A group of people protest against the lack of food in parts of Caracas, Venezuela. Picture: EPA/MIGUEL GUTIERREZ
A group of people protest against the lack of food in parts of Caracas, Venezuela. Picture: EPA/MIGUEL GUTIERREZ

Brussels — On Tuesday, the EU threatened to expand sanctions against Venezuela unless talks between the government and opposition lead to “concrete results”, and warned President Nicolás Maduro’s regime to end human rights abuses.

The EU, which has sought to help resolve Venezuela’s political crisis by convening an international contact group, urged both sides to show “genuine engagement” with the Norway-brokered talks on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

“In case there are no concrete results from the ongoing negotiations, the EU will further expand its targeted measures,” EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement on behalf of all 28 members of the bloc.

Representatives for Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó are in Barbados for negotiations after agreeing to set up a platform for ongoing dialogue, extending initial contacts made in Oslo in May.

Crisis-wracked Venezuela has been mired in a political impasse since January when Guaidó proclaimed himself acting president, quickly receiving the support of more than 50 countries.

The oil-rich but economically wrecked country has been in a deep recession for five years. Shortages of food and medicine are frequent, and public services are failing.

The EU also said it was ready to slap sanctions on members of the security forces responsible for torture and other serious abuses, after the death of a retired Venezuelan navy officer in custody over a coup attempt. UN high commissioner for human rights (UNHCHR) Michelle Bachelet has said she was “shocked” by the death of Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo, who may have been tortured while in detention.

The EU said a recent report by Bachelet “confirms in a clear and detailed manner the extent and seriousness of the human rights violations” in Venezuela.

“In light of the grave situation as reported by the UNHCHR, the EU is ready to start work towards applying targeted measures for those members of the security forces involved in torture and other serious violations of human rights,” Mogherini said in the statement.

Some 18 members of the Maduro regime are under EU asset freezes and travel bans, while the bloc has also imposed an embargo on arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression.

AFP