Human Rights,  International

HRW activists expelled from Venezuela

Two agents of that nest of pro-Zionist imperialism known as Human Rights Watch have been expelled from Venezuela by Hugo Chavez’s government.

The two had documented “widespread political discrimination, intimidation of union members and a subservient judiciary,” The New York Times reports.

Armed men in uniforms apprehended José Miguel Vivanco, a Chilean citizen who is Americas director for the New York-based group, and Daniel Wilkinson, an American who is deputy director for the Americas, and placed them on a flight to São Paulo, Brazil, where they arrived on Friday morning.

“About 20 men, some of them in military uniform, intercepted us when we arrived at our hotel after returning from dinner Thursday night,” Mr. Vivanco said in a telephone interview from São Paulo. He said he struggled briefly with the security officials when he tried to send a message on his Blackberry to The New York Times about the expulsion.

The officials then disabled the Blackberries of the two men and prevented them from contacting anyone in Venezuela, including diplomats from the embassies of Chile or the United States. “They informed us of our apprehension and told us they had entered our rooms and had packed our belongings,” Mr. Vivanco said.

The expulsion, broadcast partly on state television here, comes at a time of increasingly erratic actions by Mr. Chávez. In the last week, he expelled the American ambassador, rounded up military officers and accused them of plotting to kill him and clashed with the Vatican over its granting of political asylum to a political opponent.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Mr. Vivanco violated the law by entering the country on a tourist visa to do human rights work. The ministry also said that Human Rights Watch, which is an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, was acting in concert with the United States government in a campaign of aggression against Venezuela.
The expulsion of the two men came after they released a long report here on Thursday documenting rights violations in Venezuela. They pointed to Mr. Chávez’s dismantling of judicial independence and his use of a 2002 coup that briefly ousted him from office as a pretext for consolidating power by weakening rights protections.

“The most dramatic blow to Venezuelan democracy in the last 10 years was the 2002 coup against Chávez,” said Vivanco. “Fortunately it lasted only two days. Unfortunately the Chávez government has exploited it ever since to justify policies that have degraded the country’s democracy.”

Smart move by Chavez. I can’t think of a better way to draw massive attention to a report that otherwise would have been a media footnote. Is this what they call an “own-goal”?