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UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet says sanctions have worsened Venezuela crisis

Michelle Bachelet. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Geneva, Switzerland Mar 06, 2019, 06.26 PM (IST)

Sanctions have "exacerbated," the crisis in Venezuela, the UN human rights chief said Wednesday after the United States warned it may expand the measures it has imposed targeting President Nicolas Maduro's government. 

In her annual report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, rights chief Michelle Bachelet also levelled tough criticism at Maduro.

"Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights – including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms, and the independence of key institutions – can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights," said Bachelet, the former president of Chile. 

Venezuelans, battered by an economic meltdown and a major political crisis, are struggling to access basic goods including food and medicine. 

"This situation has been exacerbated by sanctions," Bachelet said. 

Washington, which has recognized Venezuela's opposition chief Juan Guaido as the country's leader, imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA last month. 

It has also handed Guaido control of Venezuela's bank accounts in the United States.

The US envoy for the crisis in Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said Tuesday that Washington was weighing more punitive measures to increase the pressure on Maduro. 

Washington has not ruled out so-called "secondary sanctions" that could target foreign companies or other states that do business with Maduro's government.

Venezuela is wracked by a humanitarian crisis that has seen poverty soar, with an estimated 2.7 million people leaving the country since 2015.

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'Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights – including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms, and the independence of key institutions – can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights,' said Bachelet, the former president of Chile.