Friday, February 26, 2010

IACHR report on Venezuela: and you really thought Venezuela was a democracy?


Full Report:

IACHR report on Venezuela: And you really thought Venezuela was a democracy?
February 24, 2010

Since the report is long, I wanted to summarize the highlights from the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights report on Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela. Despite the Venezuelan Government’s refusal to allow a visit since 2002, the Commission felt it could still analyze the Venezuelan situation in order to comply with its mandate.

Here are some highlights, for those that still want to believe or defend that Venezuela is a democracy:

  • The Commission also finds that in Venezuela, not all persons are ensured full enjoyment of their rights irrespective of the positions they hold vis-à-vis the government’s policies.
  • The Commission also finds that the State’s punitive power is being used to intimidate or punish people on account of their political opinions.
  • The Commission’s report establishes that Venezuela lacks the conditions necessary for human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their work freely.
  • The IACHR also detects the existence of a pattern of impunity in cases of violence, which particularly affects media workers, human rights defenders, trade unionists, participants in public demonstrations, people held in custody, campesinos (small-scale and subsistence farmers), indigenous peoples, and women.
  • The IACHR’s report indicates that mechanisms have been created in Venezuela that restrict the possibilities of candidates opposed to the government for securing access to power. That has taken place through administrative resolutions of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic, whereby 260 individuals, mostly opposed to the government, were disqualified from standing for election. The Commission notes that these disqualifications from holding public office were not the result of criminal convictions and were ordered in the absence of prior proceedings, in contravention of the American Convention’s standards.
  • The Commission also notes how the State has taken action to limit some powers of popularly‐elected authorities in order to reduce the scope of public functions in the hands of members of the opposition.
  • The IACHR also notes a troubling trend of punishments, intimidation, and attacks on individuals in reprisal for expressing their dissent with official policy.
  • The Commission notes a trend toward the use of criminal charges to punish people exercising their right to demonstrate or protest against government policies.
  • The IACHR considers that the right to demonstrate in Venezuela is being restricted through the imposition of sanctions contained in provisions enacted by President Chávez’s government.
  • The Commission describes cases of people facing criminal charges for which they could be sentenced to prison terms of over twenty years in connection with their participation in antigovernment demonstrations.
  • In the Commission’s view, this practice constitutes a restriction of the rights of assembly and freedom of expression guaranteed in the American Convention, the free exercise of which is necessary for the correct functioning of a democratic system that includes all sectors of society.
  • The rules for the appointment, removal, and suspension of justices set out in the Organic Law of the Supreme Court of Justice lack the safeguards necessary to prevent other branches of government from undermining the Supreme Court’s independence and to keep narrow or temporary majorities from determining its composition.
  • Since judges are not appointed through public competitions, judges and prosecutors are freely appointed and removable, which seriously affects their independence in making decisions.
  • The Commission also describes how large numbers of judges have been removed or their appointments voided without the applicable administrative proceedings.
  • The numerous violent acts of intimidation carried out by private groups against journalists and media outlets, together with the discrediting declarations made by high‐ranking public officials against the media and journalists on account of their editorial lines and the systematic opening of administrative proceedings based on legal provisions that allow a high level of discretion in their application and enable drastic sanctions to be imposed, along with other elements, make for a climate of restriction that hampers the free exercise of freedom of expression as a prerequisite for a vigorous democracy based on pluralism and public debate.
  • The Commission observes with particular concern that there have been very serious violations of the rights to life and humane treatment in Venezuela as a result of the victims’ exercise of free expression.
  • The IACHR notes that recent months have seen an increase in administrative proceedings sanctioning media that criticize the government.
  • The Commission has also verified the existence of cases of prior censorship as a prototype of extreme and radical violations of freedom of expression in Venezuela.
  • The report also analyzes the impact on the right of free expression of the proceedings initiated in July 2009 toward the possible cancellation of 240 radio stations’ broadcasting concessions, and of the decision to order 32 stations to cease transmissions.
  • The Commission calls the attention of the Venezuelan State to the incompatibility between the current legal framework governing freedom of expression and its obligations under the American Convention.
  • The Commission also stresses that the offenses of desacato (disrespect) and viipendio (contempt) contained in the amendments to the Penal Code in force since 2005 are incompatible with the American Convention in that they restrict the possibilities of free, open, plural, and uninhibited discussion on matters of public importance.
  • The Commission also deals with the major obstacles faced by human rights defenders in their work in Venezuela. It also notes with concern that witnesses and relatives of the victims of human rights violations are frequently targeted by threats, harassment, and intimidation for denouncing violations.
  • The IACHR also finds that inadequate access to public information has hindered the work of defending human rights in Venezuela.
  • One of the issues relating to human rights in Venezuela of gravest concern to the Inter‐American Commission is that of public insecurity.
  • The IACHR’s report identifies certain provisions in the Venezuelan legal framework that are incompatible with a democratic approach to the defense and security of the State.
    During 2008, the Ombudsman’s Office recorded a total of 134 complaints involving arbitrary killings arising from the alleged actions of officers from different state security agencies. It also recorded a total of 2,197 complaints related to violations of humane treatment by state security officials. In addition, it reports receiving 87 allegations of torture and claims it is following up on 33 cases of alleged forced disappearances reported during 2008 and 34 reported during 2007.
  • Homicides, kidnappings, contract killings, and rural violence are the phenomena that most frequently affect the security of Venezuela’s citizens.
  • Information made available to the Commission indicates that in 2008, there were a total of 13,780 homicides in Venezuela, which averages out to 1,148 murders a month and 38 every day. The victims of these killings include an alarming number of children and adolescents.
  • The Commission’s report also notes with extreme concern that in Venezuela, violent groups such as the Movimiento Tupamaro, Colectivo La Piedrita, Colectivo Alexis Vive, Unidad Popular Venezolana, and Grupo Carapaica are perpetrating acts of violence with the involvement or acquiescence of state agents.
  • The Commission also continues with its observations on the alarmingly violent conditions within Venezuelan prisons.
  • The laws and policies pursued by the State have not been effective in guaranteeing the rights of women, particularly their right to a life free of violence.
  • The Commission notes in its report that impunity is a common characteristic that equally affects cases of reprisals against dissent, attacks on human rights defenders and on journalists, excessive use of force in response to peaceful protests, abuses of state force, common and organized crime, violence in prisons, violence against women, and other serious human rights violations.
  • On the other hand, in this report the Commission highlights the Venezuelan State’s major achievements in the fields of economic, social, and cultural rights, through legally recognizing the enforceability of the rights to education, to health, to housing, to universal social security, and other rights, as well as by implementing policies and measures aimed at remedying the shortcomings that affect vast sectors of the Venezuelan population.
  • The IACHR notes that the Missions have succeeded in improving the poverty situation and access to education and health among the traditionally‐excluded sectors of Venezuela’s population. Nevertheless, the Commission expresses concern at certain issues relating to the Missions as an axis of the government’s social policies.
  • The Commission notes that Venezuela is still characterized by constant intervention in the functioning of its trade unions, through actions of the State that hinder the activities of union leaders and that point to political control over the organized labor movement, as well as through rules that allow government agencies to interfere in the election of union leaders.
  • There you have it, the IACHR demonstrates that Venezuela is no longer a functioning democracy through the neglect and intimidation of a Government that discriminates its citizens even when they are in agreement with its policies. And, despite the Dictator’s claims, most of his policies show atotal disregard for the “people” that he claims to love so much.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

