International Labor Organization Criticizes Venezuela, Praises Colombia

The International Labor Organization (ILO) denounced the Venezuelan government
on Thursday, accusing it of abusing the rights of business owners to freely
organize. At the same time, Colombia
was praised for its progress in the protection of labor leaders.

By Chris Carlson - Venezuelanalysis.com

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Labor Minister José Rivero
Labor Minister José Rivero
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Caracas, November 17, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)
- The International Labor Organization (ILO) denounced the Venezuelan government
on Thursday, accusing it of abusing the rights of business owners to freely
organize. At the same time, Colombia
was praised for its progress in the protection of labor leaders. Venezuelan
authorities rejected the statements, accusing the ILO of manipulating the truth
for political reasons.

In a report released on
Wednesday, the U.N. labor agency called on the government of President Hugo
Chavez to ensure that business groups can operate "free from violence,
pressure, or threats of any kind against leaders and members." The
Venezuelan government was also urged to stop legal proceedings against senior
officials of Fedecamaras, Venezuela's major business chamber.

Government officials, however,
accuse Fedecamaras of being behind the short-lived coup that took place in
2002, and briefly toppled the Chavez government. During the coup, a businessman
who headed Fedecamaras, Pedro Carmona, was installed as interim president.

The Chavez government also
condemned Fedecamaras' recent call to oppose the constitutional reform proposal
"by all legal means."

The ILO called on the
Venezuelan government to ensure that officials of Fedecamaras, such as ex-presidents Carlos Fernández and
Albis Muñoz have freedom of movement, and the right to free speech through the media.
They also called on the government to abstain from any interference in the
media, and to guarantee independent media in the country.

The organization denounced the
treatment of business-owners' organizations, claiming that there is a climate
of fear, intimidation, and violence on the part of the Venezuelan government
and cited an incident last March when the exterior of Fedecamaras's offices
were vandalized. They also lamented the fact that the Chavez government has turned
down their offers to provide technical assistance in resolving the issues.

At the same time, Colombia, one
of the most dangerous countries in the world for labor leaders, was praised in
the report. The ILO pointed to the decrease in the murders of labor leaders
over the last 5 years, as well as the increased government efforts to protect
labor groups that are in danger.

"This reform highlights
the activities that the ILO representatives have done in Colombia, and
emphasizes the cooperation that has been received from the Colombian
government, from the business-owners, and from the workers," said
Colombian minister Diego Palacio Betancourt.

Venezuelan authorities rejected
the ILO statements, saying that they distorted the reality of the situation and
accused the organization of responding to certain interests and of "defending
neoliberal policies."

"The report has a totally
political posture that doesn't have anything to do with the reality of
business-owners in the country, and much less the economic development that is
ending its fourth year of sustained growth," said Labor Minister José
Rivero. "This is due to the fact that they see the Venezuelan political
process as one that goes against their very particular interests, that doesn't
represent the interests of Venezuelan business owners."

Rivero announced that the
Venezuelan government would be presenting a formal complaint before the ILO and
assured that there are many claims in the report that have already been
debunked by the national government and will be presented at the next ILO
meeting in June 2008.

"In the last few years we
have been debunking each and every one of the false claims that they have made
in relation to the labor union activity," said Rivero.

"This is all about putting
Venezuela
before the world as a country where there are persecutions and repression of
the civil rights of labor unions," he said. "In Venezuela there
is more democratic labor freedom than ever before."