A March 9 press release by the Washington-based Venezuela Information Office (VIO) pointed out that a US State Department report released on March 6 "reveals that Venezuela strives to guarantee human rights and in fact, is beefing up measures to provide accessible avenues for lodging complaints and holding violators accountable".
Allegations that the government of President Hugo Chavez is responsible for increasing attacks on democracy and human rights are widely repeated by Venezuela's right-wing opposition, the US government and the corporate media. It comes as no surprise, then, that the US State Department's 2006 County Reports on Human Rights Practices, released on March 6, singled out Venezuela and Cuba as having the "worst" human rights records in the region. However, the VIO statement points out that this conclusion is contradicted by the content of the report itself.
In a fact sheet available on its website http://www.rethinkingvenezuela.com, the VIO states: "Although the report begins by speculating that in Venezuela there is 'Politicization of the judiciary, harassment of the media, and harassment of the political opposition ...' it offers little concrete evidence to back up its claims."
The VIO points out that the state department report actually notes that the "constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right in practice". The reported also noted that "A wide variety of independent domestic and international human rights groups" operated "without government restriction investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases", and that the government was receptive to their findings.
The report found that "There were no reports that the government or its agents committed any politically motivated killings". In cases where security forces were implicated in human rights abuses, the report details strong action taken by the government, included dozens of arrests and the jailing of those responsible. The report also stated there was a lack of interference with academic freedom, no restrictions on internet access, and that "While the law permits the president to suspend telecommunications broadcasts, it was not invoked during the year ..." The report also noted that "On December 3, voters reelected Hugo Chavez as president in elections that observers judged to be free and fair".
The VIO called on Washington to make its assessments without political bias, pointing out that Washington has been accused of letting "political considerations" — the US administration's strong opposition to the Chavez government and its challenge to US corporate domination of Venezuela and Latin America — distort findings over issues like human rights.
"Focusing on alleged human rights issues with long term structural problems and largely unfounded accusations by government opponents cannot be substituted for hard evidence", commented VIO executive director Olivia Goumbri. "As this report points out, Venezuela has not engaged in organized campaigns of torture, police repression, or killing."
The full state department report can be read at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78909.htm.