The UN human rights chief plans to set up an office in Venezuela to monitor the ongoing humanitarian crisis there. Michelle Bachelet said the dire situation must not be allowed to "deteriorate any further."
At the end of a three-day visit to Venezuela, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she had appointed two delegates to stay behind to advise the government and monitor abuses.
Her trip, at the invitation of embattled President Nicolas Maduro, came amid a deepening crisis that has caused crippling food and medicine shortages across the country. Rights groups say hundreds of political opponents have been jailed, while millions of people have fled abroad.
In a press conference in Caracas, Bachelet praised Maduro's decision to invite two UN officials to remain in Venezuela, adding that she hoped it would lead to a permanent office being established.
She also called on the government to "release all those who are detained or deprived of their liberty for exercising their civil rights in a peaceful manner."
Twenty-eight prisoners were released ahead of Bachelet's arrival, but there are still almost 690 political opponents behind bars, according to the NGO Foro Penal.
Call for dialogue
During her visit — the first by a UN human rights chief to the South American nation — Bachelet met separately with Maduro and self-declared interim President Juan Guaido.
Guaido, who is seeking to unseat Maduro, has support from more than 50 countries. Maduro maintains that he is the victim of a US-led coup plot.
"The destiny of more than 30 million Venezuelans resides in the will and the ability of its leaders to put the people's human rights above any personal, political or ideological ambition," Bachelet said.
"Maintaining entrenched positions by either of the two sides only aggravates the crisis, and Venezuelans can't give themselves the luxury of allowing their country's situation to deteriorate any further."
nm/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)