Rights defenders under threat in Venezuela

War Resisters' International (WRI) isused a statement June 12 expressing concerned for the safety of two of its members in Venezuela. The statement notes that on May 13, the president of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, publicly shared details of the travel arrangements of WRI member Rafael Uzcátegui of the Program for Education and Action on Human Rights (PROVEA), as well as those of Carlos Correa of the activist network Espacio Público. The information was shared in Cabello's weekly TV program Con el Mazo Dando, in which human rights defenders iare frequently disparaged and details of their whereabouts revealed. Among other details, Cabello announced that Uzcátegui and Correa were travelling to Chile to meet the former coordinator of PROVEA. "This information had only been shared in private online communications, so there is cause to believe these communications are being monitored by the authorities," WRI writes. "Sharing such information puts Rafael, Carlos, and their friends and colleagues at risk. It arms militant government sympathizers with the information they would need to intimidate or attack them."

"Government officials targeting individual civilians in this way is a cowardly tactic," the statement charges. "It is an objectionable use of power—the provocateurs have information and a means of spreading it quickly, whilst at the same time being able to wash their hands of any repercussions, because they did not directly order any assailants to act. In fact, the blame for any harm that comes to Rafael, Carlos and others that Con el Mazo Dando puts at risk should be lain directly at their door."

In 2013, WRI released a statement in support of PROVEA following a verbal attack against the group by then minister for Communication and Information Ernesto Villegas. Earlier this year, Uzcátegui and Correa were part of a group of 12 human rights defenders who were harassed and intimidated at the airport in Caracas on their return from participating in hearings of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. Days earlier, details of their return flight were shared on Con el Mazo Dando.

WRI points supporters to Amnesty International's Urgent Action alert, which urges letters to Vice President Jorge Arreaza and other Venezuelan officials. It is it onine in English and in Spanish. (WRI, June 12)