Mérida, May 12th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - On Saturday, the Venezuelan government rejected the annual report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which categorized Venezuela as one of four countries in the hemisphere where human rights are particularly threatened. President Hugo Chávez said Venezuela will consider withdrawing from the Organization of American States (OAS) and forming a separate regional organization with its allies.
The IACHR, which is an institution of the OAS, labeled Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Colombia countries which "for diverse reasons confront situations that seriously and gravely affect the enjoyment of fundamental rights."
According to the report, Venezuela is "a hostile environment for political dissent." Human rights activists have received threats from unknown individuals, and the government has openly expressed its suspicion of human rights organizations that receive funding from international sources that may be hostile to the "21st Century Socialism" that Venezuela is constructing, the report says.
The report also alleges that the government violated freedom of religion by forcibly searching a Jewish community center in Caracas for weapon stashes. It highlights the increased rates of homicide and violent deaths in jails as signs that citizen security is weakly enforced.
Although the IACHR report focuses mainly on political and civil rights, it briefly "recognizes the importance" of the government's extensive social programs that have drastically improved Venezuelans' social and economic human rights, by cutting poverty in half, abolishing illiteracy, and making primary health care freely accessible to all Venezuelans.
In response to the report, the Foreign Relations Ministry released a statement in which it "categorically rejects" the "inexact, malicious, and false character of [the report's] affirmations," which lack "transparency and objectivity."
"The IACHR has abandoned its role as an international organism for the protection of human rights... and converted itself into a political instrument of the national and international sectors which, for ideological reasons, attack the progressive governments of the region," stated the Ministry.
The Ministry recounted how the IACHR recognized the interim government that was installed during a two-day coup d'etat in April 2002, during which sectors of the military and the elite business class kidnapped President Chávez and dissolved the constitution.
Also, from the time Venezuela ratified the American Convention on Human Rights in 1977 until the beginning of Chávez's presidency, which was a time period marked by many human rights crimes including the murder, disappearance, and torture of leftist political dissidents, the IACHR brought only six cases against Venezuela. During Chávez's presidency, in contrast, the IACHR has brought approximately 150 cases against Venezuela, according to the Ministry.
The Ministry demanded that the IACHR "apply the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, and non-selectivity in its examination of human rights issues, eliminate the application of a double standard and politicization," and "admit that it recognized the coup d'etat and rectify its biased position against our country."
Venezuela will continue to improve its human rights situation, "independently of the manipulations and lies of the IACHR," the Ministry's statement concluded.
During the televised inauguration of nearly two dozen new public health care centers on Saturday, President Chávez called the IACHR's report "immoral" and a sign of the "cynicism" of the OAS.
"Venezuela could leave the OAS and bring together the peoples of this continent to liberate ourselves from these old instruments, and to form an organization of free peoples of Latin America," said Chávez, who has already initiated several regional integration organizations based on cooperation and mutual benefit, as an alternative to U.S.-dominated free trade agreements.
"Why didn't [the report] condemn Bush?" Chávez asked, referring to U.S. President Barack Obama's predecessor. Chávez also said the report should have condemned the Obama administration's recent military assault on Afghanistan, which killed more than a hundred Afghan civilians.
The U.S. has never ratified the American Convention on Human Rights.
In response to the Venezuelan government's objections on Saturday, IACHR President Luz Patricia Mejía admitted that the private media, which are open adversaries of the Chávez government, provided the "majority of the information that the report possesses at present."
"We have openly questioned the use of the media as a principal source from which to formulate a general diagnosis of human rights in Venezuela, the use of media which have participated in an open and direct manner in political junctures that the country has lived and is living, and most of all, those which participated in an open and direct manner in the coup d'etat in 2002," said Mejía during an interview with the Caracas-based regional news station Telesur.
Mejía, a Venezuelan lawyer who previously worked with the Venezuelan human rights organization PROVEA, a frequent critic of the Chávez government, recommended that an "internal debate" be held during next month's summit of the OAS in Honduras.
Meanwhile, former Cuban President Fidel Castro expressed solidarity with Venezuela in the face of the OAS. "Today, Chávez is a formidable adversary of the capitalist system of production and of imperialism... No wonder the OAS is hypocritically trying to present him as an enemy of freedom of expression and democracy," Castro wrote in an editorial published in Cuban and South American news outlets. "Venezuela is not alone," wrote Castro.