar cuando cerca de ocho mil adultos y adolescentes fueron masacrados por fuerzas criminales al mando del General Ratko Mladic bajo la direccion política de ese otro criminal Radovac Karadzic.

Han pasado 26 años desde que pronuncié esas palabras, y no logro dejar de sentir el dolor y el sentimiento de culpa de que a pesar de haber advertido a lo que llaman la comunidad internacional, no fuimos capaces de salvarlos ni siquiera en la falsamente llamada área segura. Imperdonablemente no los protegimos como les habíamos prometido.

Al retornar al Consejo de Seguridad en Nueva York para presentar nuestro informe de misión declaré:  “Bosnia es una horrible lección. La evasión moral, cuando eclipsa nuestra habilidad de reconocer y responder al mal, minará nuestros valores y nuestras creencias fundamentales, en un momento en que el mundo se hace más pequeño y tantos miran hacia occidente para liderazgo. No me cabe duda que el triunfo de los agresores, sin duda, nos degradará a todos los que estamos representados hoy en el Consejo de Seguridad”.

En noviembre de 1999, Kofi Annan -Secretario General de la ONU- en su informe a la Asamblea General sobre la tragedia de Srebrenica relató que un embajador dijo en el Consejo de Seguridad que los serbios, al ver la actitud poco resuelta del Consejo  no iban a renunciar graciosamente a lo que habían conquistado por la fuerza y el terror, y que no serían detenidos en la mesa de negociaciones, sino en el campo de batalla.

Ese embajador era yo, que representaba mi pais, Venezuela.

Como lección para el futuro Annan agregó, o más bien confesó, “Que la comunidad internacional debería aceptar su responsabilidad por la tragedia al haberse negado a utilizar la fuerza a sus inicios. No entendieron-dijo- una verdad aprendida tardíamente, que Bosnia era tanto una causa moral como un conflicto militar, y que la tragedia de Srebrenica perseguiría para siempre la historia de las Naciones Unidas”.

En este particular denuncié en el Consejo que la asistencia humanitaria fue utilizada como una coartada para no intervenir ante lo que los grandes países veían como la amenaza del surgimiento de un estado musulmán en el medio de Europa, lo que durante el juicio de Slobodan Milosevic califiqué como “el más grande encubrimiento de complicidad de las Naciones Unidas-incluyendo el rol del Secretario General Boutros Ghali” (The UN Greatest Cover up).

Cuando el Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas se reúne para considerar resoluciones, sus integrantes las leen en hojas limpias; hojas que no tienen sangre, que no tienen lágrimas. El Consejo está muy lejos de esas realidades que analizan bajo un principio realmente abominable: el de la Equivalencia Amoral de las Partes, que facilita no asumir responsabilidades poniendo a víctimas y victimarios en el mismo plano: una filosofía de la neutralidad igualmente amoral.

Pero la historia desgraciadamente se repite en un país que por años cooperó con las Naciones Unidas no solo en Bosnia, sino en Somalia, Ruanda, Camboya, El Salvador, Haití y otros escenarios conflictivos. Hoy ese país, mi país, es visto tanto por el actual Secretario General de la ONU, como por la Alta Comisionada de Derechos Humanos como “una de las partes”: somos iguales el pueblo tiranizado y el régimen hoy investigado en La Corte Penal Internacional por crímenes de lesa humanidad.

Venezuela es hoy una tierra arrasada: sin alimentos, sin medicinas, sin ley, sin libertad, sin derechos y un éxodo de millones. País donde también hay Milosevics, Karadzics y Mladics que matan, torturan, encarcelan y usan la denegación de comida y atención médica como un arma en una guerra contra la población civil como concluye el informe de la Organización de Estados Americanos OEA sobre la comisión de crímenes de lesa humanidad.

Es incuestionable que dada la naturaleza criminal del régimen es imposible recibir ayuda humanitarian tan necesitada sin apoyo militar  tal como vimos en el puente Simón Bolívar en la frontera con Colombia cuando detuvieron camiones con la ayuda humanitaria y  de paso mataron a siete personas. En la frontera con Brasil a siete de nuestros indios Pemones.

