VIO News Blog

September 19, 2008

HRW Attacks Venezuela, McCain Follows Suit

Venezuela’s net oil earnings for the first half of 2008 have risen 961 percent over last year, the AP reports. During that same interval, spending on social programs by the state oil company PDVSA declined to 1.8 billion from last year’s 4.1 billion. President Chavez has been criticized in the US press for “lavishing” funds on the programs, but the practice has caused an unprecedented 35% drop in poverty in Venezuela. This year, PDVSA has been investing more of its funds in oil exploration and production.

According to the AP, a new report by Human Rights Watch released yesterday is being regarded by the Venezuelan government as “attacking the institutions” and “illegally interfering in the internal affairs of our country.” Two Human Rights Watch staff in Venezuela on tourist visas — including Americas Director Jose Vivanco, pictured here — were told to leave.The report wrongly claims that human rights guarantees set out in the constitution are not enforced in Venezuela, and that civil liberties have deteriorated during the Chavez administration. The AP, Miami Herald, and the Guardian quote the Venezuela Information Office as saying that the report is biased and limited in its scope, ignoring progress made under Chavez on guaranteeing all Venezuelans health, education, food, shelter and other needs. “Their reports on Venezuela have typically been politicised. They don’t highlight real advances,” Director Olivia Goumbri told the Guardian. To read the VIO fact sheet, click here.

In a tone similar to that seen in the Human Rights Watch Report, Republican presidential candidate John McCain condemned Venezuela yesterday, making the empty claim that “as we all know, Chavez is moving into an autocracy. He is depriving people of their democratic rights.” He also claimed to “know” that Spain is in Latin America, according to another AP report. During the Chavez administration in Venezuela, elections have occurred more regularly and with more fairness than under Bush in the US. Local and regional politics in Venezuela have incorporated more citizen voices and popular input through new mechanisms such as communal councils.

Finally, ties between Venezuela and Russia remain in the news. The AP reports that US pressures have aimed to disrupt those ties, but that new cooperation is planned in oil, military equipment, and information technology. Bolivia has also just signed oil deals with Russia. The Washington Post reports that, despite this, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice predicted yesterday that Russia is heading for “self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance.”


1 Comment »

  1. Fyi
    September 22, 2008

    I Can’t Believe It’s Not Human Rights Watch!
    By Elizabeth Ferrari

    As Americans, we operate from a position of privileged naivete, a kind of concrete operational thinking: we believe things are what they are called especially when it comes to public life. If someone reads us a bill called “No Child Left Behind”, we go ahead and assume it will help children. If an act named the “Help America Vote Act” passes, we expect that our elections just got better. The Heritage Foundation is surely an organization that has something to do with colonial hardiness and a can-do spirit. There is nothing more sad than we are when we learn, against all reason, that NCLB is a hijacking of our schools by privateers or that HAVA makes our elections vastly more vulnerable or that The Heritage Foundation is a right wing propaganda mill that is every day finding better ways to funnel our tax money into corporate wallets with a nakedness that Lady Godiva could only aspire to.

    So, when we read in the American press that two officials from Human Rights Watch have been booted out of Venezuela, our first thought will not be, “what did they do”. It won’t be. We expect people who work for Human Rights Watch to, well, watch human rights. They have a web site and everything, just like Amnesty International and the International Red Cross. And maybe that kind of optimism, that positive expectation, has its value in these difficult days. But it’s misplaced if one is trying to understand what is going on in Venezuela, in Latin America and in our relationships with both as the Bush administration is shaping them. Or, misshaping them.

    Human Rights Watch is not a merely group of concerned citizens monitoring human rights any more than the Heritage Foundation is a think tank that seeks to preserve traditional American values, despite their website’s claim. Their board and donors come from the bedrock of the US political power establishment. So, there’s that.

    And then, there’s the matter of our intelligence services hanging out in NGOs. (I suppose, our overseas operatives can’t all work at the local embassy.) A friend of mine from El Salvador reminds me that during the war, a planeful of “humanitarian workers” was shot down and apparently, somehow it was full of US government operatives instead. It was shot down close to the capital and Rolando believes it was the government, not the guerillas, that shot it down. The government had had enough of the “Peace Corps” meddling with their affairs, allies or not. The few survivors of the crash were executed on the spot, it was later determined. Guerillas didn’t operate that close to San Salvador during the war, so this was a terrible case of a US client state sending back a message to Washington.

    Comment by Elzabeth Ferrari — September 24, 2008 @ 3:00 pm | Reply

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