PMBComments | US Senate Committee Staff Weighs in on Insulza's Mess at the OAS

I think that Insulza has done nothing on the favor of Venezuelans. The situation in Venezuela have gone worse. I want the new Chilean presiden: Mr. Pinera kick him out of the OAS, he also has a strikeout.
vdebate reporter
PMBComments Attached you will find the US Senate report (drafted by Republican Staff of the very important Committee on Foreign Relations) titled "Multilateralism in the Americas: Let's Start by Fixing the OAS" that is the subject of the following Miami Herald and La Nación (Argentina) stories (read below).


Not that many people in the world, or even in our hemisphere, care for the OAS, an organization that has become disjointed and inconsistent under the leadership of its seemingly cowered Secretary General El Panzer (1), Jose Miguel Insulza. Nevertheless the study is brief enough to be worth a read by those of us who instinctively believe in the power, or the ultimate need, of multilateral mechanisms.

The conclusions of the report are reasonable and should be implemented ASAP. In addition to the need to focus SERIOUSLY on democracy and human rights, it calls for improved financial controls, and it ends chastising Insulza for his selective actions on behalf of democracy in the region it (highlights - as I have done on previous PMBComments - his repeated blunders in Honduras, his cowardly silence on Nicaragua and Venezuela, and his obsession with playing domestic politics in his native Chile). The report ends with a call to the member states to get their collective act in shape and worry about the kind of leadership that they elect on March 24th. While not calling outright for Mr. Insulza to abandon his hopes for a second term it states that his first term was a real disappointment.

Will this report hurt Insulza as the Miami Herald implies? Who knows? Countries - actually governments - like Brazil, that are die hard supporters of both Hugo Chávez and a weak OAS might actually redouble their efforts to give El Panzer 5 more years to graze in DC. Chileans - outgoing and incoming - might rally around him even though his misdeeds have lessened the country's well deserved influence and moral standing in the region. An then we have Venezuela which seems intent on a now farcical candidacy of its own making (let's remember Insulza was their darling in 2005. many still wonder why that was the case; What did Chávez and his acolytes know about Insulza that gave them comfort to have him at the helm of the OAS?). Putting these, and other considerations and calculations aside, it would benefit the OAS that Insulza does not push his luck and further traumatize the organization by pursuing a reelection he has most definitely not earned. PMB

(1) According to a top Chilean political analyst, Insulza loves the moniker El Panzer, which would seem to denote ruthless strength as in German tank, or armored military force, but in fact the this Congressional report highlights his sloppy management of the organization and his less than forceful resolve when it comes to facing the thugs that are really bullying democracy in the region. You can see the joy when he insults Honduras' Roberto Micheletti, and we have all witnessed his less than muscular response to Hugo Chávez 24/7 shenanigans. There is no panzer there.

Miami Herald
Congressional report could hurt OAS leader's reelection efforts


The head of the Organization of American States' campaign to win reelection took a hit Tuesday from a report complaining the OAS has failed to stop elected presidents from eroding democracy in the region.

``Given the challenges described in this report, no reelection should be rushed or rubber stamped,'' the U.S. congressional staff report said. ``Any reelection should involve a deliberative evaluation of the incumbent's first term in office.''

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, a Chilean socialist whose five-year-term ends in May, has said he wants to be relected, and so far is the only candidate. The 34-nation OAS is scheduled to vote Wednesday on holding the election in March.

But the report's withering criticism of the OAS and his performance may bolster opposition to Insulza's candidacy. Some Obama administration officials view him as too soft on leftists such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Washington provides 37 percent of the OAS' total budget.

