Here we go again. We noted two years ago that the annual State Department human rights report for the Americas displayed a blatant double standard concerning US client Colombia and Axis of Evil junior affiliate Venezuela. The new report goes one better, actually singling out Venezuela and Cuba as having the worst human rights records in the hemisphere. The report says that as of the end of 2006, there were at least 283 political prisoners or detainees in Cuba and 13 in Venezuela. Barry F. Lowenkron, the assistant secretary of state for human rights, said the situation in Venezuela is worsening under President Hugo Chavez’s government, which he characterized as “regressive.” (AP, March 6)
As they say, figures can’t lie but liars can figure. If there are fewer political prisoners in Colombia, it is because dissidents are more often summarily assassinated there. Real human rights groups consider Colombia—Bush’s top South American ally—the worst rights abuser in the hemisphere by far. The latest Amnesty International country report on Colombia found at least 70 trade unionists and seven human rights defenders were killed in 2005. At least 1,050 civilians were killed or “disappeared” in non-combat situations just in the first half of 2005. More than 310,000 civilians were internally displaced in 2005, compared to 287,000 in 2004. Amnesty’s figures for Venezeula and Cuba are nowhere near so impressive. And as of the end of 2005 (most recent statistics available), Amnesty counted 70 political prisoners in Cuba—not 283.