Latin American Countries Should Aid Talks in Venezuela, Protest Human Rights Violations
February 20, 2014
The government of Venezuela should immediately end its violent attacks against demonstrators, invite the opposition to join an open dialogue to end the country’s political crisis, and seek help from the international community in defusing the tensions, Freedom House said.
Freedom House, the Latin America and Caribbean Network for Democracy, and the World Movement for Democracy co-signed a letter sent to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, requesting an OAS “good offices” mission to Venezuela. Former Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias has expressed willingness to lead such a delegation.
“Given the violence this week involving the National Guard and police, the government has crossed the line of behavior acceptable in a democracy, and the international community should speak up,” said Robert Herman, vice president for regional programs for Freedom House. “Conditions in Venezuela are reminders of the darkest periods of Latin American dictatorships. It is no longer possible to justify the government’s human rights violations on the grounds that it was elected democratically.”
On February 19, the National Guard and police indiscriminately fired tear gas canisters in at least four major cities, in some cases aiming directly at protesters or inside residential buildings and homes in search of student protesters. Government-supported “colectivos,” or paramilitary groups, accompanied government forces, and fired live ammunition. Though the government has sought to impose a media blackout, online videos show several civilian casualties lying on the streets.
Freedom House also calls on the government to immediately release opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was arrested February 18. A court convened on a military base has extended his detention for another 45 days, in violation of due process.
Venezuela is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2014, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2013, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2013.