In another sign of increasing intolerance, Hugo Chavez orders the expulsion of HRW’s representatives

September 21, 2008


In another step defining the increasing intolerance of the
Chavez administration, the
Venezuelan Government expelled
the Director for the Americas for Human
Rights Watch (HRW), Jose Maria Vivancos, and one other HRW worker on direct
orders of President Hugo Chavez.

Vivancos was in Caracas participating in a seminar in
which he presented HRW’s latest report on the state of Human rights in
Venezuela entitled “A Decade Under Chávez. Political Intolerance and Lost
Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela”. The report may have
gone largely unnoticed, except for the local press, if it were not by the
decision by the Government to expel Vivancos. The Government once again hid behind its empty
rhetoric of calling HRW a puppet of the Empire and an institution financed by
the US Government, ignoring similarly critical reports by HRW of not only the US, but human rights
abuses in countries such as Colombia.

The expulsion came after that of the US Ambassador over a
week ago, the refusal to grant passage to student leader Nixon Moreno, who
requested political asylum at the Vatican’s Embassy in Caracas and the refusal
by the Government to investigate the many corruption accusations of the last
few weeks. Any charge against the Government is repelled by calling it a
conspiracy, support for the US Government, anti-Chavez, treason and the like, while
there are almost daily new scandals everywhere and economic life gets harsher for the average Venezuelan.

Vivancos and his coworker at HRW were simply picked up at
their hotel and placed on the first flight out of Venezuela, which happened to
be going to Brazil. There was no legal procedure followed, as established by
law a fact noted by Amnesty International. It was like so many other events, “a
direct order from the President”, and adding signs of the increasing autocratic
levels of the Venezuelan Government. Remarkable that a Government that controls
all judicial instances does not even bother to fulfill even the simplest requirements of the
laws.

Vivancos’ expulsion ruffled feathers in many countries.
Chile’s Foreign Minister criticized the decision and Venezuelan snapped
back quickly
, creating more tensions between the two countries. Brazil’s
Lula was said to be worried about the expulsion, as Vivancos showed at his
doorstep and even OAS’ President Insulza, ever the consummate diplomat who stays away from controversy, said
he did not like the expulsion.

But they better get used to it, as the Chavez
administration seems to be getting ready to bypass democracy altogether, not
that there was much left of it. 
Because while the PSF’s defense of Hugo Chavez has always been based on
the fact that he was elected democratically, their arguments has become meaningless
now that Chavez decided to ignore the results of the December referendum,
passing 26 Bills which turn into law much of what was rejected by the
Venezuelan electorate in an election where the Chavez controlled Electoral
Board has refused to tell us what the margin of victory of the rejection was.

And while Chavez relished
himself today
in saying 70% of the people support what he is doing, a
number he has never reached in any election, the truth is that numbers for Chavez’
candidates in the upcoming regional elections are looking increasingly and
surprisingly worse to this blogger.

But rather than deal with his problems, Chavez once again
leaves today in one of his useless trips, most likely to buy new weapons, hug
world leaders and sign agreements that will never do anything for Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the HRW report is there for the world to read.
It has little that has not been said or denounced in this blog and thanks to
Chavez and his stupid impulse to expel Vivancos, has been read by ten times
more people that would have done so without the scandal.

In fact, I myself feel compelled to make the report part
of the record of this blog in order to extend its reach, as these ten long years have not only been wasted
for the development of Venezuela, but also for the cause of human rights in my
country. Thus, if you are curious, here is the HRW report with all its details:

A Decade Under Chávez. Political Intolerance and Lost
Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela

I. Executive Summary

Political Discrimination

The Courts

The Media

Organized Labor

Civil Society

The Future of Venezuelan Democracy

II. Political Discrimination

Political Discrimination under International Law

Political Discrimination under Venezuelan Law

Political Patronage and Discrimination Before Chávez

Blacklisting: The “Tascón List” and “Maisanta Program”

Discrimination in PDVSA

Discrimination in Other Areas

Recommendations

III. The Courts

International Norms on Judicial Independence

Background

The 2004 Court-Packing Law

A Compliant Court

Recommendations

IV. The Media

Venezuela’s Polarized Media

Toughening Speech Offenses

Regulating Media Content

Restricting Information

International Norms

Access to Information under Venezuelan Law

Failure to Respect the Right of Access to Information

Controlling the Airwaves

Community Radio and Television

Lack of Judicial Protection of Freedom of Expression

Recommendations

V. Organized Labor

Freedom of Association under International Law

Freedom of Association under Venezuelan Law

Organized Labor Before Chávez

Electoral Interference and the Denial of Collective Bargaining Rights

Government Favoritism and the Denial of Collective Bargaining Rights

Government Reprisals: The Oil Sector

New Workers’ Associations: Risks to Freedom of Association

Lack of Judicial Protection of Freedom of Association

Recommendations

VI. Civil Society

International Norms on Civil Society

Deteriorated Relations with Civil Society

Two Divergent Approaches to Rights Advocates

Prosecutorial Harassment

Public Condemnation

Attempts to Exclude NGOS from International Forums

Proposed Legal Restrictions

Judicial Rulings Affecting Civil Society

Recommendations

Acknowledgments

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