Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro finished a speech in Human Rights Council in Geneva without directly addressing the indictment of his wife's nephews on cocaine smuggling charges, which took place in New York City on Thursday.
Maduro spoke in broad terms about imperialism and lashed out at a U.S. general in a speech at the United Nations' top human rights body. He also defended his country's independence and said it would not accept interference from outside.
Thursday's speech at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva came as U.S. officials handed down indictments against two nephews of Venezuela's first lady on narcotics charges.
It also comes three weeks before Venezuela holds parliamentary elections.
"The United States is misusing human rights as a political weapon...We are an independent process, and we have the right to exist, and to life. Venezuela asks for the maximum respect from the U.N. council," Maduro said, "Venezuela is defending itself with the only weapon it has, national consciousness."
"Through the difficulties Venezuela emerges victorious, the social state is viable, useful, and successful," he added.
The president tweeted about his appearance, saying "Mission accomplished" and "In Geneva, we have been showered in love and solidarity, we will continue to defend the #TruthOfVenezuelaAtTheUN"
A group of 50 Venezuelan and international human rights activists, including Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, had asked the member countries of the UN to boycott the special session. Venezuela is an elected member of the United Nations' Human Rights Council.
"The fear of negative perceptions over this special meeting is compounded by the extreme nature of Venezuela's ongoing oppression of its people, and by Venezuela's refusal — despite being an elected member of the Human Rights Council, and just now re-elected — to accept fact-finding visits by the Council's own special human rights experts," the joint appeal read.
Executive Director of the Americas Division for the Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, issued a statement Wednesday condemning Maduro's speech before it happened. "The human rights situation in Venezuela has deteriorated dramatically in recent years," he said, "Venezuela should not be allowed to use the council as a vehicle for self-promotion."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.