Mérida, February 26th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In a statement released Thursday, Venezuela's Foreign Relations Ministry said the global human rights report released Wednesday by the U.S. State Department was "false, interventionist, and of malicious intent," and said the report lacks legitimacy because the U.S. government itself has a dismal human rights record.
"The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in defense of the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people, rejects in the most firm and categorical manner the U.S. State Department's report," stated the ministry.
The lengthy report evaluates civil, political, and worker rights in more than 200 countries. It includes allegations against Venezuela that "are baseless and constitute an expression of anti-Venezuelan opinions of those who… refuse to accept that Venezuela is in charge of its own destiny," according to the ministry.
The ministry also questioned the legitimacy of the report, from which the U.S.'s own human rights record was omitted. "The Venezuelan government finds this recurrent practice of the U.S. bureaucracy to be inadmissible," stated the ministry. "The state with the darkest record of violations and assaults on human dignity in contemporary history pretends to set itself up as the judge of other states, without any legitimacy or mandate."
Such practices "injure the relationship between our states, which should be based on respect, equality, and non-intervention in internal affairs," the ministry's statement concluded.
Speaking before the National Assembly Thursday, Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolás Maduro called on the U.S. to cease its attacks on Venezuela, and emphasized the need for a "pluri-polar" world in which "no government of the world attempts to impose itself upon other states."
Starting in the weeks before the election of U.S. President Barack Obama, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has repeatedly expressed his desire to renew and improve diplomatic relations with the United States. Relations soured after the U.S. supported a coup against Chávez in April 2002, and froze last September after the governments of Venezuela and Bolivia denounced the involvement of U.S. officials in plots to overthrow their democratically elected governments.
Several National Assembly deputies also responded to the report. Deputy Ángel Rodríguez, president of the Energy and Mining Commission, said the report's attacks against Venezuela "are part of the ongoing effort of that country [the U.S.] to displace the Bolivarian Government, which from the beginning has adopted a policy of full sovereignty over its oil."
The president of the foreign affairs commission, Deputy Roy Daza, deemed the report "a very bad start for the administration of [U.S. President Barack] Obama, because it is a continuation of the policies of George W. Bush, which resulted in a political iceberg in world affairs."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived late to the press conference in which she presented the human rights report.
The report says that during the previous year, "the [Venezuelan] NGO community noted an erosion of both democratic and human rights, with potentially severe consequences."
Specifically, the report says pro-government media in Venezuela have promoted anti-Semitism. It also denounces inhumane prison conditions and extra-judicial executions by police officers in some cities, and alleges that a series of laws passed by the National Assembly last year "reduc[ed] the scope of authority of elected officials and promoted centralization of power."
Further, the report alleges a lack of press freedom due to a "climate of self-censorship" caused by the Venezuelan government's Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, and says the government curbed freedom of expression in the run-up to this year's referendum on whether to abolish term limits on elected offices.
Deputy Daza pointed out that the report contradicts statements made by U.S. State Department Spokesperson Gordon Duguid, who commented two days following the February 15th referendum that "it's my understanding that the referendum took place in a fully democratic process."
The governments of Bolivia also harshly criticized the U.S.'s report. Sacha Llorenti, a spokesperson for the Bolivian government, said the report is "politically motivated" and called the report a "crude simplification of the national reality."
Llorentil also demanded that the U.S. government stop harboring former Bolivian president Sánchez de Lozada, who is charged with having ordered the massacre of political demonstrators in 2003.