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.”


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