Commissioned by Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the report was written by Carl Meacham, his senior staffer on the committee.

The report noted the OAS acted decisively when a military coup briefly toppled Chávez in 2002 and when Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was ousted and expelled from the country last summer. The organization also is strong on election monitoring, cooperation on counter-drug and counter-terrorism and the protection of human rights.

But the hemispheric body did little as Chávez and Zelaya slowly undermined democracy in their respective countries, the report added, arguing that those maneuverings in essence sparked the efforts to topple the two presidents.

``In both cases the OAS reacted forcefully to the [presidents' ousters] . . . yet it had demonstrably failed to respond to the erosion of democratic institutions by elected presidents that preceded the coups,'' it noted.

The report also said Insulza's strong support for Zelaya following his ouster complicated efforts to resolve the crisis, and that the OAS has failed to act as Chávez cracks down the Venezuelan news media and as Nicaraguans complain of massive fraud in elections last year.

The OAS also faces a $9.6 million budget shortfall in 2011, the report added, and will have to either raise members' contributions or tighten its belt and cut back on activities, the report added.

``The OAS requires a renewed effort to make it effective and financially solvent in the coming decade,'' Lugar wrote in a letter submitting the report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Insulza, a former interior and foreign minister in Chile's socialist governments, was elected secretary general in 2005 after a string of 17-17 votes against the U.S.-backed candidate, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.

Washington helped break the stalemate by throwing its support behind Insulza after he publicly promised to make the OAS a strong protector of democracy in the region, specifically mentioning Venezuela and Cuba.

His reelection prospects were complicated earlier this month when Chileans elected center-right candidate Sebastian Piñera as their next president. Without his own country's endorsement, Insulza's chances for reelections would be diminished.

Piñera has not yet said whether he will support Insulza, who campaigned for the center-left candidate in the presidential race, Eduardo Frei.

La OEA, en la mira del Congreso de EE.UU.

Críticas a Insulza en un informe republicano
Martes 26 de enero de 2010 Publicado en edición impresa

WASHINGTON (De nuestra corresponsal).- La crisis de Honduras parece haber sido el disparador. Pero lo cierto es que, tras meses de marchas y contramarchas, la habilidad de la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) para intervenir en crisis institucionales está en la mira en esta ciudad. Parte del descontento apunta contra su titular, el chileno José Miguel Insulza.

"La OEA tiene que resolver una cuestión crucial de liderazgo. El secretario Insulza no ha cumplido con las promesas que hizo al asumir y, por la salud de la institución, es conveniente que los países miembros consideren las condiciones que debe tener su titular y no den por garantizada ninguna reelección", dice un durísimo informe del Congreso norteamericano.

Titulado "Multilateralismo en América. Empecemos por arreglar la OEA", el documento , al que tuvo acceso LA NACION, fue elaborado por la oficina del senador republicano Richard Lugar, uno de los hombres más influyentes en la Comisión de Relaciones Exteriores del cuerpo.

De 27 páginas, el informe, sumamente crítico sobre la situación de la OEA y la gestión de su actual titular, será formalmente difundido en los próximos días.

Si bien destaca la trascendencia de la organización americana, el documento pone en duda su eficacia a la hora de trabajar en la promoción de la democracia en la región.

"Tiende a reaccionar cuando hay una situación clara de golpe de Estado, pero no cuando hay un deterioro gradual de la democracia por culpa de gobiernos que abusan de sus poderes constitucionales", subraya.

También señala la grave crisis financiera que atraviesa la organización, con dinero siempre insuficiente, lo que se traduce en incapacidad real para operar. Estados Unidos es el país que carga con la mayor parte del sostén económico de la entidad. Y a la luz de los refuerzos presupuestarios que deberían hacerse, el impacto del informe podría ser crucial.

La nota es especialmente crítica en lo que se refiere al manejo de la organización y de su secretario general en la reciente crisis de Honduras, donde, entre otros puntos, reprocha la falta de capacidad para lograr "un compromiso" entre las dos partes en juego. Y el hecho de que esa incapacidad motivara la intervención de otros actores internacionales.

En el tramo final, el texto carga especialmente contra Insulza, a quien cuestiona por haber estado "más atento al destino político de Chile", con una situación especialmente complicada en lo personal por haberse manifestado "públicamente" a favor del derrotado aspirante Eduardo Frei.

En el informe se acusa a Insulza de aplicar una "política selectiva de defensa de la democracia", en referencia a las situaciones en Venezuela y Honduras. "La asociación del secretario general con el abortado intento de retorno del presidente Manuel Zelaya, el 5 de julio, dañó seriamente la imagen de la OEA como un agente honesto", afirma.

"Desafortunadamente, la OEA está fallando en su misión. Hoy por hoy, si más gobiernos del hemisferio se vuelven poco democráticos, la OEA será aún menos capaz de reforzar, colectivamente, los procedimientos para reforzar la democracia", afirma el texto, que lleva como carta de presentación una nota firmada por el senador Lugar.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dictaorships and double Standards

Article Dictatorships and Double Standards--By Amb. Jaime Daremblum

Excellent article by the former Ambassador of Costa Rica to the US. Worth pondering...and particularly for some member countries of the OAS and the organization's current leadership. PMB

Dictatorships and Double Standards
Cuba doesn't belong in the OAS.
by Jaime Daremblum

In all my years as an observer of international affairs, I have seldom seen the Organization of American States (OAS) so energized by a single issue. If only that issue were the humanitarian tragedy of Haiti, or the defense of democracy in those member countries where it is under siege--such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. Instead, the OAS has been hell-bent on extending membership to Communist Cuba, which, until last week, had been suspended from the regional group since 1962.

