By Fabiola Gretzinger
On March 23, 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed the U.N. Resolution on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Nicaragua, urging the Nicaraguan Government to respect the basic human rights of Nicaraguans. The country has faced civilian unrest and government oppression since 2018 under the “leadership” of President Daniel Ortega. Since then, the United Nations has issued resolutions and conducted investigations, attempting to pressure the president into recognizing human rights and allowing democratic elections. For example, in February of this year, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a warning that recent laws implemented by the Ortega administration violated fundamental human rights.
As evidenced by the Venezuelan dictatorship, U.N. investigations, warnings, and resolutions do close to nothing to protect the civilians of the country. Venezuelans have been subject to mass human rights violations, an economic crisis, and a dictatorship since 2014, leading to record high migration. The U.N. issued public outcries, including a call for an international investigation into human rights violations in 2018. In 2019, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to create a specific fact-finding body to investigate human rights violations in Venezuela. This mandate for an investigation was just extended in 2021 for another period of two years. All the meanwhile, innocent civilians continue to die and suffer irreparable human rights violations.
If the United Nations wants to see actual change in these countries, different approaches must be followed. The same day the U.N. passed the resolution on Nicaragua, it passed the Resolution on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights. This resolution calls against the use of coercive sanctions by third-party states, which is what the United States has done with Venezuela for many years. Although there are general concerns of the impact that sanctions have on human rights, those directly addressed to the Maduro administration seem to have been effective. While Maduro is still in power, Juan Guaidó was recently recognized by many countries as the interim Venezuelan president, further diminishing the power of Maduro. This did not fully topple the Maduro dictatorship, but it does appear to be a step in the right direction.
The current U.S. sanctions on Venezuela are set to expire in 2023. Some of these do seem to directly impact the Venezuelan people, but others, such as targeted restrictions on members of Maduro’s administration, do indicate to the Venezuelan people that their fight is not in vain. Having international support in these forms inspires the people to continue fighting for their rights and democratic government. The U.N.’s push to eliminate sanctions will only impede progress, especially as their other actions have proved unfruitful.
 Human Rights Council Renews Mandate of Special Rapporteur on the Environment, Adopts Resolutions on Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, Occupied Palestinian Territory, and on Unilateral Coercive Measures, United Nations Human Rights Council (Mar. 23, 2021), https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=26938&LangID=E.
 Nicaragua: Government Tactics to Silence Criticism and Social Demands Deepen Human Rights Crisis, Amnesty Int’l (Feb. 15, 2021), https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/02/nicaragua-tacticas-gobierno-profundizan-crisis-derechos-humanos/.
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 Stefano Pozzebon & Caitlin Hu, US-led Sanctions on Venezuela “Devastating” to Human Rights, Says UN Report, CNN (Feb. 12, 2021), https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/12/world/us-venezuela-sanctions-alina-douhan-intl/index.html.
 Eliza Mackintosh, European Nations Recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s Interim President, CNN (Feb. 4, 2019), https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/04/americas/europe-guaido-venezuela-president-intl.
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 Mackintosh, supra note 12.