Una intervención humanitaria no es una invasión militar, sin embargo se nos repite que el uso de la fuerza es intolerable en nuestro caso sin importar que sigamos sufriendo un proceso de exterminio, por acción u omisión, como lo advierte nuestro Presidente Juan Guaidó al igual que lo hizo clara y admirablemente el Alto Comisionado Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein en sus informes de 2017 y el de 2018 titulado: “Violación de los Derechos Humanos en Venezuela: una espiral que parece no tener fin”.

Irónicamente pasa desapercibido para la comunidad internacional que Venezuela está intervenida y ocupada por más de veinte mil agentes cubanos que controlan las fuerzas armadas y los organismos policiales y de inteligencia responsables por las acciones de represión, y más recientemente por agentes de Rusia activados en el campo militar y de inteligencia.

Nuestra realidad exige igualmente una operación policial para capturar a pandillas de narco traficantes que se han apoderado del país armados por Rusia y por China, que representan una amenaza no solo para nosotros, que somos las víctimas principales, sino para toda la región donde los Pablo Escobar y los Chapos Guzmán están encarnados entre otros por Nicolás Maduro, Vladimir Padrino, Diosdado Cabello.

A pesar de esta realidad, el propio Secretario General de la ONU solo nos urge a participar en el clásico apaciguamiento “appeasement” de negociar acuerdos con un régimen criminal, cuyo único resultado sería extender un salvavidas a una pandilla rechazada por más del ochenta por ciento de nuestra gente y de cincuenta y cinco países del mundo.

Nadie puede exigirnos que aceptemos cualquier solución a cualquier precio. En este particular ni siquiera las Naciones Unidas, que como conocemos no es un cuerpo mayoritariamente democrático, puede hacerlo. Tampoco este Consejo de Derechos Humanos donde basta ver quienes son y cómo actúan algunos de sus integrantes.

Menos aún podemos esperar del Consejo de Seguridad que cuenta con dos regímenes opresivos: China y Rusia, que utilizan su poder de veto hasta para impedir la asistencia humanitaria a un país en emergencia como el mío.

Desgraciadamente para los que luchamos y queremos vivir en Libertad en Venezuela y en otros lugares del mundo, las Naciones Unidas viene demostrando no ser precisamente “un guardián confiable de los valores humanos”, que opta por limitarse a una función forénsica, y que la experiencia de Bosnia como símbolo brutal de la inacción prevalece con consecuencias funestas para todos.

Seguro muchos dirán: Venezuela no es Bosnia ni será Srebrenica. Pero yo les digo: Bosnia no fuera Bosnia si el Consejo de Seguridad lo hubiera impedido-cuando pudo hacerlo- no dejando masacrar a doscientas mil personas.

Venezuela mi país, es tambien una causa moral. 

Muchas gracias. 

Full Remarks in English

Allow me to thank Hillel Neuer, the president of this extraordinary organization and his wonderful team for giving me the opportunity. I hope Hillel doesn’t take this time out of my eight minutes that he has given to me!

I’ve been very moved these last two days for this extraordinary opportunity to meet human rights heroes and victims and their families, which is actually, to me, so fulfilling to have this experience, and I thank you for what you’re doing and what you will do. At the same time, I cannot but express my optimism and encouragement when I see so many young people attending this meeting because it will be their responsibility to do better than the previous generations. At the beginning of this conversation, I would like to tell you I’m so happy that we have a Venezuelan ambassador in this country, a new one, of the government of President Guaidó. Her name is María-Alejandra Aristeguieta and she’s here with us today and this makes me very happy. 

Hillel told me to speak about personal experience in conflicts that I have participated in around the world as well as in Venezuela. I will tell that in Spanish. 

On April 25th, 1993, for the first time in my life, one day I witnessed, with horror, something in Srebrenica. That day, I saw the removal of bodies of more than 10 children who had died. That same afternoon, I saw the incinerated corpses of an entire Muslim family that had been murdered. This clearly has marked me for the rest of my life. That day, in Srebrenica, is one I’ll never forget.  

There was the most important meeting of the Security Council that day, and there gathered were ambassadors of France, Russia, New Zealand, Hungary, Pakistan and Venezuela. And I said, “we are here to protect the people and we will assure them of our protection by decreeing that Srebrenica should be a safe area.” I said to the journalists that a genocide was occurring in slow motion and it was evolving before the eyes of the world.  

