Over 100 Venezuelan ONG’s and thirteen international ones, including what I think are the leading Human Rights ONG’s in the country, Provea and COFAVIC, held a press conference and issued a communique today asking that the Venezuelan Government stop persecuting them and rejecting legal decisions that attempt to take away legitimacy and criminalize the rights of the people to participate in public matters. Among the activites of the Government denounced and documented by the group were the systematic disqualification of the media, the opening of trials and judicial processes, intimidation via public threats and the jailing of members.
Liliana Ortega who leads COFAVIC, which has spent twenty years defending the rights of those that died in the Caracazo in 1989 said:”A fundamental condition of a democratic state is to utilize dialogue as a strategy of persuation and conviction, but in Venezuela exchanges and the search for a consensus has been prohibited and satanized. When a State does not make its positions flexible, does not back out of its positions, nor does it search for solutions that satisfy everyone, what it puts in evidence is that the authoritarian model gains more and more space as a form of governing”
The spokesman for Provea said the attacks look to erode the autonomy of social organizations and stop independent controls as well as the true exercize of of the rights contained in the Constitution. According to Provea, the reaction of the Prosecutor to more protests has been to criminalize and bring to trial protesters with the complicity of the People’s Ombudsman (Defender in Spanish).
The organizations present ask public powers to revert the campaign to damage their prestige and to help increase the possibilities so that people can exercize their rights. They also ratified their right to receive help from international groups like Amnesty International, Social Watch and Greenpeace that fight for democracy, protection of the environment and the elimination of injustices.
The communique concludes by asking the Venezuelan Government to:
1.- Take necessary measures to stop the threats agasint the ONG’s and human right ddefenders that live on the country.
2.- To respect constitutional guarantees and international instruments that protect our right to free association and participation in public matters, as well as international cooperation, freedom of speech and the right to work.
3.- Immediately comply with all of the precuatelary and provisional measures given put by the interamerican ssystem, to human rights defenders and start exhaustive and independent investigations over the matters denounced in order to prevent that impunity prevails and similar situations of agression and persecution agsint human righst defenders may multiply.
4.- Open communication channels with the organizations of civil society to look for a joint search for the paths that will make a reality the full validity of human rights and the exercize of democratic freedoms in Venezuela.
I am glad this gathering and press conference took place. The groups that participated, their long time record and reputation should be sufficient to raise the attention of international groups that know them and who will understand the seriousness of the situation these human rights organizations face today in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez.