To coin a phrase from back in the day when people read actual newspapers,”the ink was barely dry” on yesterday’s dispatch when the news was everywhere about the ICC Chief Prosecutor’s Venezuela visit. We laid out the basic scenario and the question was, “What would Karim Khan do?” In a bit of foreshadowing (some say ass covering) prior to Khan’s visit we were reminded several times that it was not necessarily required that Khan issue a statement immediately regarding his intentions. Well, forget about that. No suspense building here. Surprise! Khan announced that the ICC will proceed to the next phase and open an official investigation into Nicolas Maduro and his regime and the alleged Human Rights violations and crimes against humanity. He made the announcement after meeting with Maduro, VP Delcy Rodriguez, Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor, and others and an agreement of understanding was signed. While the headlines from almost all the news services were about the ICC proceeding to the official investigation phase,Telesur’s headline read “Venezuela and ICC sign agreement of understanding.” While it’s not surprising that the government media outlet would down play the opening of the investigation and highlight the signing of an agreement it is a significant point. The ICC cannot proceed with an investigation without the consent of the host country. When the agreement was signed Maduro said he “wants to know the truth” and that Khan’s predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, kept him blind during phase 3. The reality was that Bensouda had been widely criticized for slow walking the process and covering for Maduro and it was considered suspect that she held on to the report containing her staff’s findings until she was stepping down and left it to Khan to decide what to do regarding Maduro and his regime.

 That said, this is a really big deal. It was an investigation like this one that led to the trial of former president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, at The Hague. The process  was long and slow and Milosevic was never actually convicted of his crimes. He did,however, die in prison while his trial went on for years.To put this in perspective, an investigation of this nature has never occurred in any other country in Latin America. We know that the ICC was asked to get involved after investigations by the OAS (Organization of American States) and the UNOHCHR (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights). But what exactly are they, the ICC and the others, investigating?

 The allegations cover from 2017 to the present but the brutal repression and Human Rights violations were out there back in 2014 during “The Guarimba” when the Venezuelan people took to the streets protesting the lack of food and medicine in the country. Note the time frame…2014…long before any US sanctions so the claim that sanctions are responsible for the suffering of the Venezuelan people is preposterous. 40 protesters were killed,hundreds and hundreds injured,and thousands jailed as the Maduro regime shut down the protests. For Venezuela it was a case of bad timing. What was happening there would normally be big news but the attention of the world was focused on Russia invading the Ukraine. The discontent did,however, lead to the opposition’s landslide victory in the 2015 elections, the last free and fair elections to occur in Venezuela.

 The subsequent usurpation of the National Assembly’s power by the Maduro regime and the ratification of all these unconstitutional abuses of power by the TSJ (Venezuela’s Supreme Court) combined with the people continuing to endure severe food and medicine shortages (85% of medicines readily available almost anywhere in the world were still almost nonexistent in Venezuela) led to the 2017 protests. The spark that lit the fuse for the 2017 protests was when the TSJ briefly assumed the powers of the National Assembly. There was international outrage and the TSJ backslid but the damage was done. The people of Venezuela took to the streets again in unprecedented numbers. Once again they were victims of bad timing. Just as in 2014 when the world’s attention was focused half a world away as 40 protesters were killed by the Maduro regime in 2017 the international community was focused on the North Koreans firing missiles. As the world was watching Kim Jong Un blustering and throwing temper tantrums on the international stage the protests in Venezuela continued for months as the Maduro regime fought to repress the will of the people. “The Guarimba” repression was bad but the 2017 protests (and protesters) were subject to a new level of repression by Chavismo. 165 people were killed, 15,000+ were injured, and approximately 5,000 were arrested. The Maduro government went as far as restricting the importation of basic medical supplies like gauze,etc. because they were needed to dress the wounds of the protesters. There was even talk of deploying snipers to the rooftops to control the crowds.

 In April,2017 Maduro went as far as activating the Chavista’s “Plan Zamora” whereby he authorized civilians to act alongside police and military units to “Preserve Public Order.” This was done both without weapons and with them (primarily by paramilitary groups). Remember us talking about the “colectivos”, armed motorcycle gangs that operate at the behest of Chavismo? 

 After the protests were put down the Human Rights violations continued and were even ratcheted up a notch with Maduro’s creation of the FAES, a third (or is it fourth?) secret police group.You know them…the guys wearing masks, dressed all in black, that drag Venezuelans from their homes and shoot them in the street. Remember, when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for Maduro to disband FAES he responded by saying “Long Live FAES!”

 In light of the findings by the OAS, the UN High Commissioner  for Human Rights not only finding extensive evidence of Human Rights abuses by the Maduro regime but finding in a subsequent investigation that there is no independent judiciary in Venezuela, and Karim Khan’s predecessor finding cause to proceed to Phase 4 and open an official investigation, this announcement of the opening of the investigation by the ICC is both welcome and long overdue. I have no illusions that anything will happen soon as this will be a long drawn out process but we’re already several years into the process so now perhaps we can proceed to some kind of resolution, to some kind of justice for the people of Venezuela. I hope the citizens of the US are paying attention.

 There’s plenty of other news but nothing that can’t wait until Monday. This news is important enough to stand on it’s own….see you Monday.

 Have a great weekend everybody!!

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