In a consensus vote on June 3, OAS members endorsed Cuba's right to rejoin the organization. But Fidel Castro wants no part of that. He blasted the OAS as an "an accomplice in all the crimes committed against Cuba." Cuban National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcón announced that, regardless of the decision to end Cuba's formal suspension, the Communist regime had no desire to be an OAS member.
For its part, the United States supported the pro-Cuba resolution but insisted that it include a provision that Havana's reentry into the organization must account for OAS "practices, proposals and principles." In other words, Cuba's return will not be automatic; the process will entail a dialogue initiated by Havana and will require Cuba's compliance with various stipulations. "Membership in the OAS must come with responsibilities," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "and we owe it to each other to uphold our standards of democracy and governance that have brought so much progress to our hemisphere."
Most Latin American and Caribbean countries--led by Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, the radical Sandinista leader--argue that Cuba's readmittance into the OAS should be unconditional. As an AP story put it, "The United States is largely isolated within the OAS in demanding conditions." It is troubling that so many Latin governments are eager to let a totalitarian regime join a club of democracies without asking that regime to make any commitments on human rights. The 1962 OAS resolution that expelled Cuba was quite clear: "The present Government of Cuba, which has officially identified itself as a Marxist-Leninist government, is incompatible with the principles and objectives of the inter-American system." Cuba remains a Communist government that crushes dissent and jails democracy activists. Its political system is no more compatible with OAS "principles and objectives" in 2009 than it was in 1962.
All 34 OAS members are now bound by the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which was adopted in 2001. Its language is equally clear: "Member states are responsible for organizing, conducting, and ensuring free and fair electoral processes." In addition: "Member states reaffirm their intention to strengthen the inter-American system for the protection of human rights for the consolidation of democracy in the Hemisphere."
Bringing a totalitarian dictatorship into the OAS would make a mockery of those words. Yet Havana's non-participation in the OAS has become a cause célèbre throughout the region. The push to let Cuba rejoin the OAS is part of a larger Latin American effort to end Cuba's isolation in the Western Hemisphere. Some Latin nations are even lobbying intensely for the United States to repeal its embargo against the Communist island. They would have more credibility in arguing this position if they showed greater concern over Cuba's severe human rights violations. Unfortunately, while Latin governments tend to get loud and boisterous when it comes to denouncing the U.S. embargo, they are generally quiet and meek in their criticism of Cuban repression.
For that matter, these same governments have also been remarkably quiet about Hugo Chávez's depredations in Venezuela and the antidemocratic maneuvers of his cronies in Nicaragua (Ortega) and Bolivia (Evo Morales). Chávez has been steadily consolidating an authoritarian regime without hearing much disapproval from his fellow OAS members. Indeed, by and large, Latin American and Caribbean nations have failed to stand up for Venezuelan democracy while Chávez has been demolishing it. (The Venezuelan strongman is now harassing his country's last remaining independent television station.)
The abandonment of Venezuela's anti-Chávez opposition has not been Latin America's finest hour. Some of the region's current leaders--including Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet--were once pro-democracy dissidents fighting against dictatorial regimes. At the time, they received support from Venezuelan democrats. Today, as Venezuelan democracy crumbles under the boot of an autocrat, they are mostly silent.
The political transformation of Latin America was one of the great democratic success stories of the late 20th century. But now, with Haiti falling deeper into its tragedy, and democracy under attack in Venezuela and elsewhere, some regional officials have decided that embracing a Stalinist dictatorship is more important than aiding a poor nation and defending freedom. They should be ashamed.
Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica's ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Hugo Chavez threatens to take opposition TV station off air

What is happening in Venezuela is sad....... and there are few International institutions saying anything against the Venezuelan Government (Hugo Chavez) abuse, specially the OAS which was the reason that institution was founded.
Anyway, we the Venezuelans should be proud to have this TV station Globovision that has defended bravely our Venezuelans constitution rights.
vdebate reporter.
Federico Ravell - President of Globovision

President Hugo Chavez has threatened to take Venezuela's last major opposition-run television station off the air.

By Jeremy McDermott, Latin America Correspondent

The latest move to undermine opponents of the Leftist leader was made amid a frenetic campaign to seize control of privately held businesses, with his government running short of funds due to the fall in world oil prices.
Nicolas Maduro, the president of the Mr Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela, accused the 24-hour news channel Globovision of "media terrorism", describing the station and its director, Alberto Ravell, as "violators of the constitution and of the rights of Venezuelans" as well as being "anti-democratic, failed and fascist".
The allegations are denied by the station. Mr Ravell said that the government investigation was "laughable" and meant to intimidate the media.
The government has already refused to renew the licence of one opposition media network.
The attack on the independent media is just the latest sign that Mr Chavez's democratically elected government is turning ever more authoritarian as it seeks to sustain its generous social programmes and aggressive foreign policy.
On Friday Mr Chavez sent troops to seize the operations of foreign-owned oil service companies, tightening his grip on the industry as low crude prices pinch the Opec nation's finances.
"We have started to nationalise all these activities connected to oil exploitation," he said from on board a confiscated boat. "This is a revolutionary offensive."
Human rights groups and political think tanks are also under assault, with the national assembly, which is controlled by Chavez loyalists, due to pass legislation aimed at controlling their finances.
Under the new law, all funding will pass through a central account managed by the government.
The director of perhaps the most outspoken opposition organisation, Sumate, said that the measure was an attempt to shut down government critics.
"This is a mechanism to silence voices that have great credibility within and outside the country," said Mari­a Corina Machado.
Mr Chavez's leading political opponent, Manuel Rosales, who challenged him for the presidency in 2006, has meanwhile fled to Peru where he has been granted asylum, after being charged with corruption at home.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Socialism vs Labour

