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Venezuela orders UN office on human rights to close and its staff to leave in three days

The announcement came on the heels of the detention of human rights attorney Rocio San Miguel, which set off a wave of criticism inside and outside the country

A protester holds a sign that reads in Spanish "Release Rocio!," referring to arrested activist Human Rights lawyer and activist Rocio San Miguel, on the sidelines of a press conference about her detention the previous week, outside office of the UN Development Program (PNUD) in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Feb 14, 2024
A protester holds a sign that reads in Spanish 'Release Rocio!,' referring to arrested activist Rocio San Miguel, outside office of the UN Development Program in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 14, 2024.Ariana Cubillos (AP)

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Venezuela’s government on Thursday ordered the local U.N. office on human rights to suspend operations and gave its staff 72 hours to leave, accusing the office of promoting opposition to the South American country.

Foreign Affairs Minister Yván Gil announced the decision at a news conference in Caracas, the capital. Gil’s announcement came on the heels of the detention of human rights attorney Rocio San Miguel, which set off a wave of criticism inside and outside the South American country.

Gil said the office, the local technical advisory office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, had been used by the international community “to maintain a discourse” against Venezuela.

It was not immediately clear if the Venezuelan government had notified the United Nations directly of its order to close the office.

San Miguel was taken into custody Friday at the airport near Caracas while she and her daughter awaited a flight to Miami. Authorities did not acknowledge her detention until Sunday, and as of Wednesday, her attorney had not been allowed to meet with her.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab earlier in the week said she is being held at the Helicoide prison, an infamous institution for political prisoners.

San Miguel’s daughter, ex-husband, two brothers and former partner also were detained following her arrest. Of them, only her former partner remains in custody.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, based in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday had expressed “deep concern” over San Miguel’s detention.

In a tweet, the office urged “her immediate release” and respect for her right to legal defense. About an hour before Gil’s announcement, the U.N. agency called for the respect of “due process guarantees, including right to defense” in her case.

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