The ongoing political, social, economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela continues to have a devastating effect on the Venezuelan population, and an ever-growing impact on the wider region. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation of Migration announced last month that the number of Venezuelans who have left the country since 2015 has now reached over 4 million.
The needs of the Venezuelan people are acute. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 25% of the population, approximately 7 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance. Health and medical needs are severe with many reported cases of diseases that had previously been eradicated or near eradication and a widespread lack of access to medicines and medical care. Ireland is fully supportive of the UN-coordinated response mechanism for humanitarian aid in the country, and of the €117 million in EU funding since 2018 for humanitarian assistance.
I am also deeply concerned by reported human rights abuses in Venezuela. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet painted a worrying picture of repression and a lack of respect for fundamental freedoms in the country after her visit last month. However, I welcome the engagement of the Government of Venezuela with the Office of High Commissioner Bachelet, and that the Government has agreed that a small team of human rights officers from the Office can be based in the country in order to provide technical assistance and advice, as well as to continue to monitor the human rights situation there. I would urge the Venezuelan authorities to cooperate fully with this team, and to allow them unrestricted access so that they can fully carry out their mandate.
The recent death of army captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo while in the custody of the Venezuelan security services further highlights the need for the human rights situation in the country to be addressed. It is another illustration of the arbitrary nature of the judicial system in the country and the lack of guarantees and rights for those under detention. I fully support the EU statement issued on 30 June that calls for a full and independent investigation into Captain Arévalo's death, and that highlights the EU's support for the efforts of High Commissioner Bachelet to ensure that the human rights of all Venezuelans are fully protected.
Captain Arévalo's death also underscores the urgency of the need to find a solution to this complex crisis. I continue to believe that this crisis can only have a political, peaceful, democratic solution, excluding the use of force, through the holding of free, transparent and credible Presidential elections as soon as possible.
The EU continues to work towards this goal, and Ireland fully supports the EU’s International Contact Group’s dual aims of finding a negotiated electoral path and of enabling the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance. I also welcome the recent appointment by EU High Representative Mogherini of an EU Special Adviser for Venezuela, Mr Enrique Iglesias. Special Adviser Iglesias will be well placed to engage with relevant stakeholders in Venezuela, and with international and regional actors, in the search for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Ireland also welcomes the talks process between the Maduro administration and the opposition, facilitated by Norway, that is currently ongoing in Oslo. Ireland, along with the EU, stands ready to support this process. I fully support the statement released by High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini on 18 June, which underlines the EU's support for this process and calls on all Venezuelan stakeholders to engage in this process in good faith and to pave the way for its success through concrete confidence-building measures.