Sad that my pretty country is destroying by one man: "Hugo Chavez", and the venezuelan citizens against Chavez don't know what else to do......
vdebate reporter
May 7th 2009
Curbing opposition to chavismo
HIS government espouses "21st-century socialism" and claims to stand for the working class. Yet Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, has never been a fan of his country's trade unions. He portrays them as corrupt vestiges of a capitalist past and of the previous political order. Ever since he was first elected, in 1998, he has sought ways to bring them to heel.
Having first tried and failed to take over the main trade-union confederation, he encouraged a pro-government rival. Now he wants to bypass the unions altogether, by establishing in their place "workers' councils" that amount to branches of the ruling Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

A bill in the government-controlled National Assembly would eliminate collective bargaining and give powers in labour matters to the new councils. "The government's policy is the total elimination of the union movement," says Orlando Chirino, a former CHAVISTA who is one of the architects of the Labour Solidarity Movement, a new group which embraces unions from both sides of the country's political divide and which defends union autonomy.

The bill comes hand-in-hand with the slowdown in the economy and a government crackdown on opposition politicians. Its onslaught on the unions, and its refusal to negotiate collective contracts--or to respect them once signed--is meeting resistance. Labour disputes are increasing, from 46 in January, to 59 in February and 113 in March, according to figures compiled by Victorino Marquez, a labour specialist at the Catholic University in Caracas.

With budgets slashed following the fall in the oil price, the government can no longer buy industrial peace. It is starting to resort to force. A strike in the Caracas metro was averted by the threat of military intervention. Mr Chavez called the metro workers "corrupt" for insisting on the implementation of an agreement that had already been signed. According to press reports, dozens of trade unionists are being prosecuted. Their alleged crimes include "subversion" and holding demonstrations in "security zones" such as those around big factories.
Scores have been murdered, in disputes over contracts that mainly involve pro-government unions.

Only about 11% of the workforce belongs to a union. The bedrock of Mr Chavez's support has long lain with non-unionised workers in the vast informal economy. But unionised workers are concentrated in important parts of the economy, including the oil industry and the heavy-industrial centre of Ciudad Guayana in the south-east. Both are in ferment over wage demands. Disputes are also brewing among teachers, health workers and in the electricity industry.

The oil industry could be the biggest flashpoint. The government is refusing to negotiate wages and conditions until the oil workers' federation elects a new leadership in a ballot due later this month.

There are signs that the government wants to delay the vote. The budget of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state-owned oil company, has been slashed by more than half this year. Rafael Ramirez, the energy minister and head of PDVSA, said there would be no pay rise, even though inflation is close to 30%. He later backtracked.

Mr Chavez insists that only the rich will pay the price of the impending recession. But workers are already feeling its effects. The government seems to welcome the looming confrontation with the unions, as an opportunity to crush dissent and take Mr Chavez's "revolution" to the next level. Jorge Giordani, the planning minister, said recently that the inflation rate should not be the main factor in setting the minimum wage. He added that he knew of no example in the world where socialism had been established on the basis of abundance. "Socialism has emerged from scarcity," he declared.

On May Day the politically divided unions staged two separate marches, as they have for the past few years. The non-government march was broken up by police and national-guard troops using tear gas and water-cannon. "There is no socialism without the working class," Mr Chavez told a rival march of his supporters. By fomenting division and repressing dissent, Mr Chavez may succeed in crushing the labour movement. With it would go one of the few remaining institutions of democracy and pluralism in Venezuela. And Mr Giordani may get the chance to implement the socialism of scarcity in what was once the richest country in Latin America.
See this article with graphics and related items at

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Treasure Targets Venezuelan - Washington DC

