Oswaldo Alvarez Paz

Recent actions by the Venezuelan government are seriously undermining freedom of speech in Venezuela. Two recent cases show the blatant disregard for free speech and civil liberties:

1.- A well known Venezuelan politician: Oswaldo Álvarez Paz was arrested for saying: "Venezuela has turned into a center of operations that facilitates the business of drug trafficking." For this "insolence" he was promptly charged with conspiracy, spreading false information and publicly inciting to the violation of the law. This statement that is shared by most Venezuelans, has been confirmed by reports issued by international intelligence organizations. For example, the US Government Accountability Office July 2009 report stated: "drug trafficking through Venezuela is increasing". It is also well known that "illegal armed groups continue to find safe haven in Venezuela and receive support from Venezuela". Despite the danger that these criminal groups represent for Venezuelan citizens, Hugo Chávez and his officials have been supporting them publicly.

2.- The owner of the only TV station that still dares to denounce government irregularities, Guillermo Zuloaga, was indicted on charges of "insult and vilification of the higher authority of the President of the Republic and for making false statements". Mr. Zuloaga statements were just a historic representation of the facts that surrounded the April 11 2002 Coup d'Etat. His statements were done during the meeting of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) in Aruba.

These actions against Mr. Alvarez Paz and Mr. Zuloaga are not isolated ones.There are currently 32 political prisoners in Venezuela. Moreover, 34 radio stations and one TV station have been closed by the government, and 206 radio stations are under scrutiny for airing information denouncing government inefficiencies and crimes. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) has gathered evidence for many of these issues and recently published a report stating: "Venezuela lacks freedom, violates human rights, represses protests, does not have an independent judiciary, and is undemocratic." This report has been bluntly disregarded by Venezuelan government officials as being biased.

We ask the international community to take note of the increasing deterioration of political liberties and the increasing number of serious human rights abuses in Venezuela.

Clip Art: johnny_automatic

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