[News] Latest Human Rights Watch Report: 30 Lies about Venezuela

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 23 17:54:32 EST 2014

  Latest Human Rights Watch Report: 30 Lies about Venezuela


By Tamara Pearson- Venezuelanalysis.com, January 23rd 2014

In the six pages that HRW dedicates to Venezuela in its World Report 
2014, <http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/wr2014_web.pdf> 
released this week, it manages to tell at least 30 serious lies, 
distortions, and omissions. Pointing out these lies is important, 
because many people believe that HRW is a neutral authority on human 
rights, and the mainstream press publish articles and headlines based on 
HRW report conclusions. Here are some of the headlines in both English 
and Spanish (translated to English) that have come out of the 2014 report:

Global Post -- Venezuela intimidates opponents, media: HRW report 
, PanAm Post -- Human Rights Watch: A black eye for Latin America 
, AFP -- HRW criticises Venezuela in its annual report on human rights 
El Economista -- HRW: Democracy in Venezuela is fictitious 
El Universal -- Human Rights Watch report denounces persecution of media 
in Venezuela 
El Siglo -- Human Rights Watch: Venezuela is an example of "fictitious 
El Colombiano: HRW describes Venezuela as a fictitious democracy 
, NTN24 -- HRW warns that Venezuelan government applies "arbitrary" 
measures against media that is critical of its policies 

The headlines which talk about a "fictitious" or "feigned" democracy, 
are referring to the start of the report, where HRW put Venezuela, along 
with other countries, under the category of "abusive majoritarianism". 
There, HRW provides a very limited definition of democracy; "periodic 
elections, the rule of law, and respect for the human rights of all" and 
argues that Venezuela has adopted "the form but not the substance of 
democracy". HRW cites Diosdado Cabello not letting legislators who 
didn't recognise democratically elected President Maduro speak in 
parliament -- yet the punishment seems soft, considering the crime.

Below, I've grouped the lies and omissions according to HRW's own 
subheadings in its chapter on Venezuela. Unlike with other countries 
such as the US, HRW omits all of Venezuela's human rights achievements 
in its assessment, and in reality a range of other subheadings would be 
deserving, such has right to have access to housing, people's right to 
be consulted about policy, right of the poorer people to be heard in the 
media, right to education, the right to health care, to land, and so on. 
Of course, nowhere in the report does HRW mention the economic crimes 
committed by the business sector against Venezuelans' right to access 
affordable goods (hoarding, speculation, etc).

*15 lies and distortions*


1/. "The Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council rejected 
appeals filed by the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, 
challenging the results [of the April 2013 presidential elections]"./ -- 
The CNE did meet with the opposition and they came to an agreement to do 
a manual recount of the remaining 46% of votes which hadn't already been 
revised on the day of the election. The entire recount was televised 
live. Given how incredibly flimsy Capriles' "evidence" was, the Supreme 
Court would have been ridiculing itself to do anything but reject his case.

2. /"Under the leadership of President Chavez and now President Maduro, 
the accumulation of power in the executive branch and the erosion of 
human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, 
censor, and prosecute its critics."/ -- HRW offers very little evidence 
to substantiate such accusations. The reality is the opposite; private 
media makes up the vast majority of the media, and freely criticises the 
government on a daily basis, to the point where it invents news and 
blames the national government for things it isn't even responsible for. 
Just last week here in Merida a few opposition students held a protest 
by burning tires on a main road. For a week, traffic to a key hospital 
was blocked, and the students had no placards stating the reason for 
their protest. The police closed off the roads around them to protect 
their right to protest.

3. /"In September 2013, the Venezuelan government's decision to withdraw 
from the American Convention on Human Rights took effect, leaving 
Venezuelans without access to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, 
an international tribunal that has protected their rights for decades in 
a wide array of cases."/ - The IACHR has not protected Venezuelans' 
rights. From 1969-1998, a repressive period of disappearances, political 
repression, and massacres such as those at Cantaura, Yumare, and the 
Caracazo, it only considered six cases, and of those only one was 
brought to the commission. In contrast, from 1999 to 2011 it ruled on 
and processed a total of 23 cases. It did not take any action after the 
coup attempt against democratically elected president Hugo Chavez in 2002.