The US government is doing the right thing here. These Venezuelans were helping FARC that is a Colombian terrorist group. Actually where are the OAS - Organization of American States? Why they NEVER say something important, on favor of Justice, Human Rights violations, corruption, narcotraffics, etc. Sad.........
vdebate reporter
Treasury Targets Venezuelan Government Officials Supporting the FARC
Washington, DC
The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of ForeignAssets Control (OFAC) today designated two senior Venezuelan governmentofficials, Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, andone former official, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, for materially assisting thenarcotics trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia(FARC), a narco-terrorist organization.
"Today's designation exposes two senior Venezuelan government officials and one former official who armed, abetted, and funded the FARC, even as itterrorized and kidnapped innocents," said Adam J. Szubin, Director of OFAC."
This is OFAC's sixth action in the last ten months against the FARC.
We will continue to target and isolate those individuals and entities that aid the FARC's deadly narco-terrorist activities in the Americas."
Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios is the Director of Venezuela's MilitaryIntelligence Directorate (DGIM). His assistance to the FARC includes protecting drug shipments from seizure by Venezuelan anti-narcotics authorities and providing weapons to the FARC, allowing them to maintain their strong hold of the coveted Arauca Department.
Arauca, which is located on theColombia/Venezuela border, is known for coca cultivation and cocaine production.
Carvajal Barrios also provides the FARC with official Venezuelan government identification documents that allow FARC members to travel to and from Venezuela with ease.
Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, the Director of Venezuela's Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services or DISIP, is in charge of intelligence and counter intelligence activities for the Venezuelan government.
Rangel Silva has materially assisted the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC. He has also pushed for greater cooperation between the Venezuelan government and theFARC.
Ramon Emilio Rodriguez Chacin, who was Venezuela's Minister of Interior andJustice until September 8, is the Venezuelan government's main weapons contact for the FARC. The FARC uses its proceeds from narcotics sales to purchase weapons from the Venezuelan government. Rodriguez Chacin has held numerous meetings with senior FARC members, one of which occurred atthe Venezuelan government's Miraflores Palace in late 2007.
Rodriguez Chacin has also assisted the FARC by trying to facilitate a $250 million dollar loan from the Venezuelan government to the FARC in late 2007.
We cannot confirmwhether the loan materialized.
On May 29, 2003, President George W. Bush identified the FARC as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker, or drug kingpin, pursuant to the KingpinAct.
In 2001, the State Department designated the FARC as a SpeciallyDesignated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224, and in 1997 asa Foreign Terrorist Organization.
This OFAC action continues ongoing efforts under the Kingpin Act to apply financial measures against significant foreign narcotics traffickers and their organizations worldwide.
In addition to the 75 drug kingpins that have been designated by the President, 460 businesses and individuals have been designated pursuant to the Kingpin Act since June 2000.
Today's action freezes any assets the designated entities and individuals may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions involving those assets.
Penalties for violations ofthe Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,075,000 per violation tomore severe criminal penalties.
Criminal penalties for corporate officers mayinclude up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000,000. Criminal fines forcorporations may reach $10,000,000.
Other individuals face up to 10 years inprison for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code.For a complete list of the individuals and entities designated today, please visit:
To view previous OFAC actions directed against the FARC, please visit:
Treasury Action against the FARC on July 31, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/.gov/press/ releases/ hp1096.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on May 7, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp966.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on April 22, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp938.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on January 15, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp762.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on November 1, 2007
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp661.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on September 28, 2006
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp119.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on February 19, 2004
(link:http://www.ustreas/. gov/press/ releases/ js1181.htm)

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Silencing RCTV and Danny Glover

