Mérida, April 6, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.S. said he was "not surprised" by a new report from the US State Department condemning the human rights situation in Venezuela. The report, released yesterday, claimed that Venezuela is "isolated" from the democratic norm in the hemisphere. Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez, said the report "creates doubt" about dialog between the two nations.
"They talk about wanting to create a change, to move closer, to have a dialog and respect for the hemisphere, but this kind of thing creates a lot of doubt," said Alvarez referring to the report released by Washington.
"The credibility of the State Department’s sources has been seriously questioned by the very experience that this country has gone through in the last few years," said the ambassador.
The report, the fifth of its kind released by the US State Department, had negative comments on the human rights situation in both Cuba and Venezuela. Both nations "remain isolated from the democratic norm in the hemisphere," it said.
Venezuela was accused of a "politicization of the judiciary and harassment of the media and of the political opposition," along with an "increasing concentration of power in the executive branch."
"Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accelerated his drive to consolidate control in the executive branch and to take aggressive actions to restrict freedom of expression," said the report in the introduction. Other human rights problems listed in the report included unlawful killings, disappearances, torture and abuse of detainees, harsh prison conditions, violence against women and widespread corruption, among others.
Both Colombia and Mexico, close allies of Washington in the region, received positive comments. Mexico was highlighted under a section entitled "Mexico: Defending Human Rights," while the report claimed that the Colombian government was making progress in its respect for human rights. This comes in the wake of a political scandal in Colombia in which connections between high government officials and paramilitary death squads are being increasingly revealed.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Barry F. Lowenkron commented on the situation in Venezuela saying that ultimately "what Venezuela’s neighbor countries can do will be decisive along with the rest of Latin America, which have signed and want to enforce the Inter-American Democratic Charter."
Ambassador Alvarez responded by saying that with this kind of language, the United States "refuses to recognize that Latin America is not going to accept their calls to isolate any of our countries." The Venezuelan government thinks that "the United States should really be concerned about respecting the Venezuelan institutions and the political will of the Venezuelan people that has been expressed democratically," he stated.
The report also gives a summary of US strategy in Venezuela. The strategy includes giving "assistance to groups working to deepen respect for democracy, the rule of law, and human rights…The United States provided support for a broad spectrum of NGOs and civil society groups," it says. Although it does not give specific financial information, the report states that "U.S. funding supported projects focused on political party renewal," in order to "help strengthen the country’s debilitated political parties."
In the past, the Venezuelan government has accused the U.S. of funding opposition groups. According to research conducted by the U.S.-Venezuelan attorney Eva Golinger, the U.S. government has spent at least $9 million in 2006 to support Venezuelan opposition groups.
"If they really want to help democracy and peace," responded Alvarez, "they should proceed with, among other things, the extradition of Posada Carriles to Venezuela or try him in this country for the charges of terrorism and not keep protecting him with legal excuses."
Luis Posada Carriles has been accused of the bombing of a Cuban airplane in 1976 in which all 73 passengers aboard were killed. Caracas has asked for Posada Carriles to be extradited to Venezuela to be tried for the crime, but Washington has not complied.