Post-Election Violence

4. "/Security forces used excessive force and arbitrary detentions to 
disperse anti-government demonstrations after the April elections, 
according to local groups/". -Though it may have varied from region to 
region, unlike HRW, I was at those protests, and took photos of and 
interviewed opposition protesters in Merida -- one of their strongholds. 
Despite threatening to take over and destroy the CNE and the PSUV head 
offices, with large piles of projectiles like rocks and shrapnel and 
Molotov cocktails, the police merely cordoned off those areas. They were 
not armed, and there were no injuries or arrests observed. The threats 
were not empty ones either, as seen by other destruction carried out by 
the opposition around the country. HRW also needs to specify what it 
means by "security forces", as the police system here is complicated and 
most police continue to be managed at a state level, but HRW implies 
that the national government is entirely responsible. Finally, merely 
attributing these claims to "local groups" is very vague. One might also 
say, HRW is a capitalist front, said local groups.

5. "/Official sources reported that nine individuals were killed at the 
time, although the circumstances in which the deaths occurred remain 
unclear. President Maduro and other high level officials have used the 
threat of criminal investigations as a political tool, attributing 
responsibility for all acts of violence during demonstrations to 
Capriles/". -- Does HRW want an investigation or not? The violence 
occurred the day after the presidential elections, and all of the 
victims and buildings destroyed were Chavista supporters or part of 
national programs. It was clearly political, why is it a problem to 
mention that, and why does it become a "threat" when Maduro talks about 
bringing murderers and those who set fire to public hospitals, to 
justice? A thorough investigation was conducted, and those who were 
responsible for the deaths were arrested.

Judicial Independence

6. "/The judiciary has largely ceased to function as an independent 
branch of government"./ - While it is true that there are serious 
problems in Venezuela's court system: HRW doesn't mention those: the 
delays and corruption. Instead, it argued the judiciary is not 
"independent" because it doesn't always rule against the government, as 
HRW would like. If it is not independent, why were almost a hundred 
supposedly pro government workers in SAIME, SENIAT, the China-Venezuela 
bank, and so on, arrested last year for corruption?

Freedom of Media

7. /"Over the past decade, the government has expanded and abused its 
powers to regulate the media... fear of government reprisals has made 
self-censorship a problem" -- /No it hasn't. What the government has 
done, over the last four years or so, is pass legislation which limits 
media abuse: racism, extreme violence, and sensationalism that is so 
extreme it can be psychologically damaging. Those regulations apply 
equally to the private, public, and community media, but the reality is 
it is the private media which tends to be most abusive. Nevertheless, 
Conatel has emitted less than 10 fines over the last few years.

8. /"The government has taken aggressive steps to reduce the 
availability of media outlets that engage in critical programming." --/ 
HRW is not able to cite any examples to back up this statement. Instead, 
it refers to one case from years ago, RCTV, who's license was not 
renewed after it played an active role in the 2002 coup.

9. /"In April 2013, Globovision was sold to government supporters... 
since then it has significantly reduced its critical programming". /The 
owners of Globovision sold it to a group of Venezuelan investors headed 
by businessman Juan Domingo Cordero, who is not a government supporter. 
Since then, Globovision's coverage is somewhat less extreme and 
sensationalist, but it is just as critical.

10. "/The government has also targeted other media outlets for arbitrary 
sanction and censorship"./ -- The government has not censored any media. 
Today alone, for example, Tal Cual freely published these headlines: 
"The fiscal report is a time bomb", "The government uses violence as an 
excuse to censor the media" , "Dance with death" (to refer to the 
government) and "The government tragicomedy". El Nacional received a 
fine in August last year for using a three year old photo of naked 
corpses on its front cover, and that is it.

