Although Hugo Chavez is sometimes laughable, there is nothing particularly funny about his government’s efforts to suppress Venezuela’s human rights community.
According to an editorial in Sunday’s Washington Post:
One conspicuous victim of this phenomenon is Carlos Ayala, who testified before the [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] about the growing threat to journalists and press freedom. One of the most respected human rights lawyers in Latin America, Mr. Ayala is a former president of the Inter-American Commission as well as the Andean Commission of Jurists. When dissident military leaders tried to stage a coup against Mr. Chavez in April 2002, Mr. Ayala not only denounced the plot, which eventually failed, but intervened with police to free a militant pro-Chavez legislator. Yet, last April, after he brought human rights cases against the Chavez government, prosecutors announced that they had opened a criminal investigation against Mr. Ayala for allegedly supporting the coup. Charges are still pending.
Branding troublesome opponents as supporters of the coup is nothing new for the Chavez regime. It doesn’t seem to matter if there is little or no evidence, or– in the case of Ayala– evidence to the contrary. The point is to harass and intimidate them into silence. Fortunately the chavistas don’t yet appear to be succeeding at that.