Debunking the Bunk
by Alexandra Beech
They keep coming. Emails and articles loaded with arguments justifying the silencing of a major television network in Venezuela. The arguments, published on websites funded by the Venezuelan government in Washington and else where, have been regurgitated throughout the country through viral email campaigns mimicking grassroots efforts. Here are a few, and my response.
The government's decision was "legal and legitimate one based on their constitution which guarantees and regulates the access and use of airwaves for the benefit of the general public." Legal and legitimate are loaded words, right?
To keep it simple, let's say that "legal" is following the law. Here's a little legal information, just for kicks: in May, 1987, the government published a decree numbered 1577. This degree was published in an "official gaceta", a document which contains all government decrees. That document was numbered 33,796, in case anyone is interested in reading the law. Included inside that decree is an article which states that licences (or concessions) shall be automatically renewed for a period of twenty years, when "always and when all regulations have been met." Automatically is a pretty straightforward word, but for those out there scratching your heads, "automatic" means, "Acting or operating in a manner essentially independent of external influence or control."Call me crazy, but if the regulations were met, the law is pretty clear. The licence should have "automatically been renewed."
Oh, says Glover and the Venezuela Information Office. But the regulations weren't met. What regulations?
Under what legal system was the evidence of a breach presented?
In what court were the "regulations" described? I
n what court did RCTV exercise its legal right to defend itself?
There was no court case. There was no legal proceeding. No one notified RCTV. It just happened. Legal and legitimate what?
(By the way, a legal notification doesn't take place on television. Yes, Chavez's threats don't count.)
RCTV "has not been silenced, for it can continue broadcasting by cable, satellite and Internet!"
With a 20% inflation rate, asking the poor to subscribe to cable, and/or buy a satellite dish, and/or buy a computer and subscribe to an Internet service smacks of...discrimination?
RCTV's position on channel two (Very High Frequency), combined with its transmission equipment, guaranteed that anyone with a TV and an antennae could see it. Around 35% of Venezuelans tuned in every day, making it the most watched network in the country.
Where is RCTV today?
Can any Venezuelan with a television watch it? No. That, my friends, is SILENCING.
The RCTV "programming has been sexist, racist and pejorative.
"Was it "sexist" when Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Juan Barreto - a member of Chavez's (most) inner circle - said, "You can't trust an animal that bleeds every month when it hasn't been injured, the woman."
Or when Chavez said on national television to the former First Lady on Valentine's Day in 2000, "Prepare yourself, Marisabel, because tonight you're getting what's yours."
Or when Chavez addressed US Secretary of State Rice by saying, "How are you? You've forgotten me, missy ..."
Or, when in another speech, Chavez said Secretary Rice, "continues to show she is a total illiterate. It seems she dreams of me. I could invite her meet with me to see what happens. First she said she was angry. The next day she said that she felt sad and depressed because of Chavez. Oh daddy! Forget about me. That lady has such bad luck! I won’t make that sacrifice for the country. Let someone else do it. Cristobal Jimenez, Nicolas Maduro or Juan Barreto, who is single”.
I can't imagine how those statements would be interpreted as anything other than sexist and vulgar, and yet these two men are televised on every network, and no one has accused them of "sexism."
Concerning RCTV's purported racism, could there be more diversity on television?
Yes, in Venezuela and everywhere, including the US.
Is anyone protesting in front of Univision, BET, Bravo, CBS, NBC, UPN, ABC and Telemundo?
Not the last time I checked. And since when is race an excuse to silence a television network?
Finally, the word "pejorative", which means "having a disparaging, derogatory, or belittling effect or force."Never in the history of Venezuela has a president belittled his own people as Chavez has. No, he hasn't belittled his supporters, (I know what you were going to say, Glover!) I mean, those who don't agree with him, who signed against him, who voted against him - all constitutional rights.
He has called them, "squalids, coup-plotters, CIA agents, brain-washed"...and the list goes on. He called Bush and OAS Secretary General Insulza "pendejo" - which literally means pubic hair, and figuratively means asshole or idiot. We may not like either men - but we may not, as presidents, go around calling others "pubic hair" without being "pejorative." And yet no one has insisted that Chavez be removed from television.
RCTV "actively participated in the 2002 coup against President Chavez" because it "prohibited its reporters to broadcast Chavez's reinstatement in office."
To actively participate in a military coup, don't you have to call the military to take up arms against a president?
Did RCTV call on the military to take up arms against Chavez?
Has any Venezuelan court determined that those events were, in fact, a "coup"? (I'll publish any court decision you send me stating that the events were a "coup.") The other privately owned networks also failed to report the re-instatement of Chavez.
Why were their licenses renewed?
Could it be because they changed their editorial stance to favor the government?
As government special envoy Roy Chaderton recently said to Dow Jones in Madrid, "with the other stations, we took a political decision. They have rectified and the government considered it positive for democracy."
Does that sound like the government was upset over a coup, or over an editorial stance? Chaderton's words were repeated in New York by Consul General Leonor Osorio, who said, "The renter has behaved badly. His contract wasn't renewed." This folks, is censorship and persecution.According to one RCTV insider, there was a reason that reporters didn't venture into the streets on April 13th and 14th. After the shooting and killing of demonstrators by snipers on April 11th 2002, the country was in chaos, and many editors chose to ask network news reporters to stay home until further notice.
To date, the government hasn't created a "Truth Commission" to determine what exactly took place April 11-13, despite an accord reached between the government and the opposition under the mediation of the Carter Center and the Organization of American States which called for a thorough investigation of the sad events.
Finally, let's get real here. The government run and controlled media doesn't cover opposition events, including the student protests that recently roiled the nation. Any time hundreds of thousands of protestors crowd the streets, the government media uses the image of one empty street or avenue to "depict" the protest.
Reporters from banned networks (Globovision, and until recently RCTV) aren't allowed to enter many government functions. Government leaders, including Chavez, insult reporters who question them in any way. Chavez takes over the airwaves whenever he feels like it by forcing networks to broadcast his speeches. This revolution has been televised and televised and televised and televised and televised. Ad nauseum.
The FCC in the US would have immediately shut down a television network if it broadcast statements calling for the removal of Bush."Let's envision that scenario. Rosie O'Donnell goes on National Television and starts saying that Bush needs to be removed from office. Oh wait! That probably already happened. Let's use another example. A prominent general says that Bush needs to be removed from office. He states, "I call on all soldiers to attack the White House." Would the government go after the network or after the general?
And if, by chance, Catie Couric joined the general in calling for the removal of Bush, wouldn't the FCC investigate, and possibly fine her network?
And wouldn't Congress call for hearings?
And would there be lawyers and yes, DUE PROCESS?
Please stop saying that the FCC would automatically shut down a television network. It's simply false.
In an interview with the Philadephia Inquirer on May 17, actor/producer Danny Glover said that "a foundation of democracy is due process."
Clearly, there was no due process in the RCTV case, and therefore the government's decision was both illegal and illegitimate.
In the same article, Glover states "In a democracy, it is important that all sides of a situation are heard not just the side that's coercively fashioned for us to hear."
Unfortunately, by Mr. Glover's criteria, Venezuela is no longer a democracy. Every VHF channel in Venezuela now only airs one side, and that is Chavez's side. Fortunately for Mr. Glover and Chavez's apologists in the United States, it is the side that they ardently defend.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Latin America and the New Age of Mediocrity