Human Rights Defenders

11. "/The Venezuelan government has sought to marginalise the country's 
human rights defenders by repeatedly accusing them of seeking to 
undermine Venezuelan democracy with the support of the US government"./ 
-- The lie here is "the country's human rights defenders". HRW is 
referring to a select few organisations such as itself and other 
individuals, who use human rights as a front for their right-wing 
political agenda. The government is completely within its right in 
pointing that out.

Abuses by Security Forces

This section is somewhat accurate, but lacks any causal analysis.

Prison Conditions

These criticisms are also somewhat legitimate, though the information is 
selective. For omissions, see below.

Labour Rights

12. "/Political discrimination against workers in state institutions 
remains a problem. In April 2013, Minister of Housing Ricardo Molina 
called on all ministry personnel who supported the opposition to resign, 
saying that he would fire anyone who criticised Maduro, Chavez, or the 
revolution"./ Though perhaps a bit extreme, HRW forgets to point out 
that Molina made that remark in the context of the opposition not 
recognising a democratically elected president. That there is political 
discrimination against workers is largely untrue, though may occur in 
isolated situations. It is no secret that most of the public education 
and health workers, for example, support the opposition.

13. /"The National Electoral Council (CNE), a public authority, 
continues to play an excessive role in union elections, violating 
international standards that guarantee workers the right to elect their 
representatives in full freedom"/ -- Actually, what the CNE provides to 
unions is logistical support: machinery that makes cross-country 
elections much easier. If there were concern about the CNE somehow 
influencing elections, the opposition would not have also used its 
logistical support for its primaries in February 2012.

Key International Actors

14. /"For years, Venezuela's government has refused to authorise UN 
human rights experts to conduct fact-finding visits in the country"/ - 
That's why the UNESCO and the FAO have both recently praised Venezuela's 
education and food development. The Office of the High Commissioner for 
Human Right's most recent report 
<http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/VEIndex.aspx> on 
Venezuela was made in September last year, it was about Venezuela's 
elimination of racial discrimination.

15. /"In June 2013, Venezuela became the pro-tempore president of 
Mercosur... The Asuncion Protocol...states that "full respect of 
democratic institutions and the respect of human rights" are 
essential...By not addressing the absence of an independent judiciary in 
Venezuela, as well as the government's efforts to undermine human rights 
protections, the other Mercosur member states have failed to uphold 
these commitments" -- /See previous and subsequent comments on 
Venezuela's judiciary and treatment of "human rights" protections.

*15 omissions*

The following very important facts on Venezuela's human rights record 
were completely omitted from the report. Such omissions are as serious 
as lying.

Post-Election Violence

1. HRW conveniently doesn't mention that the 15 "health centres" that 
were "vandalised" (ie they were set on fire on medical equipment was 
destroyed) were CDIs- Cuban-Venezuelan run free health centres that have 
come to be a symbol of the Bolivarian revolution. HRW doesn't mention 
that opposition supporters attacked them, it lets readers believe that 
the government supported such violence.

2. HRW doesn't criticise the extremely undemocratic move by Capriles to 
not recognise the president whom the majority of voters chose in the 
April presidential elections. Their omission to do so amounts to tacit 
support of Capriles. That sort of context is also necessary when HRW 
criticises the fact that there were arrests following the elections: 
it's possible that some arrests were not justified, but given that the 
Bolivarian revolution has already suffered one (failed) coup, and the 
continent has suffered many successful and bloody ones, it is reasonable 
to arrest participants in that. Any other country would do the same.

3. HRW focuses on the post election violence, and blames the national 
government for it, rather than recognising the opposition's role. It 
purposefully omits to mention that while Capriles called for a "venting 
of rage", Maduro called on supporters to play music and dance in the street.

