Accusations of Human Rights Violations in Venezuela Only in the Mass Media

Human Rights organizations and state bodies in charge of defending human rights have so far not received any formal complains of torture or disappearances. The accusations have so far been made only in the media

Weapons and ammo confiscated last week from two anti-government individuals near a military base in Caracas. Venezuelan politicians and commercial media opposed to the government label all detainees as “political prisoners”, and are demanding their immediate release.
Photo: Venpres

Caracas, March 10, 2004 ( According to Venezuelan newspaper Ultimas Noticias, as of Monday, all of the accusations of people supposedly disappeared, killed or tortured by state security forces that have been expressed by the opposition coalition Coodinadora Democratica, have only been made via the Venezuelan commercial mass media.

The opposition is accusing the government of “massive Human Rights abuses” due to the way that state security forces dealt with demonstrators while trying to restore order during the violent demonstrations occurred between Feb 27 and March 4th.

Neither the directorate of Fundamental Rights of the Attorney General’s office nor the office of the Public Ombudsperson have received accusations in this regard.

Similarly, no formal accusations (only via telephone) have been received by the human rights NGOs, such as Provea, Red de Apoyo (Support Network), and the Vicaría of Human Rights.

The Venezuelan Human Rights organization Provea has repeatedly stated that accusations of torture via telephone are of no use. People must personally come to their offices and provide all details.

Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez under fire from the opposition.
Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez said his office is investigating the deaths and possible Human Rights violations occurred during the protests. However, the Coodinadora Democratica coalition is asking the Attorney General to resign, accusing him of turning a blind eye to the accusations of Human Rights violations and trying to protect the National Guard, which the opposition accuses of being responsible for all the deaths.

Rodriguez said yesterday that officials under his command, have ordered the release of tens of those detained during the protests.

“They have spoken of 400 people in custody, more than 20 deaths and 1,000 injured,” said Information Minister Jesee Chacon, who accused the opposition of distorting the events. Only 30 people remain detained, according to official figures. “These people are being held by the Judicial Branch. Under Venezuela’s new Constitution, the government  cannot detain someone for more than 24 hour without being charged,” added Chacon.

The Information Minister said also that most of those who remain detained were caught flagrantly committing crimes such as throwing Molotov bombs at authorities, firing weapons, possessing weapons without permits, firing high strength fireworks with nails inside at the National Guard, etc. Chacon said that there is ample audiovisual evidence of all of these crimes. Opposition forces argue that these individuals are political prisoners.

Selective media coverage

The circumstances in which Jose Guevara Reyes, William Alvarez Morales and Yormi Suarez died, have receive little or no coverage in the commercial media. In these three cases, no state security authorities were present, the weapons who killed them were civilian-type weapons, and in two cases, gun powder residue test determined that they had fired weapons the day they died. Yormi Suarez died when the driver of a car trying to pass through barricades near her residency, fired shots as opposition demonstrators attacked him with Molotov cocktails.

The Venezuelan commercial media is unapologetically against the government, and it has been asked by some Human Rights groups, and by elections observers from the OAS and the Carter Center, to help promote peace and dialogue instead of protests.

Tens of National Guard officers were also injured by fire arms during the protests. The information regarding the wounded National Guardsmen and members of other security forces was reported by international media; but the Venezuelan media, in general, remained silent and ignored these aggressions.

On March 1st, a cameraperson of Univision was hit when opposition members shot at National Guardsmen and a one of their bullets reached the cameraperson instead. A photographer of the AFP news agency was also hit by bullets shot by “a young boy with a pistol” as the photographer described. His bulletproof vest saved his life. Again, these two cases have been largely ignored by the local media.