A recent travesty in Latin American history was the failure of the Organization of American States to address Venezuela's media crisis when it assembled in Panama.
If, as an Afghan saying goes, a river is muddy from its source, it is clear that a lack of leadership, both at the OAS and in its member countries, contributed to this oversight, leaving Venezuela, if not the region, vulnerable to a further erosion of press freedoms.
Condoning the closure of a major television network in Venezuela, the OAS sent two signals: one, that Chavez will get away with illegal and unconstitutional measures; and two, that member nations will not punish each other for violating the democratic principles which purportedly underlie the OAS Charter.
For instance, Article 17 in Chapter IV of the Charter states that
"Each State has the right to develop its cultural, political, and economic life freely and naturally. In this free development, the State shall respect the rights of the individual and the principles of universal morality."
By failing to provide any legal procedure or justification for its refusal to renew RCTV's broadcast license, the Venezuelan government clearly violated the rights of Venezuelans to access information. The government's decision was purely political, and not "administrative" as claimed by Insulza. During an interview with Dow Jones that took place on May 31, Venezuela's special envoy Roy Chaderton said that the reason the government had renewed the licenses of other private networks was that they had amended their editorial stances to suit the government. "With (other stations) we took a political decision. They have rectified and the government considered it positive for democracy." His claim was corroborated in New York by Consul General Leonor Osorio during an interview with NY1Noticias en Espanol, during which she repeated Chaderton's stance in Madrid: "The renter has behaved badly, so we didn't renew his contract." To claim that the decision was administrative is a misguided attempt to cover the important fact that the Venezuelan government violated "the principles of universal morality", for which it must be investigated.
By failing to take any action regarding Venezuela, the Organization of American States has lost its mandate to ensure that nations in the Western Hemisphere adhere to democratic principles. The OAS, for all intents and purposes, has plenty of intent but no purpose.
Perhaps the leaders of member countries took this decision out of self preservation. Chavez, after all, has proven he has the political will and financial might to fight his woes, and he finds allies everywhere: Joe Kennedy helped him poke his finger in Bush's eye by facilitating cheap heating oil to poor communities in the US, Rafael Correa poked two fingers in Alvaro Noboa's eyes in Ecuador, Ollanta Humala made a mockery of Peru's sovereignty, and in Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador missed Felipe Calderon's eyes by one or two inches.
Chavez's candidates have won or nearly won everywhere. In fact, Chavez today sways more power over Latin nations than any other president.
His sole opponent, the US, is still scraping the egg off its face, as Condoleeza Rice's plea for an investigation of Venezuela's government blew through Panama like a breeze.
The mediocrity of the OAS leadership was well demonstrated in a recent interview conducted by El Pais, a leading Spanish newspaper, with OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, who said the OAS wouldn't take measures against Venezuela for removing the most popular television network from a prominent VHF placement, exiling RCTV to satellite and cable, where opposition voices will never be heard again.
In the interview, it becomes eerily apparent that Insulza and other member nations disagreed with the measure against RCTV, but plan to do nothing to investigate it.
Meanwhile, Insulza, trying to save face or whatever reputation he can salvage among the civilized, has been pedaling like a storm-caught duck trying to justify the unjustifiable. Not only has he said in private meetings in Washington that he disagrees with the measure "in his heart", but he has expressed his observations in the media. In the disturbing interview with El Pais, titled "Latin America Avoids Confronting Chavez," he claims he was "displeased" by the government's decision, but could do nothing about it because Chavez's hadn't invited the OAS to Venezuela.
He ends by saying, "I hope Venezuela continues to be a democratic country." Clearly, a country with no dissenting voices on any VHF (Very High Frequency) channel - and where the only UHF channel courageous enough to question the government is under threat - can no longer be labeled "democratic".
Perhaps defining "democratic" is where Secretary General Insulza's ignorance lies.
Please review the article below, and draw your own conclusions. Ask yourself what greater men, such as Churchill would do. It seems the age of courage, wisdom, and might may have come to an end, at least in Latin America.

El Pais
Latin America Avoids Confronting Chavez
June 10, 2007
Despite the street protests in Caracas and political pressure emerging from the United States, the Organization of American States (OAS) is not going to take measures against Venezuela for the closure of the opposition channel Radio Caracas TV ( RCTV), according to an announcement by the secretary general of that multinational organization, José Miguel Insulza.
This decision, which means a victory for the Hugo Chávez government, reflects the will of the regional group of countries to avoid any conflict with the controversial Venezuelan president.
"The suspension of the Radio Caracas TV's concession is a measure not liked by member countries, but nobody has asked for a condemnation of something that constitutes an administrative decision by a government in whose governance we cannot interfere," thus affirms Insulza at an interview granted to EL PAÍS at his Washington office.
None of the OAS members requested measures against the Venezuelan government at the organization's General Assembly, held at the beginning of this week in Panama. Most of the countries, according to Latin American diplomatic sources, consider the closing down of RCTV to be an abusive measure by Hugo Chávez, but is not reason enough for provoking a confrontation with Venezuela, at the moment one of the most economically active counties on the continent thanks to the oil boom.
The leading Latin American governments fear, furthermore, that action by the OAS in answer to a decision they all make routinely-the concession and suspension of television licenses-would have set a very dangerous precedent.
Up until now the United States Executive Branch has not taken sides in the conflict with Chávez despite his continuous provocations. Nevertheless, its representative arrived at the OAS Assembly under pressure from a resolution by the US Senate approved unanimously a few days prior which condemned the closure of RCTV as an act "against freedom of expression" and petitioned the OAS for action.
Consequently, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, at the Panama meeting petitioned the secretary general of the OAS to use his good offices to study the conditions under which RCTV was closed.
Insulza nevertheless explains in the interview that an action of this nature requires, according to the OAS Charter, the approval of the rest of the countries and the acceptance of the country being affected, none of which conditions were present.
On the one hand, at the Assembly none of the countries called out to condemn Venezuela. On the other hand, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro had already warned in Panama that he would not give his consent to any kind of investigation by Insulza.
The Secretary General of the OAS is therefore disempowered from taking personal action in the matter. "I stand among those who were displeased by the RCTV decision, but nobody believes that this is reason for provoking a break-up within the institution," thus affirms Insulza.
Although he shares in the criterion that the closure of Radio Caracas TV constitutes "an administrative action," he believes that this measure "turned into a political sanction the moment the Venezuelan government adduced political reasons for taking such action."
Insulza recalls that the withdrawal of RCTV's license-officially was not renewed upon expiration of its term of issuance-took place after Chávez himself accused the channel of having supported the attempted coup d'état of 2002 and of habitually maintaining "fascist" points of view.
The Secretary General of the OAS expects, despite everything, to maintain contact with the member nations in order to study what other measures can be taken with respect to Venezuela. Nor does he discard the possibility of sometime traveling to that country in order to analyze the situation more closely, although he points out that that will not be soon.
"I hope Venezuela continues to be a democratic country. My mission is not going to be that of exacerbating the process of a break-up, because what this continent needs is unity," thus assured Insulza .
© Diario EL PAÍS S.L. - Miguel Yuste 40 - 28037 Madrid [España] - Tel. 91 337 8200

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