Two years later, the genocide I feared actually took place. It was a massacre when I returned to the Security Council. Now, 26 years have passed since I promised to protect the people. I still feel great pain and guilt because although we were in a safe area in the UN, we were not capable of saving them or protecting them, young people and adults [alike].  

Returning to the Security Council in New York, I said, and I’m going to read that because it was a part of a mission, “Bosnia is a horrible lesson, one of moral evasion. When moral evasion eclipses our ability to recognize and respond to evil, our core values and beliefs are undermined. This is a time when the world is growing smaller, and so many are looking westward for leadership. It is clear to me that the triumph of the oppressors has undoubtedly degraded all of us who are represented here today in the Security Council.” 

In November 1999, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN, in his report to the General Assembly, on the Srebrenica tragedy, pointed out that an ambassador had told the Security Council that the Serbs, seeing the Council’s unresolved attitude, were not going to graciously give up what they had conquered by force and terror, and they could not be stopped at the negotiating table, but only on the battlefield. That ambassador was me, representing my country, Venezuela.  

As a lesson for the future, Annan added, or rather confessed, that the international community should accept responsibility for the tragedy. It had refused to use force at its inception. They did not understand, he said, that it was a truth learned too late, that Bosnia was both a moral cause and a military conflict. In this regard, in the Council, I denounced the fact that humanitarian assistance was used as an excuse not to intervene in what the major nations saw as a threat of the emergence of a Muslim state in the middle of Europe. During the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, I qualified this as the greatest cover-up committed by the United Nations. 

When the Security Council begins to talk about something, meaning to consider resolutions, its members read them on ‘clean sheets’ meaning there is no [trace] of blood or tears. The Council is far removed from such realities, realities they analyze through the lenses of a truly abominable principle, what I call the ‘amoral equivalence of the parties.’  

History, unfortunately, has repeated itself in a country that for years cooperated with the United Nations, not only in Bosnia, also in Somalia, Rwanda, Cambodia and El Salvador, etc… Today that country is my country and is seen both by the Secretary-General of the UN and the High Commissioner for Human Rights as one of those parties, as mentioned before. My country today is a ravaged land without food and without medicine, it is a country where there are ‘Milosevic’s’, ‘Karadžić’s’, who are killing people in Venezuela, just like El Chapo and other criminals.  

It’s clear that given the criminal nature of the regime, it is impossible to receive the humanitarian aid that is needed without military support. As we saw on the Simon Bolivar bridge bordering Colombia when trucks with humanitarian aid were stopped. It is still thought that humanitarian intervention is a military invasion, but that is not true. 

We have seen many reports by the High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who wrote some remarkable reports, and recently there was another important report about the violation of human rights, but this has gone unnoticed by the international community, and Venezuela has now been occupied by more than 20,000 human agents that are controlling the armed forces, police and intelligence agencies. They’re committing repressive acts and Russian agents have been activated in the countryside for military and intelligence purposes. Despite this, the Secretary-General is only working for peace, as if we were dealing with governments that are reliable. No one can demand of us any action at any price, but we must fight for freedom at any cost. We cannot expect that the Security Council, which has the right of power, will act correctly because of China and Russia, who have used their veto power to impeach humanitarian assistance to a country like my own in a state of emergency – we cannot expect anything from them. 

In conclusion, unfortunately, for those of us fighting to be able to live in freedom in Venezuela and in other parts of the world, the UN has demonstrated that it is clearly not a reliable guardian of human values, yet it chooses to limit itself to forensic function. The experience of Bosnia as a brutal symbol of inaction prevails with dire consequences for us all. Many will say, Venezuela is not Bosnia, nor will it be Srebrenica, but I’ll tell you, Bosnia would not have been that Bosnia if the Security Council had so prevented it, while it was able to do so, not letting 200,000 people be massacred. Venezuela, my country, is also a moral cause for the world. 

Thank you. 

12th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, UN Opening, March 25, 2019

Speakers and Participants

Diego Arria

Former Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN and President of the Security Council

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