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University Of Miami, Human Rights Watch Spotlight Growing Global Concern For Venezuela

Tim Padgett
Tamara Taraciuk of Human Rights Watch describing Venezuela's human rights abuses at the University of Miami's Institute for the Advanced Study of the Americas on Thursday.

Venezuelans are fleeing to places like South Florida because of their country’s humanitarian crisis, but also because of its human rights crisis. On Thursday the University of Miami was a focal point of the outcry over the socialist regime’s abuses.

More and more, the international community is waking up to the worsening human rights situation in Venezuela. This week, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an inquiry into reports of hundreds of killings of civilians by state security forces.

At the University of Miami’s Institute for the Advanced Study of the Americas, the New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) - which last year opened an office in Miami - echoed the U.N.’s concerns. HRW senior researcher Tamara Taraciuk said Venezuela’s authoritarian socialist regime is guilty not just of the overt brutality. Its denial of the humanitarian crisis, especially food and medical shortages, is just as egregious.

“It is stopping international humanitarian aid from entering the country," said Taraciuk. "And that is making the government of Venezuela directly responsible for the suffering of its people.”

Americas Institute Director Felicia Knaul said the community here must play its own fact-finding role,  much as it has during Cuba’s communist rule.

“There’s no question that South Florida and the University of Miami have to be dedicating additional resources, caring about the situation in Venezuela, to be able to evoke change," Knaul said.

The U.N. rights commissioner also doubts Venezuela’s May 20 presidential election will be “free and credible.”

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.