Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Sept. 17 criticized the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) for ruling in favor of presidential hopeful Leopoldo López, thereby allowing him to run for office. A Venezuelan anti-corruption official had barred López from running for office after conducting a corruption investigation in 2005. Chávez called the IACHR, a body of the Organization of American States (OAS), part of an international system that “protects the corrupt and obeys the mandate of the imperial power and the bourgeoisie.” He added: “What value can that court have? For me, it’s worthless… One of my haircuts is worth more than this court”— a play on the fact that the Spanish corte means both “court” and “cut.”
López is among a list of politicians blacklisted due to corruption investigations, but has not been formally charged with any crime. He challenged his disqualification before the rights court, arguing his rights were violated. The court agreed, saying Venezuela’s National Electoral Council “should assure that the sanctions … don’t constitute an impediment to the candidacy of Mr. Lopez.” The government said in a statement that it would await a decision on the matter by Venezuela’s supreme court. The Venezuelan presidential primary election, where voters will select an opposition leader to challenge Chávez, is to be held in February, and the presidential election will be held in October 2012.
The Venezuelan government and the IACHR are often in disagreement. In June 2010, the IACHR sent a letter to the Venezuelan government expressing concern over what it called an increasing threat to freedom of expression in the country. In February 2010, the IACHR released a report providing a detailed analysis on the state of human rights in Venezuela, which ultimately concluded that not all citizens are ensured full enjoyment of their basic human rights. The top Venezuelan human rights official criticized the report as making unfair characterizations and undermining Venezuelan democracy. (Jurist, CSM, Huffington Post, Sept. 18)