Judicial Independence

4. HRW criticises the imprisonment of "government critic" judge Afiuni, 
but omits to mention that she was arrested for illegally releasing a 
bank president who stole US$27 million from state currency body, CADIVI. 
Does HRW advocate such judicial corruption? In June Afiuni was awarded 
conditional release.

5. There are, however, other cases of court inefficiency and bribery of 
judges, which HRW completely ignores, perhaps because the victims are 
mostly Bolivarian revolution supporters. Over the last year, many rural 
workers, commune members, trade unionists, and indigenous activists were 
murdered by hired killers, and though the killers are usually easy to 
identify, few have been arrested and prosecuted.

6. HRW criticises Venezuela for withdrawing from the IACHR, but omits to 
mention that that court is totally under the thumb of the US. It then 
hypocritically comments on Venezuela's so called "lack of judicial 

Freedom of Media

7. While in most countries, people who aren't rich don't have the right 
to run their own media, that right is being promoted in Venezuela, with 
the state materially and legally supporting over 500 community and 
alternative radios, television stations, and newspapers. That is an 
important development in media freedom, but HRW completely ignored it.

8. HRW states that, "/In November 2013, the broadcasting authority 
opened an administrative investigation against eight Internet providers 
for allowing web sites that published information on unofficial exchange 
rates/". HRW intentionally omits to point out that those sites were 
illegally publishing those figures, and that those figures have 
contributed to the three and four fold price increase of basic products. 
At no point does HRW criticise the role of business of deliberately 
making basic food and goods unaffordable for Venezuelans.

9. HRW also doesn't mention the almost one thousand free internet 
centres the government has set up, its promotion of freeware, and its 
distribution of laptops to school children: part of the government's 
efforts to make the right to information a reality.

Human Rights Defenders

10. HRW criticises the government for supposedly "marginalising" "human 
rights defenders" by investigating their sources of funding, but fails 
to mention the fact that the US does use such groups as a front for 
funding the undemocratic wing of the opposition. It fails to criticise 
this affront to Venezuela's right to sovereignty.

11. Likewise, it doesn't mention the important role played by the real 
human rights defenders in Venezuela: gender and sexuality activists and 
movements, indigenous and afro-descendents organisations, the Cuban 
doctors defending the right to free and quality health care, community 
activists, environmental movements, volunteer teachers, social mission 
workers, activist analysts who are constructively critical of the 
situation in the country, and so on. Many of these movements and workers 
receive financial, institutional, and/or legal support from the state, 
though there are improvements to be made there as well, such as 
legalising gay marriage, abortion, and so on.

Abuses by Security Forces

12. Here it is telling that HRW simply doesn't mention Venezuela's 
creation of the UNES, a university training police in human rights and 
preventative policing. While it is legitimate that HRW points out 
ongoing problems within the police forces, it doesn't mention that such 
corruption has significantly decreased, nor that police political 
repression has been almost completely eliminated.

Prison Conditions

13. HRW rightly points out the ongoing problems of overcrowding and 
organised prisoner violence in prisons, but simply omits to mention 
anything the government is doing to improve prisoner rights, including 
letting those who have committed minor offences out during the day time 
to work or study, internal prison education and productive work 
programs, assistance on leaving prison, cultural workshops such as video 
production in prisons, and government meetings with prisoners.

Labour Rights

14. For HRW it seems labour rights are limited to the right of 
opposition supporters to work in governmental programs that they don't 
agree with (a right they have). HRW omits to mention the Labour Law 
which came into effect in May last year, which beats most of the world 
in providing workers with rights to permanent work (contract labour is 
made illegal), to childcare in the workplace, to maternity leave and to 
paternity leave, shorter working hours, retirement pensions, and much 
much more.

15. HRW alleges that opposition workers were "threatened" with losing 
their jobs if they supported Capriles, but provides no evidence of that, 
nor mentions that of course voting is anonymous and such a threat could 
not be carried out, and neglects to mention that governor Capriles fired 
fire fighters in May last year for demanding pay they were owed, 
uniforms, and infrastructure improvements.

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863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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