Venezuela: rights chief disputes critical OAS report

The top Venezuelan human rights official on Feb. 25 criticized a new report issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Ombudsman Gabriela Ramírez, head of Venezuela’s Defensoria del Pueblo, said that the report makes unfair characterizations and undermines Venezuelan democracy. Refuting the report’s claim that Venezuela is “punishing people based on their political convictions,” Ramírez said that the data actually show an improved rights record. In a related statement, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez reaffirmed his belief that the IACHR, which has seven members elected by the OAS General Assembly, is an instrument of US imperialism.

Venezuela has long been criticized for rights abuses, allegations that the Chávez government has repeatedly denied. Last year, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) added Venezuela to its “watch list”, and the State Department criticized Venezuela for press restrictions in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. In 2008, Venezuelan officials ordered two senior Human Rights Watch (HRW) staff to leave the country after the group released a report concluding that democracy and human rights have suffered during the Chávez administration. Rights groups have also charged growing press freedom restrictions in Venezuela.

From Jurist, Feb. 26. Used with permission.

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